The General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is head of the Communist Party of China and the highest-ranking official within the People's Republic of China. The General Secretary is a standing member of the Politburo and head of the Secretariat. The officeholder is usually considered the "paramount leader" of China, a one-party nominally communist state.
According to the Constitution, the General Secretary serves as an ex officio member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China's de facto top decision-making body. Since the early 1990s, the holder of the post has been, except for transitional periods, the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, making the holder the Supreme Military Command of the People's Liberation Army.[a]
The current General Secretary is Xi Jinping, who took office on 15 November 2012 and was re-elected on 25 October 2017.[b]
Since the abolition of the post of Chairman of the Communist Party of China by the 12th Central Committee in 1982, the General Secretary is the highest-ranking official of the party and heads the Central Secretariat, Political bureau and its Standing Committee.
Since its revival in 1982, the post of General Secretary has been de jure the most important post in the PRC, though it did not become the de facto most important post until Deng Xiaoping's retirement in 1990. As China is a de facto one-party state, the General Secretary holds ultimate power and authority over state and government. However, the men who have held the post have held far less power than Chairman Mao Zedong. Since the mid-1990s, the General Secretary has traditionally also held the post of President of the PRC. While the presidency is nominally a ceremonial post, it is customary for the General Secretary to assume the presidency to confirm his status as de jure head of state.
Since Xi Jinping's ascendance to power, two new bodies of the Communist Party, the National Security Commission and Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, have been established, ostensibly concentrating political power in the "paramount leader" to a greater degree than anyone since Deng. These bodies were tasked with establishing the general policy direction for national security as well as the agenda for economic reform. Both groups are headed by the General Secretary, that the power of the General Secretary has become more concentrated.
(1 July 1921 – 7 August 1927)
(7 August 1927 – 24 July 1931)
(24 July 1931 – January 1935)
(January 1935 – 20 March 1943)
(19 June 1945 – 9 September 1976)
(7 October 1976 – 28 June 1981)
(29 June 1981 – 15 January 1987)
(15 January 1987 – 23 July 1989)
(23 July 1989 – 15 November 2002)
(15 November 2002 – 15 November 2012)
(15 November 2012 – present)
"A lot of analysts now see it as a given" that Xi will seek to stay party general secretary, the country's most powerful post, said Christopher K. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and now China specialist at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
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In China, the political job that matters most is the general secretary of the Communist Party. The party controls the military and domestic security forces, and sets the policies that the government carries out. China’s presidency lacks the authority of the American and French presidencies.
Mr. Xi’s most important title is general secretary, the most powerful position in the Communist Party. In China’s one-party system, this ranking gives him virtually unchecked authority over the government.