China's president is kind of a big deal
- The name of President Xi Jinping has been written into China's constitution.
- This makes Xi the country's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
- The change was supported by 2,300 Communist Party members at the close of the party's congress on October.
President Xi Jinping has become China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
Xi's name was added to China's constitution on October 24, the first time a living leader's name had been added since Mao ruled from 1935 until his death in 1976.
The political ideologies of China's presidents have usually been added to the country's constitution, but only Mao and Xi have been named in the title of those theories.
The amendment, called "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era," was approved by all 2,300 delegates attending the congress. Xi is now considered the most important party leader alive — above former presidents and his eventual successor.
Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the Russia-China Naval Interaction 2014 joint exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.
This departure from tradition indicates immense party support for Xi and his strict leadership style; that support could be crucial as Xi eyes a potential third term as president, which would also break with the two-term tradition. The biggest indicator for Xi's 2022 plans could emerge Wednesday, when the party's new senior leadership is announced.
If Xi does not give a nod to a young and experienced successor under 60 years of age, or ignores unofficial retirement-age rules, it may indicate the Chinese president will seek a third term in the next five years.
The Chinese constitution stipulates that a president can serve only two five-year terms. Xi, however, could rally party support to stay for a third term or continue leading from his other role of party secretary-general — which actually outranks the president. Both options are more likely with Xi's strong party support. Another option is to revive the title of party chairman, a label that has not been used since Mao held it.
During the congress' closing session, party leaders referred to Xi as the country's "core" leader, a term first used to describe Mao.