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Like many other fragments of information that trickle out of the black box of China’s leadership, the new usage of the term “hexin” could mean several different—opposing—things.

A sudden, novel use of the term “核心” (hexin, or “core” in English) to describe General Secretary Xi Jinping generated a stir in China-watcher circles recently.  The new use appeared early in 2016, as dozens of municipal and provincial cadres employed the novel phrase (坚决维护习近平总书记这个核心, or “resolutely safeguard the core, General Secretary Xi Jinping”) in successive rounds of meetings.  The actual phrase, as described in the graphic below, is slightly but notably different from previous uses of hexin to talk about China’s General Secretary.

Importantly, the central propaganda apparatus has not yet given the phrase a public stamp of approval, such as including it in central Party documents or in original reporting from authoritative PRC media outlets.  Yet, it is reasonable to assume that the rollout of the new phrase was coordinated in some fashion, since it was repeated verbatim in a rapid succession of a large number of sub-national meetings.  But it remains unclear where exactly—or why—the phrase was generated.