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China agrees to amend Constitution

Xi Jinping

Beijing (Reuters): China's ruling Communist Party has agreed to amend the party constitution, expected to embed President Xi Jinping's political thought, ahead of next week's five-yearly party congress in which Xi will tighten his grip on power.

The party's Central Committee, the largest of its elite ruling bodies, yesterday passed a previously announced proposal to amend the constitution which will now be put to the Congress for formal approval.

A lengthy communique released by the party via state media offered praise for the past five years under Xi's leadership, especially success in the fight against corruption, but did not say what wording would be inserted into the party constitution.

A key measure of Xi's power will be whether he manages to have his name "crowned" in the party 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.

In the section of the communique mentioning former leaders' theories, there was a reference to "the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's series of important speeches and new concepts, new thinking and new strategy on governing", signalling that could be the phrasing used.

The party has also 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, as well as the "Four Greats", which focus on party building and national rejuvenation.

The four-day Central Committee plenary meeting also approved reports by the party's corruption watchdog of investigations into several former senior officials who have been sacked or jailed for graft, including Sun Zhengcai, once a contender for top leadership who was expelled from the party last month.

Since assuming power five years ago, Xi has mounted a sweeping campaign against deep-rooted corruption, with more than one million people punished and dozens of senior officials jailed.

The party has vowed that the campaign, overseen by close Xi ally Wang Qishan, will never end.

The Congress will open on Wednesday with a speech by Xi, the party's head, details of which are a closely guarded secret ahead of time but will focus more on ideology than concrete policies.

No free fruit

No free fruit in hotel rooms, no free hair cuts and no prawns on the menu - delegates at this week's Communist Party Congress in China can expect austere treatment in keeping with President Xi Jinping's pledge to crack down on corruption and extravagance.

Part of Xi's fight against deep-seated graft has been to ensure officials are not seen abusing their positions and wasting public money, after a series of scandals involving high-living bureaucrats ignited public anger.

Wang Lilian, who has helped oversee hospitality for delegates at three previous party Congresses, told state radio in remarks reported on Sunday that this time, things are going to be very different.

Delegates will, for example, find their hotels bereft of the large welcoming banners and displays of flowers common in previous years.

But the biggest difference will be with their rooms and food, Wang said.

"There won't be any more fruit put out in rooms, whereas previously there were for delegates and staff. There's none of that this time," he said.

The food was also going to be home-style and simple, Wang said.

"There's no sea cucumber, prawns or the like. It's all buffet style."

Delegates won't get free hair cuts or beauty treatments and there won't be any gift shops.

"There's none of these services this time," Wang said.

Xi himself has lead the way in promoting simple living, with state media widely reporting on the basic food he eats when on trips around the country, and giving extensive coverage to cases where officials are found to have hoarded gold, owned multiple houses or had a fondness for banquets.

Xi has warned, like others before him, that if corruption is not tackled it could affect the party's grip on power.

The once-in-five-years Congress opens on Wednesday with a major speech by Xi.

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