The Watcher: CPC Core, democratic centralism, collective leadership
By Robert L. Kuhn
I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here’s what I’m watching… What, in China’s Party-Government system, does “Core” mean? And why was Xi Jinping chosen to be Core? There is much to understand about the 19th CPC National Congress. The significance of “Xi as Core” is near top of the list.
It was in late 2016, at the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, that General Secretary Xi Jinping was designated the “Core” of the CPC Central Committee, and indeed, as a Party spokesmen said, of “the whole Party.” 
At the time Xi received the “Core” appellation, he was already General Secretary of the Party, Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and, as President of the country, head of state – the three top leadership positions in China – so how did “Core” augment his perceived stature or actual power? 
Why was “Xi as Core” deemed necessary? And how did he qualify? More pragmatically, how does a Core affect Party decision-making? What’s the relationship between the Party Core and the fundamental Party doctrines of “Democratic Centralism” and “Collective Leadership?" 
I am told by Party experts that four factors relate to Xi’s elevation to Core. First, strong leadership is needed to maintain stability, build unity and expedite reform – especially given China’s complex challenges, including “interest groups” that resist reform. 
Second, not only is Xi responsible for transforming China, he is also accountable for it. 
Third, “Xi as Core” does not contradict the Party’s cardinal principle of “democratic centralism”, though this may sound, well, counterintuitive. The Party says it is bolstering the democratic solicitation of input from all Party members and the general public – and the key Party communique in 2016 confirmed that “the collective leadership system… must always be adhered to.” Nonetheless, there must be subtle shifts in the decision-making process, or else Core would have little meaning. 
A fourth factor is that a Core is required to manage the Party more strictly, exemplified by Xi’s relentless anti-corruption campaign. 
Overall, it is said, Xi must make decisive decisions, and his being Core streamlines the consensus-building process and facilitates decision-making. 
For China to continue its development, trade-offs are inevitable – although I count it progress that I can now say this publicly. There are no perfect solutions, I’m told, and change is inevitable. The significance of “Xi as Core” is that, for the foreseeable future, strong leadership and national unity are deemed essential.
I’m keeping watch. I’m Robert Lawrence Kuhn.
(Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn is a CGTN anchor, a public intellectual, international corporate strategist and investment banker)