China’s ruling Communist Party today 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.
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 here yesterday.
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 today.
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.However, Zhang said Xi’s crowning moment also comes with uncertainties.
“It’s unclear if all senior leaders will obey him and it would mean more responsibility for him, including the downward economic pressure and rising social conflicts,” he said.
The CPC meeting approved two documents on the discipline of the party, including the norms of political life within the party under the new situation and a regulation on intra-party supervision.
Jiang, 90, is still active and is widely believed to have exercised influence in CPC and the military since his official retirement in 2004. He has also been seen in public recently.
Much on the expected lines, editorials of the official media came out in strong support of the CPC’s decision to elevate Xi’s status saying that the move has public backing. “Xi as core long affirmed by public opinion,” an editorial in the state-run Global Times said.
“Since 2012, China has faced great pressure in the fronts of development, reform and diplomacy. The Chinese economy has come to an adjustment period that cannot be bypassed. Taking the initiative to adapt to the new normal has become a pressing task and challenge.
“The sweeping anti-corruption campaign, which is aimed at realising clean politics, has not only punished corrupt officials, but also reconstructed understandings about modern Chinese society. Comprehensively deepening reform has touched upon almost all areas of China while the international strategic situation during this period has posed more pressure on China’s rise. It’s fair to say the past four years have been quite difficult,” it said.
“Major problems may break out in any one of the sectors and frustrate Chinese society without firm leadership from the CPC Central Committee,” it said.
The CPC communique also singled out members of the Central Committee, the Politburo and the innermost Politburo Standing Committee as the prime targets for the new conduct rules, making it clear that senior cadres would be judged on whether they toed the line on party positions, the Post report said.
“Senior cadres must not fudge their stand on fundamental matters, must not waiver on their political stance, must not be affected by incorrect ideology,” it said.
It said no organisation or individual was above party discipline and the party strictly forbade anyone from bargaining with the party or disobeying its decisions.
To stem corruption, the party would address election fraud and end the buying and selling of official posts and vote rigging. Leading officials were banned from using their positions to seek benefits for friends and family, it said.