President Xi Jinping has named three fellow members of the country's top political body to serve as his deputies on a powerful new panel to spearhead policy reform.
The four members of the supreme Politburo Standing Committee - Xi, Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli - attended the first meeting of the group in Beijing yesterday, a month after its formal establishment.
The inclusion of four of the Standing Committee's seven members on the so-called Central Leading Group for Overall Reform was unusual and seen by analysts as evidence of the high priority Xi placed on its work.
"The allotment of four standing members of the Politburo into the leading group shows Xi's determination to push forward overall reforms through this newly established organisation, rather than through the traditional bureaucratic systems," said Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan.
The president's decision last month to take personal command of the leading group was seen by some as a political blow to Li, who, as premier, would have been expected to oversee economic reform.
But others have argued that the challenges facing the country - corruption, pollution, social unrest and a widening income gap - were so difficult that the panel required the involvement of the president and party chief.
"As China delves deeper into reforms, their impact on vested interests will go deeper," Xi was quoted as saying at the meeting. "We must be well prepared and solve the problems and difficulties one by one.
"Political courage is needed for the issues that have been identified, and they must be worked on unwaveringly."
Xi also named subgroups to focus on six reform categories: economics and ecology; culture; democracy and law; social systems; party building; and party discipline.
"The mention of reforms in democratic rule of law might raise public expectations on possible political reforms. But we still need to wait and see," Zhang said.
Xi vowed to tackle some of the country's most pressing problems by launching an anti-corruption campaign and announcing bold reform measures after taking the helm in 2012.
"However, Xi is facing an uphill battle, as the central government had loose control on local officials in the past decade. Now he is trying to tighten up the string," Zhang added.Topics: Xi Jinping