BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed Karl Marx as "the greatest thinker of modern times," in a speech Friday seen as part of an effort so shore up his power against domestic critics.

Xi's address at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing was one of a series of events in China marking the bicentennial of the philosopher-economist's birth in 1818 in Germany.

"We must win the advantages, win the initiative, and win the future. We must continuously improve the ability to use Marxism to analyze and solve practical problems," Xi said beneath a massive portrait of the white-bearded Marx on a stage bedecked with scarlet and gold curtains.

"Today, we commemorate Marx in order to pay tribute to the greatest thinker in the history of mankind and also to declare our firm belief in the scientific truth of Marxism," he said.

Promoting Marx is seen in part as a way for Xi to strengthen ideological control and counter critics within the ruling Communist Party unhappy with his move in March to eliminate presidential term limits. Xi is also general secretary of the ruling Communist Party, an official that is also not term-limited.

Marx's work became the inspiration for communism, an ideology that aims for shared ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes.

China launched market reforms three decades ago but the party keeps an iron grip on power.