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China’s first constitutional change since 2004 may give Xi Jinping even more power

Chinese President Xi Jinping had a good 2017, but 2018 may be looking even better.

The ruling Communist Party (CCP) will discuss changing the country’s constitution for the first time since 2004next month, with analysts predicting Xi will further cement his grip on power.
The change could clear the way for the creation of a National Supervision Commission (NSC), a country-wide anti-corruption task force with sweeping new powers, though some havespeculated there could also be a move to abolish term-limits on the Presidency, allowing Xi to serve on past 2022.
This comes on the back of a move by Xi this week to shore up his command of the country’s armed forces by moving control of paramilitary police from the government to the CCP.
In October, the CCP enshrined “Xi Jinping Thought” as a guiding principle, elevating him to a level no Chinese leader has held since Mao Zedong.
At the same time, Xi unveiled a new leadership team which did not include any obvious successor, increasing speculation he may hold on to power at the end of his second five-year term as President.
Margaret Lewis, an expert in China’s legal system at National Taiwan University, said Xi had already scored a “major political victory” with the addition of his “Thought” to the party constitution, and “does not need to change the rules on term limits to remain extremely powerful.”
Unlike the presidency, there is no restriction on how long Xi could serve as CCP General Secretary, the position from which his true power flows, though traditionally both titles have been held by the same person.
Deng Xiaoping, during his time as leader, gave up most official positions but retained a huge amount of control over decision making, Lewis said.
“Titles matter, but there is more to power in China,” she said, particularly the “extent to which other top leaders act as a check on his power.”
This week, the Politburo, the party’s top body, underwent a Mao-era style self criticism session in which they vowed to follow Xi’s lead, according to state news agency Xinhua.
“Xi has shown firm faith and will, clear commitment to the people, extraordinary political wisdom and tactics and a strong sense of responsibility, in leading the CPC and China in the great struggle with many new contemporary features,” the Politburo said in a statement following the “meeting of self reflection.”
William Nee, a China researcher for Amnesty International, said self criticism meetings “are a very old tool … to get people to admit their faults publicly, talk about the problems in their work styles and to profess loyalty to the party center and in this case explicitly to Xi Jinping.”
Lewis said the session was typical of how under Xi “there is little tolerance … for the slightest wobbling off the party line.”
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