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China's party congress

Prospect of 'Chairman Xi' fuels debate as China party congress nears

Potential shift to Mao-esque rule from collective leadership alarms many members

BEIJING -- With China's twice-a-decade Communist Party congress two weeks away, debate is heating up over whether the Mao-era title of "chairman" will be revived for President Xi Jinping, a change that could position him to lead for life but remains deeply controversial.

The title is seen as nearly synonymous with Mao Zedong, founding father of modern China, who held it until his death in 1976. China's constitution at the time granted the party chairman broad powers, including command of the country's armed forces. Speculation has been swirling for years that Xi, who looks to Mao as a political role model, will bring back the title for his own use.

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