China Communist Party declares Xi Jinping ‘core’ leader
China’s ruling Communist Party declared its General Secretary Xi Jinping the “core” of its leadership on Thursday, elevating his already powerful status.
A communique issued by top party leaders after a four-day meeting in Beijing called on all its members to “closely unite around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core”, said the People’s Daily, the party’s official mouthpiece.
The announcement followed a gathering of 400 top party leaders in Beijing for a meeting known as the Sixth Plenum to discuss changes to party structure and discipline.
Xi has sought to bend the party to his will since taking its helm in 2012, and has already taken control of more levers of power than any leader since Mao.
Regional cadres began using the term “core” for Xi last December, but it then disappeared, suggesting that the Chinese president had encountered resistance to his efforts to further consolidate his power.
Analysts have speculated that Xi could seek to stay in power beyond the traditional 10-year term.
The declaration was “very significant”, Willy Lam, professor of politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP, 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.”
China has a constitutional limit of two five-year terms for the national president, another of Xi’s titles, but no formal rule on tenure for the general secretary of the ruling party, the post from which he derives his power.
The decision comes as Xi pressures the party to clean up its act. More than one million members have been punished as part of an anti-corruption campaign that some say resembles a political purge.
Xi has felled top generals in the People’s Liberation Army and seemingly invincible figures such as former security czar Zhou Yongkang, eliminating potential rival bastions of power.
But the drive has laid waste to the party’s organisational chart, paralysing grassroots bureaucrats petrified of making a mistake, a problem compounded by unclear and contradictory signals on what policies to pursue.
While some had speculated the party might use the opportunity of this week’s conference to dial back its anti-graft campaign and give cadres some room to breathe, the communique suggested the opposite, calling for a “zero tolerance” attitude towards misbehaviour.
The party must “persevere in constructing a system where [party members] do not dare to be corrupt, cannot be corrupt and do not think about corruption,” it said.
To that end, the communique called for strengthening the party’s internal controls, including increasing ideological conformity and more strictly monitoring individual members’ behaviour, the People’s Daily said.