China's all powerful Communist Party has anointed President Xi Jinping as the 'core leader", placing him on par with legends such as Mao Zeddong and Deng Xiaoping.
Before the start of the party's annual plenum earlier this week, there have been speculations that the key party forum will see the emergence of Xi as the undisputed leader, elevating himself to a position presidents in the recent past never managed to reach.
Confirming Xi's elevation to the cult leader status was confirmed by the phrasing adopted in the party plenum documents.
The communiqué released after the plenum referred to "the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core," China's sate television CCTV reported.
This is the first time China's senior cadres have used the title "core leader" for Xi, the report said.
A campaign within the party to elevate Xi to the core level has been going on even as Xi consolidated his power. The core leader status was finally endorsed in the plenum, which means his authority over the party and the state is unchallenged.
Xi's emergence as the core leader will give fresh boost to the chatter that he is eying an extension in office beyond 2022, when his 10-year term finishes.
Xi is expected to stand down as president and party boss after completing the ten-year tenure. This means he should identify a leader who will succeed him in office well ahead of the next party Congress. However, this time, observers believe Xi could use the plenum to extend is grip on power. There were reports earlier that Xi cold deviate from revealing a successor at this year's plenum.
As per Chinese Communist party traditions, the leader who becomes the next president should be inducted into the politburo in the next party congress in 2017. With as many as five of the seven politburo members, excluding Prime minister Li Keqiang and Xi himself, are set to retire next year, the plenum is expected to give insights into who Xi would handpick as his successor.