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China’s ruling Communist Party enshrines President Xi Jinping’s political thought into its constitution, putting him in the same company as the founder of modern China, Mao Zedong. Video provided by Reuters Newslook

Chinese President Xi Jinping gestures during the closing ceremony of the 19th Party Congress held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.(Photo: Ng Han Guan, AP)

First there were the “Thoughts of Chairman Mao.” Then there were the economic reforms of Chairman Deng. Now there is the modern socialism of President Xi.

China’s ruling Communist Party voted Tuesday to elevate Xi Jinping to the revered status of two icons by adding his name and ideology to its constitution.

Xi’s concept of “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era” was added to the constitution at the close of the party congress, a twice-a-decade event.

“The Party has gained a new addition to its guiding ideology: Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” said a commentary by state-run news agency Xinhua. 

“Xi said the aim is to build China into a great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful,” the commentary said.

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“The Chinese people and nation have a great and bright future ahead,” Xi told delegates as the meeting came to a close.

“At this great time, we feel more self-confident and proud. At the same time, we also deeply feel a heavy sense of responsibility.”

The concept Xi — who received the accolade just five years into his term — 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.

Deng died in 1997 and Mao, founder of the Communist state in 1949, died in 1976. Only Mao and Xi have their ideologies described as “thought.”

“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.”

Before the meeting, the Beijing Exhibition Center was transformed into a showcase promoting Xi’s accomplishments: “Five years of Brave Endeavor.” His image was plastered on every wall, his words blasted from large speakers, and a massive TV screen announced that under Xi, the ruling Communist Party “has solved unsolvable problems and carried out impossible tasks.”

For centuries, Chinese emperors were accorded ritual names that signaled either they were successors in a dynastic line or the founder 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.

Contributing: Hannah Gardner in Beijing, the Associated Press