A symbolic moment took place at China’s 19th party congress earlier today: president Xi Jinping has had his socialist theories and name accepted into the party constitution.

This new status puts Xi in first rank alongside past leaders including Mao Zedong, who founded China’s communist party, and Deng Xiaoping.

Xi is now formally accepted as China’s most powerful ruler in decades.

Why has Xi Jinping’s status been lifted?

For the past week, China has been in the midst of its most important political event, the 19th party congress, where it officially elects the new leadership of the Communist Party of China.

At the start of the meeting last week, Xi initially put forward his thoughts, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

In a three-hour speech, he talked through the broad concepts, discussing topics such as party discipline and economic reform.

Xi said:

The Chinese people and nation have a great and bright future ahead. Living in such a great era, we are all the more confident and proud, and also feel the heavy weight of responsibility upon us.

He wants to establish China as a prosperous, modern society and has set the date of 2021, the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding, as the target for this achievement.

The party accepted Xi’s ideology, placing it within the constitution along with his name. This is an important moment in Chinese politics. Deng was the last leader to have been accepted in this way, however, it wasn’t until after he died.

Subsequent leaders, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, had their theories accepted but not their names.

For this to happen to Xi, only five years into his first term in office, demonstrates his power.

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Zhang Lifan, an independent political commentator in Bejing, said:

In every sense, the Xi Jinping era has begun in earnest. 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.

What happens next?

The grand finale of the party congress will take place tomorrow, 25 October. Xi is expected to complete his leadership transition and will be in power as party chief until 2022.

With Xi’s new status, it appears that China is officially moving towards a more Western style of leadership. Now,  the part, as a whole is no longer the most powerful.