China's Xi consolidates power by gaining control over armed police force
BANGKOK (ANN Desk) – Analysts say potential source of coup removed
President Xi Jinping’s push to centralise power in China has been boosted with the transfer of the armed national police force into his de facto control.
The paramilitary police will be placed under the command of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) armed forces from Monday, the first day of 2018. That gives Xi, as head of the armed forces, effective command over the 660,000-strong armed police force. The force maintains domestic security and is responsible for border patrol and counter-terrorism, among other tasks.
The armed police had been under the joint command of leadership of the Cabinet, State Council, and the CCP Central Military Commission.
That changed with a CCP directive issued on Wednesday, which brings the paramilitary police under exclusive control of the Central Military Commission.
China’s armed forces differ to those in most other countries since they come under the control of its ruling party, rather than the state.
This gives President Xi more power over the armed forces – including now the paramilitary police – than most of his counterparts in other countries can boast.
Reports in Chinese state-run media gave no reason for the command structure change. Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily said it was a “major innovation” that “strengthens the party’s absolute leadership over the armed forces ... and ensures the long-term peace and stability of the party and the country”.
Xi, the strongest leader in a generation, has sought to strengthen the party’s control over all aspects of Chinese society since coming to power in 2012. Sweeping reforms, an anti-corruption drive and the appointment of Xi loyalists at the top of government and the military have cemented his power.
Analysts told AFP that the latest consolidation could have arisen from anxiety over the potential use of the police force to stage a coup.
In October, senior party official Liu Shiyu congratulated Xi for foiling efforts of powerful officials who “plotted to usurp the party’s leadership and seize state power”.
Liu listed former security tsar Zhou Yongkang and former Chongqing party chiefs Bo Xilai and Sun Zhengcai as members of the conspiracy, which was rumoured to have involved military officials.
All three have been ousted from the CCP and arrested or jailed on corruption charges.
“Strengthening the party’s leadership of both the army and the armed police could reflect [worries] about the armed police becoming a tool for individual conspiracy,” political scholar Hu Xingdou told AFP.
The command structure change followed the first meeting this week of the 205-member Central Committee after the 10-yearly meeting of the CCP in November bolstered the party’s power.