A day after the Communist Party passed a “historical” resolution elevating the status of Chinese leader Xi Jinping on a par with its tallest past leaders, China’s ruling party referred to Mr. Xi as its “helmsman”, a title previously only reserved for Mao Zedong.
On Thursday, an annual party meeting called a plenum passed its first “historical resolution” since 1981 — and only the third such declaration in its 100-year history — that extolled Mr. Xi’s leadership and demanded loyalty to ensure his “core position” in the party.
The plenum also announced that the party would hold a once-in-five-year leadership congress next year, when Mr. Xi is set to begin a third five-year term, having already abolished term limits, from a position of dominance.
On Friday, a senior Party official further underlined Mr. Xi’s “core” status and referred to him as the party’s “helmsman”, a term that only Mao had been honoured with.
“This is the call of the times, the choice of history, and the common aspiration of the people,” Jiang Jinquan, head of the Policy Research Office of the Central Committee, said at a press conference in Beijing.
“In firmly upholding and safeguarding General Secretary Xi’s core position, the party has its decision-maker, the people have their mainstay, and the giant ‘rejuvenation’ ship of the Chinese nation has its helmsman. And in the face of rough waves, we will be able to ‘stay on the fishing boat despite the wind and waves.’”
He added that Mr. Xi’s ideological contribution to the party, called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, would play “a guiding role” and “ensure the party can keep moving forward in the right direction.”
Thursday’s “Resolution on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century” devoted considerable space to praising Mr. Xi’s leadership and called for the party to “resolutely uphold his core position”.
It made several mentions of the need to “ensure that all party members act in unison” to support Mr. Xi as the “core”.
This was the third resolution on history passed by the party, and the previous two marked significant changes in its politics. In 1945, Mao Zedong passed a resolution that moved the party away from Stalinist influence and marked the start of Mao’s decades-long political and ideological dominance.
In 1981, Deng Xiaoping passed a resolution that marked a move away from the excesses of Maoism and a one-man personality cult to launch the reform era.
In keeping with the shift away from one-man rule, Deng was called a “paramount” leader but not a “helmsman” and he eschewed building a cult of personality. Deng also left behind a legacy of what was called “collective leadership” with a ten year-term limit for his two successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. The model ensured three largely smooth transfers of power, turning a page over the chaos of Maoism.
The party, however, has now done away with both collective leadership and term limits, with Thursday’s plenum only the latest declaration of support to enshrine the status of its current leader as the party’s “core”.