Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China CPC Central Committee, Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, delivers an important speech at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC in Beijing, capital of China, July 1, 2021.
Ju Peng | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images
Leaders of the ruling Communist Party on Thursday set the stage for President Xi Jinping to extend his rule next year, praising his role in China’s rise as an economic and strategic power and approving a political history that gives him status alongside the most important party figures.
Central Committee members declared Xi’s ideology the “essence of Chinese culture” as they wrapped up a leadership meeting. In unusually effusive language even for a Chinese leader, a party statement said it was “of decisive significance” for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Xi, who has amassed more personal authority than any leader since at least Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s, has widely been expected to pursue a third five-year term as party general secretary. That would break with a two-decade-old party tradition that would require the 68-year-old leader to step down next year.
The party leadership’s resolution on its history is only the third since its founding 100 years ago, following one under Mao Zedong, first leader of the communist government, and another under Deng, who launched reforms that turned China into an economic powerhouse. The decision to issue one under Xi was widely seen as symbolically raising him to their status.
The party removed term limits on Xi’s post as president in 2018, indicating his intention to stay in power. Then, officials told reporters Xi might need more time to make sure economic and other reforms were carried out.
Xi, the son of one of Mao’s generals, faces no obvious rivals, but a bid to say in power longer has the potential to alienate younger party figures who might see their chances for promotion diminished.
Also, political scientists point to the experience of other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America and warn long periods of one-person rule lead to worse official decisions and economic performance.
Thursday’s party statement emphasized its successes in overseeing China’s emergence as the world’s second-biggest economy, glossing over deadly political violence in its early decades in power and growing complaints about human rights abuses.
Xi has used his control of the party’s vast propaganda apparatus to promote his image.
State media associate him with national successes including fighting the coronavirus, China’s rise as a technology creator and last year’s successful lunar mission to bring back moon rocks.
The 1981 assessment under Deng distanced the party from the violent upheaval of the ultra-radical 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
By contrast, Xi has promoted a positive image of the party’s early decades in power and called for it to revive its “original mission” as China’s leading economic, political and cultural force.