Skip to main content



Xi given ‘core leader’ title, lifting him to CCP pantheon

BEIJING — China’s Communist Party gave President Xi Jinping the title of “core” leader on Thursday (Oct 27), elevating his already powerful status and putting him on a par with past strongmen Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

PHOTO: Reuters

PHOTO: Reuters

BEIJING — China’s Communist Party gave President Xi Jinping the title of "core" leader on Thursday (Oct 27), elevating his already powerful status and putting him on a par with past strongmen Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

But the party also signalled his power would not be absolute. A lengthy communique released by the party following a four-day, closed-door meeting of senior officials in Beijing stressed maintaining the importance of collective leadership.

The collective leadership system "must always be followed and should not be violated by any organisation or individual under any circumstance or for any reason", it said.

But all party members should "closely unite around the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core", said the document, released through state media.

The declaration was "very significant", said Dr Willy Lam, professor of politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, because in Chinese politics the "core" has traditionally denoted a degree of individual authority unconstrained by term limits. "The core of leadership can last forever," he said. "There’s no idea of tenure, retirement age associated with the core."

Mr Xi’s new title comes ahead of a key party congress in the second half of next year, at which a new Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power in China, will be constituted.

Since assuming office almost four years ago, Mr Xi has rapidly consolidated power, including heading a group leading economic reform.

Deng coined the phrase "core" leader. He said Mao, himself and Jiang Zemin were core leaders, meaning they had almost absolute authority and should not be questioned.

Mr Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political commentator, said now that Mr Xi was the "core", things should go more smoothly for him at next year’s congress. But he will have more on the line, given his increased responsibility to answer economic and social problems facing the leadership.

"Your relative power and authority are greater, everyone is deferring to you. But they will be watching to see if your leadership is good or bad," Mr Zhang said.

Regional cadres began using the term "core" for Mr Xi last December, but it then disappeared, suggesting that the president had encountered resistance to his efforts to further consolidate his power before the plenum formally accorded him the title.

Dr Steve Tsang, professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham in Britain, said while Mr Xi is in a strong position, there was still a year to go before the congress. "There’s still a lot of unanswered questions. Will his successor be named? Will Xi get a third term?"

Judging by recent past precedent, Mr Xi should step down at the 2022 congress after a decade at the top, but speculation in leadership circles has swirled that he may try and stay on, perhaps giving up the post as president but remaining as party leader, the more senior of the posts.

In its turgid statement, the party also announced changes to the Rules on Intra-Party Political Life, first introduced in 1980 to prevent any cult of personality after Mao’s rule plunged the country into anarchy during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. But it gave no detailed explanation on how the rules would change.

While a cult of personality had begun to form around Mr Xi, he has moved to stop practices including adoring songs on the Internet and references to him in state media as "Uncle Xi", sources with ties to the leadership say.

"Publicity regarding leaders should be based purely on facts and boasting should be banned," the party said in its statement. AGENCIES

Read more of the latest in




Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.