All hail Xi, China’s third ‘core’ leader

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China’s President Xi Jinping is about to be endorsed as the Communist Party’s “core” leader. Photo: Reuters/Marko Djurica

 

Chinese president to be put on a par with former paramount leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping whose authority must not be challenged

President Xi Jinping is likely to be formally endorsed as the “core” leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the four-day 6th Plenum of the party’s decision-making Central Committee starting on Monday.

This will put him on a par with former paramount leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping whose authority is firmly established and must not be questioned let alone challenged.

Xi’s endorsement is in keeping with the agenda of the 6th Plenum which includes deliberation and endorsement of a code of political conduct to rein in party members especially high-ranking officials. One party rule that is likely to be written into the code is the stipulation banning party cadres from wantonly making inappropriate comments on policies set by the power center.

So, why does Xi still need to be endorsed as the “core” leader when he is already head of the party and the state?

As the ancient Chinese sage Confucius put it: “Without proper title, there will be no convincing words; without convincing words, nothing gets done.”

In Chinese politics, even today, a title for a leader still carries weight, and the use or misuse of a word heralds subtle change in the political climate.

The concept of “core” leader was formulated by Deng in the 1990s. Although the party’s central leadership was a collective body, there was a “core” leader to head this leadership, he said, adding that Mao was the “core” leader of the CPC’s first-generation leadership and he himself the “core” leader of the second-generation leadership.

After Deng, former President Jiang Zemin used to be hailed as the “core” of the third-generation leadership, but shortly before he retired, the title “core” was barely mentioned, with a return to putting the emphasis on “collective leadership.”

Mao did it during the Long March in the mid-1930s when the Red Army was on the verge of being eliminated; Deng proved himself by launching reform and opening up to save the country’s economy from collapsing and thus save the party itself.

Serious challenges

“Core” leader is not a self-claimed title, nor is the leading party member automatically regarded as such. A “core” leader must have a very high-degree of authority — if not absolute authority — command respect and be listened to and obeyed by others in the power center. Such authority can only be established through performance.

This is why Xi, who is regarded as being politically savvier than Hu and even Jiang, has declined to be called a “core” leader until now. It is believed he now feels confident that since taking the reins of the CPC, his performance over the past four years has won more support and praise than criticism inside the party and among the Chinese people.

Significant signal

As a close ally of Xi, with a relationship akin to that of the White House chief of staff’s to the president, it is hard to imagine Li would have made such a comment against the leader’s will.

On top of this, all five strategic zones of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have pledged their allegiance to Xi. .

Full article: All hail Xi, China’s third ‘core’ leader (Asia Times)

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