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Visitors walk by an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping on display at an exhibition on the Long March at the military museum in Beijing on Monday. (AP File)

China’s Xi Jinping anointed ‘core leader’, on par with Mao, Deng

WT24 Desk

China’s Communist Party gave President Xi Jinping the title of “core” leader on Thursday, putting him on par with past strongmen like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, but it signalled his power would not be absolute,Reuters reports.

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 “core” leader title marks a significant strengthening of Xi’s position ahead of a key party congress next year, at which a new Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power in China, will be constituted.

 Since assuming office almost four years ago, Xi has rapidly consolidated power, including heading a group leading economic reform and appointing himself commander-in-chief of the military, though as head of the Central Military Commission he already controls the armed forces.

While head of the party, the military and the state, Xi had not previously been given the title “core”. 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.The once-every-five-years congress will be held in the second half of 2017 and Xi will be looking to stack the Standing Committee with as many of his own people as possible.

Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political commentator, said now that 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.

“If the economy continues to go downhill and the rifts in society become more serious, the responsibility of the core is greater,” Zhang said. “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.”

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