The Chinese Communist Party renewed on Wednesday President Xi Jinping’s mandate as it unveiled its new lineup.
Xi will now embark on a second five-year term after the party’s Central Committee met on Wednesday. The Communist Party had kicked off last week it twice-a-decade national congress.
On Tuesday, the party had already elevated Xi's status at its closing session by inserting his name and dogma into the party's constitution alongside past leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, cementing his status as the most powerful man to head the country in decades.
That move effectively makes any act of opposing him tantamount to an attack on the party itself, largely insulating him from competition among the party's rival factions.
Xi said his return as general secretary constituted "not just approval of my work but also encouragement that will spur me on."
"In this new context, we must get a new look and more importantly, make new accomplishments," he said.
The concept Xi has touted is seen as marking a break from the stage of economic reform ushered in by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and continued under his successors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
Xi has spoken of China emerging into a "new normal" of slower, but higher quality economic growth. The placement of Xi's thought among the party's leading guidelines also comes five years into his term — earlier than his predecessors.
"In every sense, the Xi Jinping era has begun in earnest," said Zhang Lifan, an independent political commentator in Beijing. "Only Mao's name was enshrined in the party ideology while he was still alive. We're opening something that hasn't been broached before."
For centuries, Chinese emperors were accorded ritual names that signaled either they were successors in a dynastic line or the founders of an entirely new dynasty. What Xi accomplished this week was a modern equivalent of the latter, Zhang said.
"He wants to join that pantheon of leaders," he said.
Xi has described his concept as central to setting China on the path to becoming a "great modern socialist country" by mid-century. This vision has at its core a ruling party that serves as the vanguard for everything from defending national security to providing moral guidance to ordinary Chinese.
He has set the target date of 2049, the People's Republic's centenary, for the establishment of a prosperous, modern society. China has the world's second-largest economy and legions of newly wealthy urban residents, but raising living standards for millions of people continues to be a challenge.
Xi also unveiled the new seven-strong Politburo Standing Committee, five of whose members were newly appointed on Wednesday.
The makeup of the committee reflects Xi's efforts to foster party unity by striking a balance between different interest groups in the 89-million member organization as he seeks to better position a reinvigorated party to dominate China's affairs at home and abroad.
They will assume responsibility for running the legislature, the National People's Congress and its advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and assume a range of portfolios, including those responsible for propaganda, party discipline, ethnic and Taiwan affairs and science and technology.
The other members are, in order of seniority: Li Zhanshu, director of the party's General Office who serves as Xi's chief of staff; Vice Premier Wang Yang; Wang Huning, director of the party's Central Policy Research Office; Zhao Leji, head of the Central Organization Department responsible for job assignments; and Shanghai party leader Han Zheng, a veteran manager of the country's financial hub.
Zhao is expected to head the much-feared corruption watchdog body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Xi, the son of a Communist elder, has made his wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign the hallmark of his first five years in office. While popular among ordinary Chinese, it is seen as part of a drive to purge his rivals and political opponents and boost supervision over the party at all levels.
Alongside the campaign, Xi has overseen one of the harshest crackdowns on civil society aimed at squelching dissent and activism among lawyers and rights advocates.
The new leaders will face challenges that include reining burgeoning levels of debt seen as the biggest threat to economic stability and managing trade tensions with Washington and Europe over China's excess production of steel and other goods.
They will also have to tackle the risk of war over neighboring ally North Korea's nuclear program, manage the crucial relationship with the US and navigate delicate ties with Southeast Asian nations wary of Beijing's expansion in the disputed South China Sea.
The constitution was also amended to include references to the party's "absolute" leadership over the armed forces, which have been modernizing rapidly under Xi, and a commitment to promote Xi's signature foreign policy and infrastructure initiative known as "One Belt, One Road." That initiative seeks to link China to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond with a sprawling network of roads, railways, ports and other economic projects.