Composition of new body points to line-up changes at the top
China has set up a top-level advisory group to respond rapidly to national security crises, especially those involving cross-strait clashes and Sino-US tension.
The Central National Security Leading Group consists of leaders from the Communist Party, the military, intelligence departments, Foreign Affairs Ministry and Taiwan affairs units. It is expected to provide President Jiang Zemin with advice on diplomatic, military, strategic and technological matters if China faces a national security crisis.
The group is headed by Mr Jiang and three deputies - Vice-President Hu Jintao, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission Zhang Wannian and vice-premier Qian Qichen. It is co-ordinated by the director of the general office of the Central Foreign Affairs Leading Group, Liu Huaqiu, an ally of National People's Congress Chairman Li Peng.
Mr Li and Premier Zhu Rongji are not members of the group, indicating that they are unlikely to have official positions after the 16th party Congress in 2002.
Diplomatic sources said the fact that Mr Hu was a vice-chairman of the group is another indication he would take over as national and party leader after the party congress. They said Mr Jiang could continue playing a major role in the military and the party if he stayed as the head of the group after the congress.
Beijing sources said the Politburo had authorised the group to work out contingency plans for national security crises.
Sources said Mr Jiang's original idea was to set up a national security council modelled on those of Russia or the United States. But this idea was dropped to avoid drastic reorganisation. Instead, the new group had been set up with minimal structural change.
The leading group is directly under the Politburo standing committee, suggesting that China's military and national security issues are controlled by the party.
Some in the bureaucracy have questioned the need for such a body, arguing that it overlaps the role of Central Foreign Affairs Leading Group and the Central Military Commission in times of crisis. But pressure to promptly respond to national security crises after last year's Nato bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and increasing cross-strait tension led to the group being formed last month.
A Beijing-based Taiwan watcher said the group would enable Beijing to better carry out anti-infiltration and anti-subversion work and to improve access to US involvement in Taiwan affairs.