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Chinese state media urge new status for Xi
[BEIJING] Most Chinese people want Communist Party chief Xi Jinping to be a "core" leader in the mould of Mao Zedong, official media said a survey showed, as he seeks to consolidate his control.
The People's Tribune magazine, an affiliate of the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, this week published results of a survey of 15,000 people.
It said they agreed "the rise of a great nation calls for strong, core leadership" - terminology that denotes the supremacy of a single leader.
"General Secretary Xi Jinping's special qualities as the leader of a great nation has won the heartfelt approval of a great majority of cadres," the magazine wrote, adding that all sectors of society "greatly look forward" to Mr Xi's elevation.
The report connected Mr Xi to the legacies of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, China's most powerful rulers of recent decades, who fundamentally changed the direction of the country.
"It was Chairman Mao who made us stand up, otherwise we would have groped around longer in darkness," it said, adding that Deng had made China rich.
"Now China must 'strengthen', ordinary people see it clearly, and for this we must rely on Secretary Xi." The report came with 400 top party leaders convened in Beijing for a meeting known as the Sixth Plenum to discuss changes to party structure and discipline.
Mr Xi has sought to bend the party to his will since taking its helm in 2012, and has already taken control of more levers of power than any leader since Mao.
Analysts have speculated that Mr Xi could seek to stay in power beyond the traditional 10-year term.
In Chinese politics the "core" denotes a degree of individual authority that is not constrained by term limits, Willy Lam, professor of politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told AFP.
"The idea of a core would permit him to transcend retirement requirements," said Prof Lam. "This is of course a huge setback for political and institutional reform because this is very blatant building of a personality cult, a revival of the Maoist personality cult."
Regional cadres began using the term "core" for Mr Xi last December, but it then disappeared, suggesting it ran into opposition, he said.
But now Mr Xi's allies are orchestrating a campaign to have the status conferred on him, Prof Lam said.
Earlier this month, a senior official argued in the Guangming Daily newspaper that "a strong core leadership is needed more than ever before to achieve the great dream of the renewal of the Chinese nation".
The People's Tribune said respondents admired Mr Xi's confident strategic thinking, his bravery in facing problems and his "personal charisma".
The survey report included dire warnings that weakening the core can "easily cause civil war, invasion by foreign enemies, and the destitution of the people. This is the painful lesson 100 years of blood and tears in recent Chinese history have given us."