BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping was formally named head of a new national security body Friday, in a move that further strengthens his status as the most powerful Chinese leader in two decades.
Xi is already leader of the ruling Communist Party and head of dual state and party commissions commanding the armed forces. Last month, he was named head of a reform commission, giving him overall control over the world’s second-largest economy and sidelining premier and sometimes-rival Li Keqiang.
The new position as chairman of the National Security Commission gives Xi ultimate control over the police and sprawling state security apparatus. That authority used to be held by the party’s head of domestic security.
“Xi has undoubtedly emerged as a strong man, with significantly more power that (predecessors) Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin,” said Willy Lam, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who closely follows the Chinese leadership.
The last leader to wield authority on that level was Deng Xiaoping, who retained major influence in national politics into the early 1990s, despite being in semiretirement. Jiang had attempted to establish a national security commission with him at the head, but was stymied by rivals.
The head of China’s legislature, Zhang Dejiang, and Li, the premier — the party’s second and third ranking officials — were named the body’s vice chairmen with other members to be named later, according to a statement from the party’s Central Committee.
China announced the creation of the new body at a party meeting in November. The Central Committee statement said the commission would answer directly to the Politburo Standing Committee, the apex of political power in China.
The commission would be responsible for “decision-making, deliberation and coordination on national security work,” and in charge of “making overall plans and coordinating major issues and major work concerning national security,” the statement said.
The commission is seen as centralizing decision-making on internal security affairs with an additional external component, potentially alleviating a chronic problem among Chinese agencies of not sharing information.
If patterned as expected on the U.S. National Security Council, the body would serve as the principal forum for the president to take advice from intelligence, military, police and other advisers.