China politics: Quick View - "Xi Jinping Thought" set to enter national constitution

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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Politics, News Analysis, Forecast, Political stability
Political Geography


The second plenary session of the 19th central committee of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on January 18th-19th recommended that the national constitution be revised in order to include reference to "Xi Jinping Thought".


The revision will confirm the accrual of power by the president, Xi Jinping, but provides little clarity on his own succession plans. The 19th CCP national congress in October 2017 saw Mr Xi's ideological contribution, named Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, delineated in the CCP's own constitution. The second plenary session of the central committee confirms that the national charter will also be similarly revised, likely at the annual session in March of the National People's Congress (NPC, the legislature). The constitution was last overhauled in 2004.

Besides the proposal to reference Xi Jinping Thought, the plenary meeting also recommended that several related initiatives be introduced into the national constitution, including the goal of "basically realising socialist modernisation" by 2035, which was introduced by Mr Xi at the CCP national congress. The statement from the meeting also highlighted plans to create a new "national supervisory system", legislation for which is likely to be greenlighted at the NPC session. Pilot reforms suggest that supervisory commissions will be set up across all levels of government, merging the powers of several agencies and supervising all public officials. Although formally accountable to the NPC and its regional branches, the plenary statement stressed that the system would fall under CCP leadership.

The plenary statement did not reference plans to remove a term limit applying to the state presidency. Speculation has grown about Mr Xi's political ambitions after no apparent successor was appointed to the CCP politburo standing committee at the national party congress last year; whereas no term limit applies to Mr Xi's primary position of CCP general secretary, the state presidency is limited in the national constitution to two five-year terms. Although the apparent decision not to revise the constitution to remove the restriction does not necessarily thwart Mr Xi's ambitions-a placeholder could be found for the presidency-it highlights the possibility that he will step down at the next scheduled reshuffle of the party and state machinery in 2022-23.

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