China's Communist Party on Thursday awarded President Xi Jinping the title of "core" leader, giving him a ranking similar to Chinese icons like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, Reuters reported. But a statement issued by the party also stressed the importance of "collective leadership". The term reportedly refers to a leader who has "almost absolute authority and should not be questioned".

Deng has first incorporated the title "core" in Chinese leadership while referring to Mao, Jiang Zemin and himself. Xi's predecessor Hu Jintao was not given this title. The official communique said party members should "closely unite around the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core." The announcement precedes an important party meeting, where a new Standing Committee will be formed.

Xi has centralised power since his appointment four years ago. His current roles include heading an economic reform group and commander-in-chief of the military. His administration has taken an extreme stance against corruption within the system.

Analyst Zhang Lifan told the news agency the performance of Xi's administration will be under scrutiny, given the country's economic and social challenges. According to the report, a campaign to offer him the title has been underway for over a year now. But officials told the news agency that Xi turned down songs praising him and references of "uncle Xi".