Xi Jinping

In unusual move, Xi appoints top party leader to lead daily affairs of key committee

Vice-chairman Zhang Gaoli is tasked with running operation of committee that aims to integrate military and civilian investment and technology

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 1:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 11:12pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken an unusual step by appointing a member from the top echelons of the Communist Party to a role managing the day to day operations of a committee tasked with integrating military and civilian investment and technology.

Xi held the first plenary meeting of the Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development, a group he created in January to foster military and civilian capacity integration, on Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Xi is the chairman, and three other Politburo Standing Committee members – Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli – are vice-chairmen.

However, Zhang, who is also a vice-premier and No. 7 on the Standing Committee, is also the director of the general affairs office for the commission.

Zhang’s position represents a departure from past practice since such posts are often taken by a lower ranking individual, usually a state councillor or a Politburo member.

It is also unusual for a member of the party’s highest decision-making body to take on a role dealing with day to day operations.

Analysts said the appointment highlighted the daunting task involved in breaking down barriers between military and industrial corporations and person in a senior position was required to coordinate the different interests.

Xu Guangyu, former vice-president of the People’s Liberation Army Defence Institute of China, said Zhang’s portfolio made him a suitable choice to head the office.

“Zhang Gaoli is the vice-premier overseeing the economy. Civilian military integration involves the economy and security strategies.”

Chen Daoyin, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said: “The general office is the department that executes policies. After the policies are made, there are many things that require the general office to help the coordination.

“With someone as senior as a vice-premier, it would be easier to coordinate different military manufacturers and civilian companies.”

The committee, which was announced in January, has two main purposes – to apply military technology to civilian use and to encourage civilian involvement in military industry.

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According to footage of the meeting broadcast by Chinese state television network CCTV, other members of the commission included six Politburo members: Vice-Premier Ma Kai; Xi’s top adviser ; top law-enforcement official Meng Jianzhu; Xi’s righthand man Li Zhanshu; and both vice-chairmen of the Central Military Commission – Xu Qiliang and Fan Changlong.

In the meeting Xi prioritised key areas for integration, including infrastructure, defence-related science and tech industry, weapon and equipment procurement, and talent cultivation.

“Integrated military and civilian development is a major achievement of China’s long-term coordinated development of economic and national defence construction,” Xi was quoted by Xinhua as saying. “It is also a major decision concerning national development and overall security, and a major measure to deal with complicated security threats and gain national strategic advantages.”

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Xi has assumed new roles in recent years, including as head of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, the Central National Security Commission, the Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Information, and the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs.