China’s ruling Communist Party on Friday defended its decision to elevate President Xi Jinping as “core leader”, saying it was aimed at achieving goals of building a moderately prosperous society and a modern socialist country, though critics averred it would grant him a veto power. That “the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core” was officially put forward at the meeting is “where the fundamental interests of the Party and state lie,” Liu Qibao, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Publicity Department, said in the first official comment after Xi’s elevation.
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It is also a fundamental guarantee for the adherence to and strengthening of the CPC leadership, Liu was quoted as saying by state-run Xinhua news agency after the party issued a communique about the decisions of the four-day meeting of the Party Plenary, which concluded on Thursday. The decision to elevate the status of 63-year-old Xi to core leader, bringing him on par with party founder Mao Zedong, reformist leader Deng Xiaoping and his successor Jiang Zemin, was taken at the meeting.
The strong leadership of the CPC with Xi as the core is vital to China’s targets to build an “all-round moderately prosperous society” for the CPC’s centennial in 2021, and for it to become a “modern socialist country” in time for China’s centennial in 2049, Xinhua quoted Liu Dongchao, a professor
with the Chinese Academy of Governance as saying. However, analysts said the “core of the leadership” often represented the power of final approval or veto. The term “core” was used by late leader Deng in 1989 to describe Mao, himself and his successor Jiang Zemin.
From the early 1990s, various top-level documents and state media reports referred to Jiang as the “core”, a title that eluded Jiang’s successor and Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, a report in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said. During Hu’s decade-long term as party chief, he was only
referred to as the “general secretary” of the leadership, and in practice he was the “first among equals” with the other eight Politburo Standing Committee members.
With his new core status, Xi is expected to play a more dominant role in orchestrating next year’s reshuffles – a sharp contrast to Hu’s position 10 years ago, it said. Next year’s party congress will see the election of more than 300 full members and alternate Central Committee members. Up to 11 seats on the 25-strong Politburo will also be vacated, including up to five members of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee who are expected to retire, the Post report said on Friday.
Unlike the official title “general secretary”, the term “core” and its powers are not defined by party regulations. Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said the new reference meant Xi was guaranteed to have unchallenged authority in the party.
“It means Xi has the final veto power. It’s the official crowning of his real power. It also means the end of the last ‘core’, Jiang Zemin. There can’t be two cores in the party,” he told the Post.