Both of these elements share an important normative element--the centrality of collective action. Collective action itself describes an evolving concept at the core of Leninist theory for the operation of legitimate vanguard political organizations that mean to retain an authoritative leadership role . That notion of collectivity has evolved from the time of its first manifestations in early post revolutionary Marxist Leninist states. These were marked by a crude interpretation of democratic centralism tied to the linchpin of a charismatic (and sometimes less charismatic) leader whose cult of personality sometimes subsumed the collective character central to a legitimate Leninist organization within his (never hers to date) own body.
In building itself, the Party must work with firm resolve to meet the following five fundamental requirements.
4. Resolve in upholding democratic centralism. Democratic centralism combines centralism built on the basis of democracy with democracy under centralized guidance. It is both the Party’s fundamental organizational principle and the application of the mass line in everyday Party activities. The Party must fully encourage intraparty democracy, respect the principal position of its members, safeguard their democratic rights, and give play to the initiative and creativity of Party organizations at every level and all Party members. Correct centralism must be practiced; all Party members must keep firmly in mind the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, uphold the leadership core, and keep in alignment, and firmly uphold the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, so as to ensure the solidarity, unity, and concerted action of the whole Party and guarantee the prompt and effective implementation of the Party’s decisions. The Party shall strengthen and regulate political activities within itself; make intraparty political activities more politically oriented, up-to-date, principled, and effective; cultivate a positive and healthy intraparty political culture; and foster a sound political ecosystem featuring honesty and integrity within the Party. In its internal political activities, the Party shall conduct correctly criticism and self-criticism, engage in debate over matters of principle, and uphold truth and rectify mistakes. The Party shall work hard to create a lively political situation featuring both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, and both unity of will and personal sense of ease. (Emphasis supplied)
Correct centralism must be practiced; all Party members must keep firmly in mind the need to maintain political integrity, think in big-picture terms, uphold the leadership core, and keep in alignment, and firmly uphold the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, so as to ensure the solidarity, unity, and concerted action of the whole Party and guarantee the prompt and effective implementation of the Party’s decisions.
The Party must ensure that reform and opening up are carried out in unity with the Four Cardinal Principles, put its basic line into effect in all fields of endeavor, and combat all mistaken tendencies of the “Left” and Right, maintaining vigilance against Rightist tendencies, but primarily defending against “Leftist” tendencies.
These issues are especially relevant in the wake of the proposed changes to the Chinese constitution that are being considered int he wake of the changes to the CPC Constitution after the 19th CPC Congress in October 2017. A much discussed amendment would lift the term limits for China's president and vice president (here). Read together with the changes to the CPC Constitiuon's notions of core and collective at the heart of the principle of democratic centralism, it has caused much speculation about the extent to which such amendment promotes "rightist" or "leftist" error (e.g., here, here, and here).
Yet none of this is set in stone. Moreover this evolving expression of Leninist collectivity, this refinement of the notion of centrality and democratic participation within levels of leadership, also leaves questions open for further development, might be more usefully read within the context of a long development of the intellectual idea of the form and exercise of collective leadership with Chinese characteristics. To that end it may be useful to re-consider Hu Angang's Collective Presidency in China (2014), which I considered in "Crafting a Theory of Socialist Democracy for China in the 21st Century: Considering Hu Angang’s Theory of Collective Presidency in the Context of the Emerging Chinese Constitutional State," Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal 16(1):29-82 (2014). Chinese language version为21世纪的中国设计社会主义民主理论：中国宪政国家兴起语境下对胡鞍钢“集体领导制”理论的思考，Tsinghua University Journal (forthcoming 2015).
One of the most interesting variations of this approach within Chinese constitutional discourse is the notion of collectivity in the decision-making structures of Party and state in China. Hu Angang has most recently drawn on this general theory of democratic governance through collective action, and more especially on its theory of socialist democracy organized around a collective presidency. He is part of a line of theorists who are developing a theory of democracy that looks beyond the exercise of elections to the exercise of power within state and political entities. Hu suggests that if the ideal of a constitutionalist state is the exercise of democracy through representative and accountable institutions of governance, then it is possible to implement that ideal both by focusing on popular elections (traditional view) and by increasing responsive democracy within governmental and political institutions (Chinese socialist democracy). In both systems, the core democratic principle of legitimate constitutionalism is exercised. In one case (Western democracies), democracy is operationalized through the exercise of the franchise to elect leaders. In the other case (Chinese democracy), democracy may be embedded in the exercise of democratic and representative practices within the institutions of state -- and as a critical part of the operation of the democratic functions of the party in power in one-party (or vanguard party) constitutional states.31 Either way, systems are instituted that enhance rule of law governance grounded in principles that reflect the political community as a whole in whose collective interests the representatives act. Yet Hu understands that “in almost 200 countries around the world, the personal presidential system is known, but the notion of a collective presidential system is not. This innovative practice by China is poorly understood, and it is not one that foreigners agree with.” (Ibid, pp. 36-38).
the ideal of a collective presidency has wider implications for the ordering of the CCP’s internal democracy and the decision-making structures of the state organs. The essay has sought to suggest the ways in which socialist democracy may more robustly embrace both its Marxist and democratic elements in the service of the core functional mission of socialist modernization, and the advancement of a harmonious society. It remains cautious that while theory is important, actual practice, and the appropriate functioning of the system from the highest to the lowest levels, is critical for success. To that end, the CCP has not concluded its task of better embracing the insights and obligations embedded in its mass line. The political work of naturalizing socialist democracy with the Chinese people remains a task as important in China as the equivalent task of civic education has been important in the West for a long time. (Ibid., pp. 81-82).