Amid rumors of a restructuring of China’s bureaucracy under the leadership of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, the Jamestown Foundation’s Peter Mattis assesses the implications of a potential shakeup of the Ministry of State Security. From The Diplomat:
The MSS supposedly would become the State Security Administration (guojia anquan zongju), reporting directly to the State Council and presumably not to the Political-Legal Committee, now officially headed by Meng Jianzhu. If true, these rumors present a significant change to China’s domestic intelligence and preserving stability apparatus. Not only would this reform dilute the power of the Central Political-Legal Committee by cutting out the MSS, but it also would give the senior-most leaders an alternate source of domestic intelligence.
Although the rumors fit with the narrative of reform of the preserving stability apparatus (weihu wending, abbreviated as weiwen) and demotion of the Central Political-Legal Committee’s chairmanship from the Standing Committee to the Politburo, they are still only rumors on a subject that perennially disappoints. As Carl Minzner recently pointed out, reform of the political-apparatus is a real possibility but observers probably will have to wait for personnel changes at the National People’s Congress in March and the bureaucratic profile of other players outside of the public security apparatus to see if reform is in the offing.
Specifically for a “State Security Administration,” analysts should look for a change in the lines of authority associated with the MSS. Although political-legal affairs at the center are difficult to observe, one national-level change would be the shift of the state councilor overseeing state security, currently Meng Jianzhu. At lower levels, local newspapers and government websites would provide changes to whether local state security officials continued participating in normal political-legal committee processes as well as the joint work of the 610 Office (anti-Falungong work) and the Preserving Stability Office.