Paramount leader of the
People's Republic of China
中华人民共和国最高领导人
National Emblem of the People
Xi Jinping 2019.jpg
Incumbent
Xi Jinping

since 15 November 2012
Office of the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party
StyleGeneral Secretary (总书记)
(informal)
Comrade (同志)
(formal)
TypeSupreme leader
Member ofPolitburo of the Chinese Communist Party
Central Military Commission
ResidenceZhongnanhai
SeatBeijing
NominatorCentral Committee of the Chinese Communist Party
AppointerCentral Committee of the Chinese Communist Party
Term lengthFive years,
renewable with no-limit
PrecursorPresident of the Republic of China (Mainland)
Inaugural holderMao Zedong
Formation1 October 1949; 72 years ago (1949-10-01)
Unofficial namesPeople's Leader
Supreme leader
Simplified Chinese最高领导人
Traditional Chinese最高領導人

The paramount leader, also named supreme leader (Chinese: 最高领导人; pinyin: Zuìgāo Lǐngdǎorén; lit. 'Highest Leader') of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Government and People's Liberation Army (PLA) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) is an informal term for the most prominent political leader in China.[1] The officeholders are usually General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.[2] The paramount leader is not, however, a formal position nor an office unto itself. The term gained prominence during the era of Deng Xiaoping (1978–1989), when he was able to wield political power without necessarily holding any official or formally significant party or government positions at any given time (head of state, head of government or CCP General Secretary).[3] As the leader of the world's largest economy by GDP purchasing power parity (PPP), the second largest economy by GDP nominal, and a potential superpower, the paramount leader is considered to be one of the world's most powerful political figures.[4][5][6]

There has been significant overlap between paramount leader status and leadership core status, with a majority but not all of paramount leaders being also leadership cores, though they are separate concepts. The term has been used less frequently to describe Deng's successors, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, who have all formally held the offices of General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (party leader), President of the People's Republic of China (head of state) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (commander-in-chief). Jiang, Hu and Xi are therefore usually referred to as president in the international scene, the title used by most other republican heads of state. However, Deng's successors derive their real power from the post of general secretary, which is the primary position in the Chinese power structure[7] and generally regarded by scholars as the post whose holder can be considered paramount leader.[8] The president is a largely ceremonial office according to the Constitution,[note 1] and the most powerful position in the Chinese political system is the CCP general secretary.[10]

The current paramount leader, Xi Jinping, is considered to have become paramount leader in November 2012, when he became CCP general secretary, rather than in March 2013 when he succeeded Hu Jintao as president.[11] The position of general secretary is the highest authority leading China's National People's Congress, State Council, Political Consultative Conference, Supreme People's Court and Supreme People's Procuratorate in Xi Jinping's administration.

History

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Chairman Mao Zedong was the undisputed ruler of Communist China from its beginning in 1949 and held three chairman offices at once: Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission and Chairman of the People's Republic of China (1954–1959), making him the leader of the party, military and state, respectively.Following the Cultural Revolution, a rough consensus emerged within the party that the worst excesses were caused by the lack of checks and balances in the exercise of political power and the resulting "rule of personality" by Mao.[12] Beginning in the 1980s, the leadership experimented with a quasi-separation of powers, whereby the offices of general secretary, president and premier were held by different people.[citation needed]

In 1985, for example, the CCP General Secretary was Hu Yaobang, the Chinese President was Li Xiannian and the Chinese Premier was Zhao Ziyang. However, Deng Xiaoping was still recognized as the core of the leadership during this period. Both Hu and Zhao fell out of favour in the late 1980s, but Deng was able to retain ultimate political control.[citation needed]

The paramount leader label has been applied to Deng's successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, though it is generally recognized that they did not wield as much power as Deng despite their having held more offices of leadership. There has also been a greater emphasis on collective leadership, whereby the top leader is a first among equals style figure, exercising power with the consensus of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee.[1] This was particularly apparent during the tenure of Hu Jintao.[note 2] Beginning in 1993, Jiang formally held the three offices that made him the head of the party, state and military:

When Jiang left the offices of General Secretary and President in 2002 and 2003, respectively, he held onto the position of Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Military power had always been an important facet in the exercise of political power in Communist-ruled China and as such holding the top military post meant that Jiang retained some formal power. When Jiang stepped down from his formal posts between 2002 and 2004, it was ambiguous who the paramount leader was at the time. Hu Jintao held the same trio of positions during his years in power. Hu transferred all three positions onto his successor Xi Jinping between November 2012, when Xi became CCP General Secretary and Chairman of the Central Military Commission; and March 2013, when Xi became president. Since Xi's ascendance to power, two new bodies, the National Security Commission and Central Comprehensively Deepening Reforms Commission, have been established, ostensibly concentrating political power in the paramount leader to a greater degree than anyone since Deng.[14] These bodies were tasked with establishing the general policy direction for national security as well as the agenda for economic reform. Both groups are headed by the General Secretary.[15]

List of paramount leaders

See also: Generations of Chinese leadership

Generations of Chinese Leadership
Generation Paramount Leader Start End Theory
First Mao Zedong
Hua Guofeng
1949 1978 Mao Zedong Thought[16]
Second Deng Xiaoping 1978 1989 Deng Xiaoping Theory
Third Jiang Zemin 1989 2002 Three Represents
Fourth Hu Jintao 2002 2012 Scientific Outlook on Development
Fifth Xi Jinping 2012 Xi Jinping Thought

  First administration   Second administration   Third administration    Hu–Wen Administration    Xi–Li Administration/Xi Administration

Bold offices refer to the highest position in the Chinese Communist Party.
Picture Name Offices held Period Ideology CCP leaders Presidents Premiers
Mao Zedong portrait.jpg
Mao Zedong
毛泽东
(1893–1976)
Chairman of the CCP Central Politburo 20 March 1943 – 28 September 1956 1 October 1949

9 September 1976
(26 years, 344 days)
Mao Zedong Thought Himself Himself
Liu Shaoqi
Post abolished
Zhou Enlai
Hua Guofeng
Chairman of the CCP Central Secretariat
Chairman of the CCP Central Committee 19 June 1945 – 9 September 1976
Chairman of the PRC Central People's Government 1 October 1949 – 27 September 1954
Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee 9 October 1949 – 25 December 1954
Chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission 8 September 1954 – 9 September 1976
Chairman of the PRC 27 September 1954 – 27 April 1959
Hua Guofeng.jpg
Hua Guofeng
华国锋
(1921–2008)
Premier of the PRC State Council 4 February 1976 – 10 September 1980 9 September 1976

22 December 1978
(2 years, 104 days)
Two Whatevers
(Mao Zedong Thought)
Himself Post abolished Himself
First Vice Chairman of the CCP Central Committee 7 April 1976 – 7 October 1976
Chairman of the CCP Central Committee 7 October 1976 – 28 June 1981
Chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission
Deng Xiaoping and Jimmy Carter at the arrival ceremony for the Vice Premier of China. - NARA - 183157-restored(cropped).jpg
Deng Xiaoping
邓小平
(1904–1997)
First Vice Premier of the PRC State Council 17 January 1975 – 18 June 1983 22 December 1978

9 November 1989
(10 years, 322 days)
Deng Xiaoping Theory
(Socialism with Chinese characteristics)
Hua Guofeng
Hu Yaobang
Zhao Ziyang
Jiang Zemin
Post abolished
Li Xiannian
Yang Shangkun
Hua Guofeng
Zhao Ziyang
Li Peng
Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee 8 March 1978 – 17 June 1983
Chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission 28 June 1981 – 9 November 1989
Chairman of the CCP Central Advisory Commission 13 September 1982 – 2 November 1987
Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission 6 June 1983 – 19 March 1990
Jiang Zemin 2002.jpg
Jiang Zemin
江泽民
(born 1926)
General Secretary of the CCP Central Committee 24 June 1989 – 15 November 2002 9 November 1989

15 November 2002
(13 years, 6 days)
Three Represents Himself Yang Shangkun
Himself
Li Peng
Zhu Rongji
Chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission 9 November 1989 – 19 September 2004
Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission 19 March 1990 – 13 March 2005
President of the PRC 27 March 1993 – 15 March 2003
Hu Jintao at White House 2011.jpg
Hu Jintao
胡锦涛
(born 1942)
General Secretary of the CCP Central Committee 15 November 2002 – 15 November 2012 15 November 2002

15 November 2012
(10 years, 0 days)
Scientific Outlook on Development
(Socialist Harmonious Society)
Himself Wen Jiabao
President of the PRC 15 March 2003 – 14 March 2013
Chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission 19 September 2004 – 15 November 2012
Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission 13 March 2005 – 14 March 2013
Xi Jinping 2019.jpg
Xi Jinping
习近平
(born 1953)
General Secretary of the CCP Central Committee 15 November 2012 – incumbent 15 November 2012

Incumbent
(9 years, 310 days)
Xi Jinping Thought on
Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
for a New Era

(Chinese Dream)
Himself Li Keqiang
Chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission
President of the PRC 14 March 2013 – incumbent
Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission
Leader of the CCP Central Comprehensively Deepening Reforms Commission 30 December 2013 – incumbent
Chairman of the CCP National Security Commission 25 January 2014 – incumbent

Spouse of the Paramount leader

All six leaders have had a spouse during their terms of office.The current spouse is Peng Liyuan, wife of General Secretary Xi Jinping.

No. Spouse Leader Tenure
1 Jiang Qing (1914–1991) Mao Zedong 1 October 1949 – 9 September 1976
2 Han Zhijun (1930–) Hua Guofeng 9 September 1976 – 22 December 1978
3 Zhuo Lin (1916–2009) Deng Xiaoping 22 December 1978 – 9 November 1989
4 Wang Yeping (1928–) Jiang Zemin 9 November 1989 – 15 November 2002
5 Liu Yongqing (1940–) Hu Jintao 15 November 2002 – 15 November 2012
6 Peng Liyuan (1962–) Xi Jinping 15 November 2012 – Incumbent

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ The prestigious office of president, first held by Mao Zedong and then officially translated into English as "chairman", was abolished during the Cultural Revolution. The Constitution of 1982 restored powers and functions of the President of the People's Republic of China as head of state, and specified that the official translation was "president", even though the Chinese name for the office, 主席; Zhǔxí, is unchanged and means "chairman" in other contexts, contrasted with 总统; 總統; Zǒngtǒng for the presidents of republics and other countries. This office does not have executive authority comparable to the President of the United States since most of its powers are ceremonial. The President of China can therefore be compared with the President of Germany and contrasted with the President of India, who theoretically possesses great executive power exercised in practice by the Union Council of Ministers.[9]
  2. ^ In official pronouncements when describing the existing leadership of the party, state media referred to the party under Hu as the "party center with comrade Hu Jintao as General Secretary" in contrast to the party under Jiang being described as the "party center with comrade Jiang Zemin as its core (核心)". Some analysts saw this change as a signal that collective leadership was being embraced over personal leadership.

References

  1. ^ a b "How China is ruled" Archived 16 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Li, Nan (26 February 2018). "Party Congress Reshuffle Strengthens Xi's Hold on Central Military Commission". The Jamestown Foundation. Retrieved 27 May 2020. Xi Jinping has introduced major institutional changes to strengthen his control of the PLA in his roles as Party leader and chair of the Central Military Commission (CMC)...
  3. ^ Zhiyue Bo, ed. (2007). China's Elite Politics: Political Transition And Power Balancing. World Scientific Publishing Company. p. 7. ISBN 9789814476966.
  4. ^ McGregor, Richard (21 August 2022). "Xi Jinping's Radical Secrecy". The Atlantic. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  5. ^ Sheridan, Michael. "How Xi Jinping became the world's most powerful man". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  6. ^ O'Connor, Tom (3 February 2022). "Xi and Putin, two of world's most powerful men, to meet in China, US absent". Newsweek. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  7. ^ Chris Buckley and Adam Wu (10 March 2018). "Ending Term Limits for China's Xi Is a Big Deal. Here's Why". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 March 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2018. Is the presidency powerful in China? In China, the political job that matters most is the general secretary of the Communist Party. The party controls the military and domestic security forces, and sets the policies that the government carries out. China's presidency lacks the authority of the American and French presidencies.
  8. ^ "Xi's here to stay: China leader tipped to outstay term". Business Insider. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2017. 'A lot of analysts now see it as a given that Xi will seek to stay party general secretary, the country's most powerful post,' said Christopher K. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and now China specialist at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  9. ^ "Krishna Kanta Handique State Open University" Archived 2 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine. "Executive: The President of the Chinese Republic".
  10. ^ O'Keeffe and, Kate; Ferek, Katy Stech (14 November 2019). "Stop Calling China's Xi Jinping 'President,' U.S. Panel Says". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 15 November 2019. Retrieved 16 November 2019..
  11. ^ "A simple guide to the Chinese government". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 13 May 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2018. Xi Jinping is the most powerful figure in the Chinese political system. He is the President of China, but his real influence comes from his position as the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
  12. ^ Baum, Richard. The Fall and Rise of China.
  13. ^ "Section 2, Article 80–81" Archived 12 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "习近平频现身成常态 将回归"领导核心"?". Duowei News. 7 January 2014. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  15. ^ "How the Chinese government works". South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 12 May 2018. Retrieved 12 May 2018. Xi Jinping is the most powerful figure in China's political system, and his influence mainly comes from his position as the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
  16. ^ The landmark study of military generations and factions is William Whitson's The Chinese High Command (1927-71), Praeger, 1973