Paramount leader

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Not to be confused with Supreme Leader (disambiguation).
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In modern Chinese political science, the paramount leader (simplified Chinese: 党和国家最高领导人; traditional Chinese: 黨和國家最高領導人; pinyin: Dǎng hé guójiā zuìgāo lǐngdǎorén), literally "the highest leader of the party and the state", is an informal term that is sometimes used to refer to the most prominent political leader in China at a given point in time.

The "paramount leader" is not a formal position nor an office unto itself. The term gained prominence during the era of Deng Xiaoping, who was able to wield power without necessarily holding any official or formally significant party or government positions (head of state, head of government or General Secretary). It has been used less frequently to describe his successors.

History[edit]

Chairman Mao Zedong was the undisputed ruler of Communist China beginning in 1949. At one point Mao held three "Chairman" offices: Chairman of the Communist Party of China, 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. 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. For example, in 1985, the General Secretary was Hu Yaobang, the President was Li Xiannian, and the Premier was Zhao Ziyang. However, Deng 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.

The term "paramount leader" 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 Politburo Standing Committee.[1] This was particularly apparent during the tenure of Hu Jintao.[a]

Beginning in 1993, Jiang formally held the three office that made him the head of the Party, state and military:

General Secretary of the Communist Party of China
The leader of the Party and the highest ranking position (simplified Chinese: 中国共产党中央委员会总书记; traditional Chinese: 中國共產黨中央委員會總書記; pinyin: Zhōngguó gòngchǎndǎng zhōngyāng wěiyuánhuì zǒngshūjì)
President of the People's Republic of China
The largely ceremonial head of state[b] under 1982 Constitution.[3] (simplified Chinese: 中华人民共和国主席; traditional Chinese: 中華人民共和國主席; pinyin: Zhōnghuá rénmín gònghéguó zhǔxí)
Chairman of the Central Military Commission
Commander-in-chief of the People's Liberation Army (simplified Chinese: 中央军事委员会主席; traditional Chinese: 中央軍事委員會主席; pinyin: Zhōngyāng jūnshì wěiyuánhuì zhǔxí)

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. Thus between 2002 and 2004, when Jiang finally stepped down from his last formal post, 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 transitioned all three positions onto his successor, Xi Jinping, between November 2012, when Xi became General Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and March 2013, when Xi became President.

Since Xi Jinping's ascendance to power, two new bodies, the National Security Commission and Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, have been established, ostensibly concentrating political power in the "paramount leader" to a greater degree than anyone since Deng.[4] 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 General Secretary.

List of leaders[edit]

To date, "paramount leader" has been applied to six individual Chinese leaders (dates approximate)[dubious ]:

Xi Jinping Hu Jintao Jiang Zemin Deng Xiaoping Hua Guofeng Mao Zedong

Generations of leadership

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

Picture Name Offices held Period Ideology
Mao Zedong portrait.jpg Mao Zedong
毛泽东
(1893–1976)
Beijing At-large (49–76)

Mao Zedong signature.svg
Chairman of the CPC Central Politburo 20 March 1943 – 28 September 1956 1 October 1949

9 September 1976
(26 years, 344 days)
Mao Zedong Thought
Chairman of the CPC Central Secretariat
Chairman of the CPC 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 CPC Central Military Commission 8 September 1954 – 9 September 1976
Chairman of the PRC 27 September 1954 – 27 April 1959
Hua Guofeng-1.jpg Hua Guofeng
华国锋
(1921–2008)
Hunan At-large (64–78)
Beijing At-large (78–83)

Hua Guofeng Signature.svg
Premier of the PRC State Council 4 February 1976 – 10 September 1980 9 September 1976

22 December 1978
(2 years, 104 days)
Two Whatevers
1st Vice Chairman of the CPC Central Committee 7 April 1976 – 7 October 1976
Chairman of the CPC Central Committee 9 September 1976 – 22 December 1978
Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission 6 October 1976 – 28 June 1981
Deng Xiaoping.jpg Deng Xiaoping
邓小平
(1904–1997)
Beijing At-large (59–64,78–83)

PLA At-large (83–97)
Deng Xiaoping Sign.png
1st Vice Premier of the PRC State Council 17 January 1975 – 18 June 1983 22 December 1978

12 October 1992
(13 years, 295 days)
Deng Xiaoping Theory
(Four Cardinal Principles)
Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee 8 March 1978 – 17 June 1983
Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission 28 June 1981 – 9 November 1989
Chairman of the CPC Central Advisory Commission 13 September 1982 – 2 November 1987
Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission 6 June 1983 – 19 March 1990
Jiang Zemin St. Petersburg2002.jpg Jiang Zemin
江泽民
(1926–)
Shanghai At-large (88–08)

Jiang Zemin Sign.png
General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee 24 June 1989 – 25 November 2002 12 October 1992

15 November 2002
(10 years, 34 days)
Three Represents
Chairman of the CPC 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 Cannes2011.jpg Hu Jintao
胡锦涛
(1942–)
Guizhou At-large (88–93,98–03)
Tibet At-large (93–98,03–08)
Jiangsu At-large (08–13)

Hu Jintao Sign.svg
General Secretary of the CPC 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)
President of the PRC 15 March 2003 – 14 March 2013
Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission 19 September 2004 – 15 November 2012
Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission 13 March 2005 – 14 March 2013
Xi Jinping Sanya2013.jpg Xi Jinping
习近平
(1953–)
Fujian At-large (98–03)
Zhejiang At-large (03–08)
Shanghai At-large (08–present)

Xi Jinping sign.svg
General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee 15 November 2012 – Incumbent 15 November 2012

Incumbent
(2 years, 33 days)
The Chinese Dream
Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission
President of the PRC 14 March 2013 – Incumbent
Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission
Leader of the CPC Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms 30 December 2013 – Incumbent
Chairman of the CPC National Security Commission 25 January 2014 – Incumbent

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ In official pronouncements, when describing the existing leadership of the party, state media referred to the party under Hu as "The Party Centre with Comrade Hu Jintao as General Secretary", in contrast to the party under Jiang being described as the "The Party Centre 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.
  2. ^ The office of the President is a prestigious one. The President is the Head of the State. The office was first held by Mao, but abolished during the Cultural Revolution. The Constitution of 1982 restored powers and functions of the President of the People's Republic of China and recognizes him as the Head of the State. This office does not have executive authority comparable to the President of the United States; most of its powers are ceremonial. The President of the PRC can therefore be compared with the President of India or the Queen of the United Kingdom.[2]