Xi Jinping to be Crowned 'People's Leader' by China Communist Party: Report

Xi Jinping, China's most ambitious leader in decades, is to be given a rare third term and crowned "people's leader" by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) this autumn, a Hong Kong newspaper reported this week.

Not since Mao Zedong and his successor, Hua Guofeng, has a CCP figurehead been given the official title of "leader," Ming Pao said on Tuesday. The former, a founder of the CCP and architecture of the People's Republic of China, was known as the "great leader" and "great mentor," while the latter—Mao's chosen heir—was the party's "wise leader."

Xi will be crowned renmin lingxiu (people's leader) when the CCP gathers in the Chinese capital for its 20th National Congress, the twice-a-decade event that typically comes with major changes in leadership. 2,300 delegates will represent more than 90 million party members at this year's conference, which the pro-Beijing paper previously said would take place in November.

The new title will further reinforce Xi's core position among not only the current CCP elite, but also past leaders whose achievements have earned them cult status in party lore. China watchers believe Xi has long sought a venerated stature similar to that of Mao's, and would therefore link the country's best accomplishments to the legitimacy of his leadership.

While there has been speculation surrounding the likelihood of Xi's reelection to an unprecedented third 5-year term as paramount leader, Ming Pao said that is now all but confirmed. The publication—known for skipping Tiananmen commemorations and siding with the Hong Kong government against pro-democracy protesters—quoted an unnamed source as saying the CCP had already revised its power structure "to pave the way for Xi Jinping's long-term rule."

According to the newspaper, the CCP will also resurrect the abolished title of "chairman" when it reaffirms Xi's leadership at the party congress. The title of chairman, which Mao held for 33 years until his death in 1976, was scrapped in favor of "general secretary" in 1982. Hua's successor, Hu Yaobang, was the last to hold the title.

CCP To Crown Xi Jinping 'People's Leader'
The Chinese Communist Party is set to confirm President Xi Jinping as leader for an unprecedented third term in November and crown him “people’s leader,” Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported on July 12, 2022. Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The July 12 report said China's official news service Xinhua had already begun preparing the nation for Xi's new moniker with catchphrases such as "the people's leader loves the people; people love the people's leader." The CCP is also considering marking Xi's new rank with a formal portrait—an honor previously given to Mao and Hua.

If the party greenlights the distribution of a fresh Xi portrait, the paper said, it will be accompanied by the words "People's Leader for a New Era Chairman Xi Jinping."

Xi's intention to become leader for life will come with challenges from within and without, and his new status could also come at a cost.

Ming Pao quoted one military source as saying the country's armed forces were determined to see Xi resolve Taiwan's political status under his watch. "Only by realizing the unification of both sides of the Taiwan Strait can Xi truly live up to the name of 'people's leader,'" the source said.