China to enshrine Xi's thought into state constitution amid national 'fervor'

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s ruling Communist Party will enshrine President Xi Jinping’s political thought into the country’s constitution, state media said on Friday, further solidifying his power following its addition last year to the party constitution.

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The arguably more important party constitution was amended at the once-in-five-years 19th Party Congress in October to include Xi’s political thought.

The party unanimously passed an amendment then to add “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” as one of its guiding principles.

Following a two-day meeting of top officials in Beijing, the party has now proposed writing the same theory into the state constitution, state news agency Xinhua said.

The communique said Xi’s thought had generated a national “fervor” which had helped provide “great spiritual impetus” in the implementation of 19th Party Congress’s strategic policies.

The meeting also stressed that a “centralized, unified, authoritative and highly effective” national supervision system should be set up to fight corruption throughout the state bureaucracy, Xinhua said.

Chinese legal scholars have said the country needs to amend its constitution before it can set up the new supervision commission to ensure there is a proper constitutional basis for its powers.

Xinhua however did not explicitly say what might be amended when it came to the supervision commission.

Fighting deeply ingrained graft had been a key policy plank for Xi in his first term in office and that battle will take on a new hue with the setting up of the National Supervision Commission as he begins his second term.

Trial work has already begun for that commission, which is likely to be formally codified in law in March at a meeting of China’s largely rubber stamp parliament.

Because the state constitution is being amended, it needs parliament to formally approve it, probably at the March session, though it could happen before. Xinhua did not say exactly when it would happen.

Whether Xi was able to have his name “crowned” in the party constitution had been seen as a key measure of his power, elevating him to a level of previous leaders exemplified by Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory.

No other leader since Mao has had an eponymous ideology included in the document while in office. Deng’s name was added after his death in 1997.

The state constitution was last amended in 2004 to include guarantees to protect private property and human rights.

While it theoretically offers broad guarantees to things like freedom of speech, religion and association, rights groups say in practice these are ignored. It also highlights the primacy of the Communist Party in leading China.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Christian Shepherd and Philip Wen; Editing by Nick Macfie