Xi now close to being Communist Party's 'Great Helmsman'

Top officials hail his leadership in guiding China on road ahead

In the face of severe challenges and global changes "not seen in a century", China is looking to its leader Xi Jinping to helm the country through the bumps ahead, said top officials a day after adopting a landmark resolution sealing Mr Xi's mandate.

At a news conference yesterday after a four-day political meeting known as the Sixth Plenum, where Mr Xi fully consolidated his power, officials rallied around the President, using the word "core" as many as 30 times to describe his leadership and political ideology.

The president, who was bestowed the title of "core leader" in 2016, has also made Xi Jinping Thought - enshrined in the Constitution - the core doctrine guiding the Communist Party of China (CPC). His predecessor Hu Jintao did not enjoy this title, although earlier leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin did.

"With Comrade Xi Jinping as the core of the party to steer the helm... any hardship and danger cannot stop the Chinese people's pace of progress..." declared Vice-Minister Wang Xiaohui of the Central Propaganda Department at the news conference.

The party has, in recent years, been hailing Mr Xi as the navigator at the helm in the quest for national rejuvenation, when China becomes a modern, fully developed nation by 2049.

That puts him close to the founding father of the People's Republic, Chairman Mao, who was known as "the Great Helmsman".

On Thursday, the party's top governing body, the Central Committee, adopted a historical resolution mooted by Mr Xi that let him put his stamp on the party's official historical narrative, cementing his authority and continued leadership.

Only two other historical resolutions have been adopted in the party's 100-year history - the first in 1945 under Chairman Mao, and the second orchestrated by former paramount leader Deng.

In explaining the need for a third resolution, Mr Wang said the party was at a new historical starting point. Unlike the first two, which summarised lessons learnt in the party's history, including major missteps such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution when Mao was leader, this third resolution focuses on the party's major achievements.

"From the founding of the party to the beginning of reform and opening up, the main questions of right and wrong in the party's history were basically solved by the first two historical resolutions, and their basic theses and conclusions are still applicable today," he said.

Mr Xi's political thought has also been elevated in status, with an official communique from the plenum and officials yesterday declaring it as "21st century Marxism" that has achieved "a new leap in the sinicisation of Marxism".

Officials also took the opportunity to criticise Western nations, although unnamed, for imposing their standards of democracy on others.

An editorial in state media Global Times said the Communist Party was in the past leading the Chinese people in making only domestic progress. "But now, it has to lead the country to deal with the biggest storms in the world, the most powerful and comprehensive siege from the US and its allies."

It added: "Because of that, the CPC must step up its study, continue to innovate, adapt to the rapid changes of scenes where China fights its way, and prepare itself for a higher mission."

With the party helmed by Mr Xi continuing to show "extraordinary leadership", it will lead the country through this "unprecedented test in Chinese history", it said.

Mr Xi is expected to seek an unprecedented third term during a party leadership reshuffle at the end of next year.

Party insiders have told The Straits Times that the Chinese leader may resurrect and assume the party chairmanship, which was abolished by Mr Deng in 1982 to prevent a cult of personality forming around future leaders.

President Xi has already overturned several of the former paramount leader's reforms, including lifting in 2018 a two-term limit on the presidency, allowing him to remain in power for life.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2021, with the headline Xi now close to being Communist Party's 'Great Helmsman'. Subscribe