China's ruler Xi Jinping has taken on a new title last used by Chairman Mao in a move to further tighten his grip on power, US officials have said.
The president and general secretary of the country's Communist Party has now adopted the role of 'helmsman', an honorific position which denotes ultimate authority.US intelligence officials say the move puts Xi 'firmly in control of every aspect of Chinese society' as he continues to push for dominance on the world stage over Western democracies.
Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said a Chinese Communist Party Central Committee meeting in October had marked a significant shift in Xi's power.
Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee last week he said: 'I think Xi is firmly in control of the party, of the military and every aspect of Chinese society.'
'The ensuing communique (in October) likely signaled Xi's singular political position within the party, declaring him the "core navigator and helmsman", an invocation not used since Mao Zedong,' he added.
During his 33-year rule in China, Mao's most famous nickname was 'Great Helmsman'.
While commentators had already casually conferred the title on Xi, the Chinese President's use of the term is seen as part of a plan to consolidate his rule.'Beijing believes that China remains in "a period of important strategic opportunities," Lt. Gen. Berrier added.
It comes amid fears of an all-out war between Australia and China over trade tariffs and calls for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Major-General Adam Findlay, formerly one of Australia's top military commanders, said that a combat war with the communist nation was likely and we were already engaged in 'grey zone' warfare.
The special force general made the terrifying prediction during a briefing with troops in April 2020, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Mr Findlay, who has since stepped down but is an advisor for the Australian Defence Force, reportedly said there was a 'high likelihood' of war.
Relations between the two nations has been strained since Mr Morrison called for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus last year, and have only been made worse after China imposed punitive trading tariffs which are hitting Australian farmers.
'Who do you reckon the main [regional] threat is?' he reportedly asked the troops, to which they replied 'China'.
Multiple sources say the general then warned that China boasts 26,000 special force brigades, and said Australia must boost its traditional forces as well as cyber and even space.
'We need to make sure we don't lose momentum, get back in the region', he added, fearing that Beijing was capitalising on Australia's 'absence' in the area - with the nations in a 'grey zone'.
Source: Daily Mail, UK