Xi Jinping more powerful than ever after being named ruling party’s ‘core’

Updated 9:03 PM EDT, Fri October 28, 2016
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Story highlights

President Xi Jinping has been officially dubbed the "core" of China's ruling party

The title grants greater power and authority over the country

Editor’s Note: Tim Schwarz is CNN’s Beijing bureau chief.

CNN —  

The word has gone out.

On every television channel, on the front page of every newspaper, Chinese President Xi Jinping, in addition to his many other impressive titles, is now officially referred to as “the core of the Chinese Communist party.”

It sounds like just another title but it is highly symbolic in China.

It was originally granted to Chairman Mao Zedong and since then to two of his successors as leader – Deng Xiaoping, the man who remodeled China’s economy, and President Jiang Zemin.

CNN's Tim Schwarz
CNN's Tim Schwarz

Tellingly, it was not bestowed on Xi’s immediate predecessor, Hu Jintao.

Zhang Baohui, professor of political science at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, says the message is clear. “Hu Jintao was the first among equals and it was clear collective decision making. Xi Jinping is no longer the first among equals. He is clearly the leader,” he told CNN.

The report surprised few but sent a very strong signal – it comes after the annual confab known the 6th plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, which wrapped up four days of closed door meetings in Beijing.

’You can get policies done’

When you are “the core” of the Communist Party, you aren’t just another leader – your will is now law.

“The whole thing about being ‘the core’ is that you can get policies done,” David Zweig, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology professor, told CNN.

“The risk is that you will take power to yourself, undermine the power bases of the people beneath you. Give him greater authority to replace people who are allied with Jiang Zemin or their own networks.”

Zweig said there had already been a push to make Xi “the core” in early 2016 but it hadn’t succeeded.

“Everyone in the Politburo has their networks, even in the Standing Committee of the Politburo, so if you give all the power to one guy you give him the power to push your people out and push his people through,” he said.

“Entrenched resistance was strong but if you really want to see China reform, you want to take some power away (from those) who protect their vested interests, like the state enterprises.”

Anti-corruption drive or power grab?

Xi has been amassing titles since he took over as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012.

He has used that authority to push through an intensive anti-corruption drive – targeting even the very highest levels of the party and the army. The campaign has been very popular with the Chinese public, but it has worried some elites.