President Xi Jinping was today anointed as the "core" leader of China's ruling Communist Party, conferring on him a status similar to that of party founder 'Chairman' Mao Zedong and allowing him to further tighten his grip on the party, military and government.
At the same time, a key meeting of the Communist Party of China (CPC) decided to carry on with the collective leadership system, introduced in 1981 to ensure that no individual dominated the party leadership.
A communique issued by top CPC leaders after a four-day close-door meeting of 370 top leaders here called on all its members to "closely unite around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core", the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
63-year-old Xi also heads the party as general-secretary of the CPC, and the military besides the presidency.
The move to make Xi the "core" leader gives him greater influence over the looming top reshuffle of the party late next year, analysts say.
But contrary to the speculation that the party may dispense with the over three-decade rule stipulating collective leadership, the plenum stressed the importance of adherence to the collective leadership system of CPC.
"They discussed the matter at the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee, calling for a combination of collective leadership with individual responsibility," the report said.
Speculation was rife earlier that it may be amended. Xi currently heads a seven-member Standing Committee of the party which virtually rules China.
The seven members looking after various aspects of governance included Premier Li Kiang.
The Standing Committee embodies collective leadership in CPC parlance.
Since taking over as the leader of the party in November 2012 and as President and chief of the military in 2013, Xi has been regarded as the most powerful leader after Mao wielding enormous powers, thus reducing the importance of the Standing Committee.
As an important part of the CPC's fundamental organisation principle of democratic centralism, the collective leadership system "must always be followed and should not be violated by any organisation or individual under any circumstance or for any reason," the communique said.
Party committees at various levels must adhere to the system, it said.
The communique called on leading officials to enhance their understanding of the overall situation and relevant responsibilities, and to resolutely enforce decisions made by party organisations.
The plenum also approved two documents on the discipline of the party including the norms of political life within the party under the new situation and a regulation on intra-party supervision, Xinhua quoted a communique as saying.
The meeting also said CPC would resolutely address election malpractice, putting an end to the buying and selling of official posts or vote rigging.
Requesting an official post, honour or special treatment
is not allowed under any circumstances, it said.
The communique also underscored that the practice of bargaining with party organisations to secure a promotion or disobeying any decisions made by party organisations is also forbidden.
The selection and appointment of officials should not be contaminated by outside interference or misconduct, it said. Ahead of the sixth plenary, official media said the party needed a strong leader like Mao, and Xi fitted the bill speculating that the collective leadership may be dispensed away with.
The plenum which concluded its four day meeting here today said members should resolutely safeguard the authority of the CPC and its central, unified leadership while pushing forward the comprehensive and strict governance of the party.
The communique also urged them to become more aware of the need to uphold political integrity, keep in mind the bigger picture, follow the CPC as the core of the Chinese leadership and act consistently with CPC Central Committee policy.
"Together we must build a clean and righteous political environment, and ensure that the party unites and leads the people to continuously open up new prospects for socialism with Chinese characteristics," it said.
Plenary is a key body of the CPC which formulate polices to be approved by National Congress held every five years.
The 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress will be held in the second half of 2017 in Beijing the CPC communique said.
The 18th Congress held in 2012 elected Xi and Premier Li Kequiang who would have ten year tenure.
The Congress to be held next year was expected to elect five new members to the Standing Committee to replace those who are set to retire. Only Xi and Li were expected to continue.
The Plenum also endorsed the expulsion of former party chief of Liaoning Province and senior national legislator Wang Min and former Beijing deputy party chief Lyu Xiwen.
It also confirmed the expulsion of former senior military officials Fan Changmi and Niu Zhizhong.
They were expelled as as part of massive anti-corruption campaign carried out by Xi after he took over as CPC head.
Over 1.01 million officials of the 88.75 million-strong CPC were punished in the anti-graft campaign amid allegations that Xi has also used it to consolidate his hold on the party.