Marx, Deng … Xi?

To the Chinese president’s growing array of titles, the ruling Communist Party says Xi Jinping can add important Marxist thinker.

The party praised Xi’s contribution to ideology on Thursday, adding to intense propaganda promoting his personal image as Xi begins a second five-year term as leader.

Xi’s name was added to the party constitution this week, which a party spokesman said was justified due to his “significant contribution” to ideology.

Official propaganda has promoted Xi’s personal image with an intensity unseen since the 1970s under of Mao Zedong, founder of the communist government.

That has prompted suggestions Xi is trying to build a Mao-style cult of personality, evoking memories of the political upheaval of the 1960s and ’70s. Party spokespeople reject such talk, insisting Xi is the core of a collective leadership, not a lone strongman.

Xi, 64, became only the third leader to be cited by name in the party constitution after Mao and Deng Xiaoping, who launched economic reform in the 1980s. A reference to Deng Xiaoping Theory, or “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” was added only after his death.

“Xi Jinping’s ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics in a new era’ is the crystallization of the wisdom of the party and the masses,” said spokesman Wang Xiaohui at a televised news conference.

“He made a significant contribution to the creation of this theory,” said Wang. “So use of his name on this theory is deserved.”

Political phrases associated with Xi’s two most predecessors — Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao — were added to the party constitution but neither is mentioned by name.

Xi serves as party leader, state president and commander-in-chief of China’s military. He also has gathered a wide array of other powers into his own hands, becoming the most powerful leader at least since Deng.

Xi has steadily tightened central control over the party and led a marathon anti-corruption crackdown that has snared potential challengers and successors.