Chinese President Xi Jinping (front row, center) and fellow delegates stand for the national anthem during the closing session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, October 24, 2017.
Thomas Peter / Reuters

When Deng Xiaoping opened China to the world in the 1980s, the awe-inspiring economic growth he unleashed canonized him both within the Chinese Communist Party and the country’s history. But four decades of remarkable growth eventually slowed, weighted down by rampant corruption, widespread anger toward environmental pollution, and a social fabric torn by the stress of capitalistic life. It was only a matter of time before a leader would come around to challenge Deng’s formidable legacy.

At China’s 19th Party Congress last week, that challenger arrived. President Xi Jinping cemented his status as the core of the party and the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng—or even Chairman Mao Zedong. The Communist Party National Congress unanimously passed an amendment to the constitution of the Communist Party, the de facto highest law in the land, to include “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism With Chinese Characteristics for a

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