The View From Asia

Xi as CPC 'core' leader and what it means

Chinese President Xi Jinping's designation as the Communist Party of China's 'core' leader had commentators weighing the consequences of the move. Here are excerpts from Asia News Network papers.

Move to meet new challenges

Liu Zhifeng
China Daily, China

As top leader of the ruling party of the world's largest and fast-growing developing country, what kind of political party is Xi Jinping resolved to forge and how does he plan to govern a party with a 95-year-old history and more than 88 million members?

The answers to such questions were offered by the just-concluded Sixth Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee four years after Xi became the party general secretary.

At the plenum, Xi made clear the ruling party will be forged to deal with various crises and challenges within and outside the party and the nation, and to implement the party leadership's decisions without reservations. He also said the ruling party will have a strong executive capability and revolutionary spirit.

Several political parties emerged in modern China to free the country and its people from foreign oppression and aggression, but all failed in their mission except the CPC. Despite its past revolutionary victory, the CPC today faces a series of severe tests. For any political party, the biggest challenge after becoming the ruling party is how to prevent decadence. Such tempting factors as power and other material benefits usually start to erode the revolutionary spirit of a political party after it comes to power.

It is because of such concerns that Xi has launched an unprecedented campaign to combat corruption. A series of very strong measures he has taken to fight decadent behaviours among Party members also reflects his determination to better inherit the revolutionary spirit for the ruling Party.

Mr Xi has been given an important new title that has been unused for the last 14 years and with that comes an elevation of his status to a level clearly higher than that occupied by his predecessor, Mr Hu Jintao. It should give him more authority to deal with the country's myriad problems. PHOTO: REUTERS

The core leader

Frank Ching
The China Post, Taiwan

Xi Jinping has been given an important new title that has been unused for the last 14 years. And with that comes an elevation of his status to a level clearly higher than that occupied by his predecessor, Hu Jintao.

Xi is now China's "core" leader.

The concept of a "core" leader was not used in the first 40 years of the People's Republic of China. It was introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1989, in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square military crackdown, when he anointed Jiang Zemin as new party leader. To shore up the little-known Jiang's position as the new leader, Deng tried to put the new man on the same level as Mao Zedong and Deng himself.

Deng said that Mao was the core of the first generation of Communist leaders, while Deng was the core of the second generation. Jiang, he declared, was the core of the third generation of leaders. However, this title of "core" was not passed on by Jiang to his successor, Hu Jintao, in 2002.

When Xi Jinping took over as party leader from Hu in 2012, he also did not receive the title of "core" leader.

But, as a result of the sixth plenary meeting of the party's central committee last week, Xi has been elevated to this status. While the position is not defined in the party's Constitution, it puts him on a higher level than any other leader.

It should give him more authority to deal with the country's myriad problems, from the economic slowdown to corruption to internal security to the South China Sea.

In 2013, at the first plenum under Xi's watch, the party rolled out impressive reform plans that included allowing the market to play a "decisive role" in allocation of resources, safeguarding the authority of the Constitution and law; improving protection of human rights, and allowing farmers the same benefits as city dwellers.

The non-implementation of many reforms was attributed to opposition by vested interests, and Xi's power grabs have been explained as necessary for the realisation of such reforms.

Now, as "core" leader, it would be difficult for Xi to explain further delay in reforms.

At last week's party meeting, it was disclosed that the anti-corruption campaign, which has been a hallmark of the Xi administration for four years, will not be wound down after the party has been purified but will become a permanent feature.

However, the emphasis of the meeting was on strengthening party discipline. This move is, at least in part, to remove remaining obstacles for Xi.

Further action is likely next year, when, according to convention, the leader will reveal who will govern with him in his second five-year term and who his successor will be. He may well bend the retirement rules to allow certain allies to remain in power. It also won't be surprising if he doesn't unveil a successor at all so as not to turn himself into a lame duck.

The question then will be: What will he do with all that power? Is he into power for its own sake or will it be used to reform the country?

For all the enormous powers, there is no mistaking the principle of "balance of power" that has been put in place by the CPC. The system of "collective leadership", that was introduced in 1981 - five years after Mao passed away - has been retained, however theoretically. Chiefly, it is intended to ensure that a person is not more important than the party and that an individual does not dominate the omnipotent CPC.

The impression thus conveyed to the world is that Xi's elevation is not an essay towards the revival of the Mao legacy.

Fears of possible dissent have been addressed with the appeal to members to "closely unite around the CPC central committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core".

Profoundly significant is the timing of the development - it is a critical prologue to the formation of the new Standing Committee next year. For now, the omnipotence of Xi overshadows the Chinese communist philosophy of "collective leadership". He has been given a long enough rope to steer the country, the party and the military.

A desire for power

The Japan News, Japan

Xi Jinping's concentration of power in the party has become clear.

The Xi administration, which will enter its second term at the party congress next autumn, will see a major change in the party leadership line-up. Xi likely aims at positioning himself at the same level as Mao and other past leaders and grabbing the initiative in personnel affairs.

At the plenary session, the party also decided on rules to be used as guidelines for the political activities of party members, placing priority on tightening the discipline of elite senior executives, such as members of the party's Central Politburo, Politburo Standing Committee and the Central Committee. It is clear that Xi will continue to use his anti-corruption campaign to maintain his administration's centripetal force.

With its single-party rule, China embraces "the rule of law" but does not allow an independent judiciary. The crackdown on corrupt senior party members is carried out by the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, a supralegal supervisory body. The "anti- corruption" concept is nothing but a tool used in a political fight.

Since becoming the party's general secretary, Xi has excluded political enemies, including former uniformed military executives who supported Jiang and former aides of Hu, to consolidate power. Xi has punished more than one million party members.

Just before the plenary session, Xi launched a special TV programme in which ousted senior party members made such confessions as, "I betrayed the party and the people".

As the crackdown on prominent figures, which drew considerable attention from the people, has slowed down, Xi probably decided to make his anti-corruption campaign a political show so he could use it to win the people's support for his administration.

Now that Xi has solidified his base within the party, what he probably is worried about is an increase in public discontent over the slowing economy.

  • The View From Asia is a weekly compilation of articles from The Straits Times' media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 21 newspapers. For more, see
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Xi as CPC 'core' leader and what it means'. Print Edition | Subscribe