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China Enshrines ‘Xi Jinping Thought.’ What Does That Mean?

To underline that point, the congress also added a second mention of Mr. Xi’s ideas to the constitution: his call to modernize and strengthen China’s armed forces.

By enshrining Mr. Xi’s ideas as “a new component of the party’s guide for action,” the party is putting Mr. Xi on a doctrinal pedestal alongside Mao and Deng. Until Tuesday, those were the only two Chinese leaders whose names appeared in the constitution’s list of fundamental doctrines, which mentions “Mao Zedong Thought” and “Deng Xiaoping Theory.” Adding Mr. Xi by name also raises him above his two most recent predecessors, the former presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, whose ideas are on the list of doctrines, but not their names.

In the near future, Chinese people are likely to refer to Mr. Xi’s doctrine of a reinvigorated China as simply “Xi Jinping Thought,” a flattering echo of “Mao Zedong Thought.”

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Portraits of Mr. Xi, left, and Mao Zedong at a market in Beijing.

Credit
Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Does this mean Mr. Xi is as powerful as Mao was in his day?

It’s not that simple. After he came to power in 2012, Mr. Xi surprised many people here with how quickly and forcefully he asserted control. This included putting his imprint on two of China’s most powerful institutions, the party and the military, which he did using a sweeping anticorruption drive.

But his basis of rule is different from Mao’s, and even Deng’s. Both of those leaders were founders of the People’s Republic, and hardened revolutionaries whose decades of fighting and self-sacrifice gave them a charisma and authority that Mr. Xi simply cannot replicate. For all his power, Mr. Xi does not have the almost godlike dominance that Mao once wielded.

On the other hand, the Chinese economy, state and military are much more powerful now than they were under Mao, or even Deng, which gives Mr. Xi far more global clout than his predecessors.

What other decisions did the party congress make?

The congress finished on Tuesday with several other major steps. Most important, the delegates voted in a new Central Committee, a council of 204 senior central and local officials who usually meet once a year to approve broad policy priorities.

There was a notable absence on that list: Wang Qishan.

Mr. Wang, 69, was the enforcer in Mr. Xi’s drive to root out corruption and strengthen discipline within the party. Party insiders had said that Mr. Xi might try to keep Mr. Wang in a senior position, despite the fact that Mr. Wang had passed the retirement age. His absence from the list means he will probably retire.

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Delegates arriving for the closing session of the party congress on Tuesday.

Credit
Greg Baker/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

How will changing the party constitution affect how China is run?

Mr. Xi’s vision of a resurgent China will now permeate all party indoctrination in schools, the media and government agencies. With the conclusion of the congress, the party and the Chinese news media will begin a national drive to promote its decisions, and especially the elevation of Mr. Xi.

But many Chinese people will also closely watch the announcement on Wednesday of new members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top rung of power, for signs of how far Mr. Xi can get his way in promoting political allies. That will be a sign of how much power he really has behind the welter of propaganda.

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