Xi Jinping to head reform panel, taking another role from premier

President's move seen as diminishing the power of Premier Li Keqiang

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 4:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 December, 2013, 5:04am

President Xi Jinping will personally take charge of a new panel that will steer the country's reform agenda - a significant expansion of his authority as he moves to consolidate power.

Xi's chairmanship of the "leading group for overall reform", which was affirmed yesterday by the Communist Party's elite Politburo, gives the president more direct authority over changes to economic plans and other domestic policies.

Such policy planning has in recent decades been overseen by the premier, and moving it under Xi is seen as a political blow to Li Keqiang , who holds that office.

"The appointment has confirmed that China is now under the Xi Jinping administration, rather than under the Xi-Li administration, as some people have called it," said Zhang Lifan , a political analyst formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The creation of the reform and security panels after the Central Committee's plenum in November led many analysts to speculate that Xi was on track to become the country's most powerful figure since paramount leader Deng Xiaoping retired two decades ago.

Xi is also general secretary of the party and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

The president's leadership of the committee represents a challenge to the authority of the State Council - the country's cabinet - and its National Development and Reform Commission.

The leading group is tasked with "designing reform on an overall basis, arranging and co-ordinating reform, pushing forward reform as a whole, and supervising the implementation of reform plans", Xinhua said, citing the announcement.

The panel would draft major policies and schemes for systematic reforms in economic, political, cultural, social and environmental sectors, as well as the party, the statement said.

Putting such policies under the president represents a break from a long party tradition.

Former premier Zhao Ziyang , for example, led the State Commission for Economic Restructuring between 1982 and 1987. Ex-premier Li Peng headed the agency between 1988 and 1990.