It looks like the sixth plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee went rather well after all for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who picked up a brand-new title as the party’s “core” leader at the conclusion of the meeting on Thursday.
A communiqué released at the end of the four-day meeting called on party members to “closely unite around the party’s Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the core.” A commentary from People’s Daily about the sixth plenum further reinforced Xi’s position, explaining that strong “core” leadership at the top was needed in order to unite the party, overcome challenges and continue forward on “the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The new title would appear to grant Xi even more political power within the top leadership. According to SCMP, analysts say that it gives him the power of final approval or veto, putting him in the footsteps of Deng Xiaoping, and warning party members not to question his authority as the government attempts to navigate its way through some serious challenges.
That new power comes at an opportune time for Xi. At a party congress late next year, half-way through his 10-year term, he will be position to select a new cohort of subordinates, placing those most loyal to him into positions of power, shaping his own future and that of China.
The term “core” (核心) was first used by Deng Xiaoping when he abruptly placed Jiang Zemin into power following the upheavals of 1989. Since then, it has also been applied to Deng himself, as well as Mao Zedong.
It was not, however, applied to Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao, who was seen as a weak leader by Chinese standards, never rising above “general secretary” status.
In contrast to Hu, Xi has worked to stand out among the top leadership, launching an anti-corruption campaign that some believe was targeted primarily at his political rivals and grooming a cult of personality that is reminiscent of Mao.
As Chris Buckley at The New York Times reported, the term “core” first began being used to describe Xi as he worked to consolidate his power and ensure unwavering loyalty among party members in January of this year. Soon party leaders from provinces, regions and provincial-level cities around began to use the phrase to refer to Xi to demonstrate their own loyalty — like Chen Quanguo, the party sectary of Tibet, for example:
“Resolutely safeguard the absolute authority of the party center under Comrade Xi Jinping as general secretary. Staunchly safeguard, support and be faithful to General Secretary Xi Jinping, the core.”
Now though, it’s officially official. All hail, “The Core”:
He's the core leader. pic.twitter.com/SRzuurg0Kq
— Chris Buckley 储百亮 (@ChuBailiang) October 27, 2016