'Xi's new title aims to take personality cult to next level'

'Xi's new title aims to take personality cult to next level'

As President Xi Jinping took charge of his second term with leadership status similar to modern China's founder Chairman Mao Zedong, observers said his latest grandiose title aims to take personality cult to next level.

The once-in-a-five-year Congress of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) which concluded here this week endorsed a second five-year term for 64-year-old Xi and amended the party Constitution to add his name and ideology.

It also elected new leadership headed by Xi to rule the world's second-largest economy for the next five years.

Presiding over the first group study of the new 25-member Politburo of the CPC, a high power policy body, Xi asked the CPC members to "study CPC congress spirit, and adhere to and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era."

"Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era" is the new ideological theory proposed by him for the party to firm up its power base in the country in the coming decades, state-run Xinhua news agency reported today.

In his address, Xi said members of the Politburo should regard the study and implementation of CPC Congress spirit "as their first Party course to improve their political and theoretical level, in order to better take the duties bestowed by the Party and the people".

"Empty talk will lead the country astray, and hard work can rejuvenate the nation," Xi said, adding that if one-tenth of effort goes to planning, nine-tenths should go on implementation.

His theory has been enshrined in the Constitution of the 96-year-old party, which is in power in China since 1949, elevating him on par with Mao and his successor Deng Xiaoping.

Significantly, an official statement issued after the new Politburo meeting yesterday said the Politburo members should firmly safeguard Xi's position as the party's "Core" leader.

The "Core" leader status was conferred on him by the party earlier making him a supreme leader like Mao and Deng.

The CPC enshrined Xi's name along with his political theory in its charter, meaning any attempt to challenge him or his thinking would now be seen as defiance against the party, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported today.

"Now (the party) is taking one step at a time to cement the cult of personality (surrounding Xi)," Wu Qiang, an independent commentator and former political science lecturer at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the Post.

Jeremy Brown, a history professor at Simon Fraser University who specializes in China in the Mao era, said despite the propaganda drive, the eulogizing of Xi was unlikely to resonate with the public in the way the cult of Chairman Mao did half a century ago.

"The personality cult (around Xi) is already there and has been building for some time now. But my sense is that it is (merely) background noise for non-officials and nowhere close to how the Mao cult intruded into everyday life during the 1960s," he said.

"Officials and propagandists today feel the need to express loyalty through affirming Xi's 'greatness', but they are only a slice of Chinese society," Brown said. "For everyone else, it's more like Putin in Russia a leader who presents himself as strong and indispensable."

The official statement said the politburo members should strictly abide by the CPC Constitution and political rules, fully implement the guidelines adopted at the 19th CPC National Congress, and follow the centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Xi at the core.

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