This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Ruling Chinese Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping is continuing to cement his personal grip on the country’s leadership, according to a former top official.
China’s Politburo met on Monday and approved an amendment to a set of standing guidelines for party leaders that names Xi as a “core leader” of the party, Bao Tong, former aide to late disgraced premier Zhao Ziyang, told RFA.
According to state news agency Xinhua, the move was “an inevitable requirement for strongly safeguarding the authority and centralized leadership of the Central Committee.”
It would also be of “great and far-reaching significance” in advancing Xi’s personal brand of ideology: socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, the agency reported.
Bao said the fact that Xi’s name is now inscribed in the “Regulations on the Work of the Central Committee” means that he will hold power indefinitely, a process that was begun with the abolition of presidential term limits in March 2018.
“This is official affirmation in party documents that Xi Jinping must be maintained as the ‘core’ of party leadership,” Bao said.
“This is official affirmation in the form of a party document — the ‘Regulations on the Work of the Central Committee’ — that Xi Jinping must be maintained as the core leader,” Bao said.
“This won’t expire, unless the document itself is dropped,” he said. “He will be a core leader for as long as it exists.”
Bao said that while no definition of “core leader” exists, the description has only been extended to a handful of leaders since the Communist Party took power in 1949, including late supreme leader Mao Zedong.
“What [Xi] is saying is that Mao was a core leader and he dictated everything, and now I’m core leader, and I’m going to dictate everything,” Bao said.
“The concept of core leader is closely bound up with the concept of dictating everything; there is no other way to explain it,” he said.
The Regulations on the Work of the Central Committee sets down the principles governing how discussions are conducted in Politburo meetings, and had previously included the statement that all Politburo members were equals in Politburo meetings, with the same principle applying to full meetings of the Central Committee, Bao said.
“The role of the general secretary was [previously] to facilitate those meetings,” he said.
‘Beyond the halls of power’
Shanxi scholar Pang Jun said Xi’s move has consolidated his individual power over the whole party.
“It makes explicit [Xi’s] personal leadership over the party Central Committee and the entire leadership system,” Pang said, adding that Xi’s power is also being extended far beyond the halls of power.
“We have already had the United Front [the Communist Party’s control and influence operations] extending to private enterprises,” he said. “Now they are starting to control higher education institutions.”
“Gradually, [Xi] will control everything: what used to be an unwritten rule has now become a written one,” Pang said.
Independent scholar Zhang Shuping said the move by Xi is unprecedented.
“This was never made so explicit in the past; it could be the first time this has happened,” Zhang said. “It is in keeping with the abolition of term limits.”
“Since this is a dictatorship, [Xi] has to control everything,” he said.