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, said, 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.
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