“China considers downgrading domestic security tsar in next line-up”

Not like this would necessarily lead to better governance, but kicking the head of the PSB off of the Standing Committee certainly wouldn’t hurt. From Chris Buckley of Reuters:

Reducing the party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the inner council at the apex of power, from nine to seven members would come as part of a once-in-a-decade leadership change expected in the next few weeks or months.

China’s domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang, faces defeat if his successor does not follow his example, and that of recent predecessors, and win a place at the top table.

Before he was tainted in a succession of scandals that hurt the Communist Party this year, Zhou expanded his role into one of the most powerful, and controversial, fiefdoms in the one-party government.

Leaders appear likely to put a tighter leash on Zhou’s successor as head of domestic security by keeping him or her off the down-sized Standing Committee. That successor would remain a member of the less powerful Politburo, which has 24 members — returning to a pattern the party kept to for much of the 1980s.

The provisional agreement to shrink the Standing Committee and to effectively downgrade the status of Zhou’s successor has been rumored for months and firmed up during secret discussions since July, said six sources with direct ties to senior leaders and retired party elders.

Zhou was implicated in rumors that he hesitated in moving against the politician Bo Xilai, who fell in a divisive scandal. Security forces also suffered a humiliating failure when they allowed blind rights advocate Chen Guangcheng to escape from 19 months of house arrest and flee to the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

Such fumbles gave President Hu Jintao and his virtually certain successor, Vice President Xi Jinping, a shared motive to put a growing array of police forces and domestic security services under firmer oversight, said Xie Yue, a professor of political science at Tongji University in Shanghai.

“It seems quite likely that Hu and Xi have mustered the will to demote the political standing of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee,” he said.

“They’re taking advantage of the opinion that the committee’s reach has gone too far, and that it’s created too many problems and scandals.”

The push to slim down the Standing Committee at least partly reflects hopes that the next generation of leaders will be more nimble and cohesive in tackling problems, said several observers in Beijing.

“The Hu-Wen era pattern of dividing up powers and allotting responsibilities among all these different stallholders has ended up creating many problems,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing lawyer who closely follows politics. “The next leadership wants to be able to act more swiftly.”

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Filed under 2012 power transfer, Communist Party

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