On Thursday, the Chinese Communist Party elevated General Secretary Xi Jinping to the “core” of its leadership, making him even more powerful in the run-up to the 19th National Congress.
The announcement came after the end of the Sixth Plenum, a meeting of 400 top party leaders to discuss changes in the party.
The move places Xi on par with previous strongman leaders such as Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Jiang Zemin, and is a change-up from the consensus-style leadership of recent years.
Or, as Christopher K. Johnson, an expert on Chinese politics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told The New York Times’ Chris Buckley, it “confirms that he is no first among equals, but just first.”
It’s notable that Xi has been elevated to “core” in the run-up to the party’s 19th National Congress, which will take place in autumn 2017. Then, 11 seats of the 25 member Politburo will open up, including five of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, essentially the party’s top leadership. The two not retiring are Xi and Premier Li Keqiang.
“We believe that Xi’s elevated status and growing reputation as the most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping will increase his chances of appointing his own people to the Standing Committee,” the analysts at BMI Research wrote.
However, Xi’s stronger political posture “also means that he will likely become more accountable with regard to the performance of the mainland economy,” they added.
Interestingly, a handful of provincial party heads started using “core” to describe Xi slightly less than a year ago. But, as the Financial Times’ Lucy Honry reported, “the designation was pointedly not repeated at the time by [Xi’s] most senior colleagues, the six other members of the Politburo Standing Committee” and “it prompted unusually public opposition.”