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A flag of the Communist Party of China, made of red scarves by students ahead of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, is seen at a primary school in Linyi, Shandong province, China September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.(reuters_tickers)
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's ruling Communist Party is expected to amend its constitution at a key party congress next month, state media said on Monday, in a sign that President Xi Jinping aims to enshrine his guiding ideological doctrine in the charter.
Since assuming office almost five years ago, Xi has rapidly consolidated power, with moves such as heading a group leading economic reform and appointing himself military commander-in-chief, although as head of the Central Military Commission he already controls the armed forces.
The Politburo, one of the party's elite ruling bodies, deliberated a draft amendment to the constitution to be discussed at the congress that would include "major theoretical viewpoints and major strategic thought", the official Xinhua news agency said.
While the Xinhua report did not elaborate, a key measure of Xi's power will be whether he manages to have his name "crowned" in the constitution, elevating him to the level of previous leaders exemplified by Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory.
Xi's more recent predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, both had the party constitution amended to include their guiding thoughts, but without their names directly attached.
Jiang has his "Three Represents," which embraced private entrepreneurs, written in, while Hu, Xi's immediate predecessor, had his economic doctrine of "scientific development" included.
The party has been pushing Xi's "Four Comprehensives," which refer to China working "comprehensively" to build a moderately prosperous society and strengthen reforms, rule of law and party discipline, but it is not clear yet what wording could be put into the constitution to reflect Xi's thought.
"Amending the constitution at the 19th CPC National Congress on the basis of the new situation and tasks would promote the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics and Party building," Xinhua said.
"The amendments should include the key theories and strategic thoughts presented by a work report" at the start of the congress, which opens on Oct. 18, it added.
The amended constitution should fully represent the latest "sinicisation" of Marxism, new governance concepts and "the fresh experiences in adhering to, and strengthening, Party leadership, and in strict Party governance", Xinhua said.
"The amendment should make the Communist Party more vigorous, stronger and enable it to keep a close connection with the people."
The draft amendment will be submitted on Oct. 11 to a party plenary meeting, it added, a smaller scale gathering of about 200 of the most senior leaders to finalise the agenda for the congress.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Philip Wen; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)