China’s National Security Commission, the establishment of which was announced at the Third Plenum in November, met for the first time on Tuesday. As expected, President Xi’s comments about the substance of the meeting indicate that the commission will focus heavily on domestic security issues. In his statement, Xi listed a broad array of issues the commission will address, including political security, homeland security, military security, economic security, cultural security, societal security, scientific and technologic security, information security, ecological security, natural resource security, and nuclear security. Experts say that the commission’s expansive jurisdiction gives it virtually carte blanche to handle any issue it sees fit. Ultimately, however, observers believe that the commission will not alter domestic security policies, changing only who exercises direct control over China’s vast security apparatus.
Prior to Xi’s tenure as Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary, the Central Political-Legal Commission (CCPL) controlled China’s domestic security apparatus. The head of this immensely powerful commission also sat on the Standing Committee, the most senior political committee in the central government. When Xi took power, the Party reduced the number of Standing Committee members from nine to seven, eliminating the position held by the former domestic security czar. In addition, Xi has targeted Zhou Yongkang, the former head of the CCPL under President Hu Jintao, in his ongoing anti-corruption campaign, a moved seen by many as an attack against a tremendously powerful political rival who wielded significant influence over an institution that served as the Party's primary means of exerting coercive power domestically. Chinese authorities recently seized US $14.5 billion (90 billion RMB) from the former security chief and his family. In addition, Xi has detained more than 300 of Zhou’s associates and protégés.