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I've just been looking at the wikipedia entry for Xi Jinping and the word used for the position he will be taken on Wikipedia is incumbent "paramount leader" with paramount leader pointing to this Wikipedia article. There is also a Chinese version of that page which translates paramount leader as 黨和國家最高領導人.

However if I look at Hu Jintao's Chinese page it uses the phrase 中国共产党和中华人民共和国的主要领导人之一. With 主要领导人 pointing to this page 党和国家领导人.

If I look at the very bottom of the 党和国家领导人 it also has 习近平(最高领导人).

I'm hoping someone can help me, and forgive me if the answer is on the linked pages (my reading is too slow).

Here are my questions:

党和国家领导人 - Is this singular or plural or both?

What is the difference between 最高领导人 and 主要领导人之一?

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Mind accepting an answer? –  Growler Aug 19 '13 at 14:11
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3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted
  1. 党和国家领导人 is both. It can refer to a few people or just someone. For example, 党和国家领导人某某(和某某)出席了某个活动。
  2. 最高领导人 can be translated as supreme leader. There must be only one at one time. And 主要领导人之一 is just some one important. For example, only 5 最高领导人 in PRC history. But anyone in the Political Bureau is one of 主要领导人。

The address(称呼) of important people of CCP is significant and subtle. Similar address may have big difference. Here is a great Chinese post analysing how to call CCP leaders after their passing, the best I've ever read.

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If you are member of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress, you are nominally the leader of the China, it's part of our political system. But crystal clear, not everyone of them got real power.

Few member of it,those Executive Committee of SCNPA, are decision makers of certain aspects. And paramount leader will "elected" form them, as to say, paramount leader must be one of them.

As a paramount leader, he also be the leader of party, so from this level, paramount is precise.

So when 党和最高领导人 appeared, you need to know it's one and only. 主要领导人 means some of the EC member.

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I'd like to keep my answer short and sweet.

When thinking about Chinese, it's important to understand the meaning of each individual character, rather than memorizing statements... this has helped me disect puzzling meanings throughout my language learning journey so far...

So, in this case:

 最高领导人 and 主要领导人之一

Understanding the characters 最, 之 and 一 would ultimately help you understand the fundamental differences of the entire sentence.

means "utmost", or "highest"

最好 = the best
最高 = the highest

之 is more of a 古文(ancient)/书面字(literary) expression of the colloqiual possessive word 的. And 一 as you know means "one".

之一 = one of something 

So,

主要领导人之一 = one of the important leaders
最高领导人 = the highest leader

EDIT: As an addon to this... Just as it's helpful to learn the meanings of each character to disect sentences, it's just as important to learn each radical to disect characters.

Prime example:

把: grasp, hold
Radical: 手 means hand
吧: suggestive participle 
Radical: 口 means mouth

So without even having to know the meanings, you could already guess from the radicals that has something to do with touch, and 吧 has something to do with voice. Then you could use context to piece the meanings together.

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