The Chinese Communist Party has passed a “historical resolution”, cementing Xi Jinping’s status in political history.
The document, which is a summary of the party’s 100-year history, addresses the party’s key achievements as well as its future directions.
It is only the third of its kind since the party’s inception in 1949; the first was passed by Mao Zedong in 1945, and the second by Deng Xiaoping in 1981.
It was approved on Thursday at China’s sixth plenary session, one of the country’s most important political gatherings.
As only the third Chinese leader to issue such a resolution, Mr. Xi’s goal is to establish himself as a peer of party founder Mao and his successor Deng.
Some observers see Mr. Xi’s resolution as the latest attempt by Chinese leaders to reverse decades of decentralisation that began with Deng and continued through other leaders such as Jiang Zemin – a sign that China may be returning to a so-called cult of personality.
More than 370 full and alternate members of the party’s 19th Central Committee – the country’s top leadership – attended the four-day closed-door session.
It was the final major gathering of party leaders before next year’s national congress, where Xi is expected to run for a historic third term as president.
In 2018, China scrapped the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively allowing him to remain in power for life.
Why is the resolution significant?
Essentially, it cements Mr Xi’s hold on power, experts told the BBC.
“He is attempting to cast himself as a hero in the epic of China’s national journey,” said Adam Ni, editor of China Neican, a Chinese current affairs newsletter.
“Mr. Xi is demonstrating his power by pushing through a historical resolution that places himself at the centre of the Party’s and modern China’s grand narrative. However, the document also serves as a tool to assist him in maintaining this power “He stated.
According to Dr. Chong Ja Ian of the National University of Singapore, Mr. Xi’s latest move distinguishes him from previous Chinese leaders.
“Former leaders Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin never wielded as much power as Mr Xi. However, it is unclear whether they would have done so if presented with similar opportunities “Dr. Chong stated.
“At the moment, there is a lot of focus on Mr Xi as a person. The extent to which it becomes more formally institutionalised is something that many people are keeping an eye on right now.”
Both Deng and Mao, who had previously passed resolutions, used it to break with the past.
The first resolution, passed at a party plenum in 1945, aided Mao in consolidating his power so that he could declare the People’s Republic of China in 1949 with complete authority.
When Deng took over as leader in 1978, he initiated the second resolution in 1981, criticising Mao’s “errors” during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, which resulted in the deaths of millions. Deng laid the groundwork for China’s economic reforms as well.
Unlike previous resolutions, however, Mr Xi intends to emphasise continuity with his resolution, according to Mr Ni.
After all, Mr. Xi’s report comes at a time when China has emerged as a global power, which was unthinkable just a few decades ago.
“The country is now at a point where it can look back on significant growth in its economy, military, and recognition of its status as a major power, with the CCP and its leadership deeply entrenched with no domestic opposition,” Dr Chong said.
“In some ways, the CCP has reached a pinnacle of achievement for the party and for China with Mr Xi at the helm.”
Still, experts say, politics can be “surprising,” and despite all evidence that Mr. Xi will remain in power for the foreseeable future, anything can happen.
“Because China’s elite politics are opaque, there is much we don’t know,” Mr Ni said.