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China’s Xi Names Police Ally to Head Public Security Ministry

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- China installed Wang Xiaohong as minister of public security, handing a former colleague of President Xi Jinping control of the nation’s hard power before a twice-a-decade leadership congress.

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Wang, 64, was appointed Friday, according to a statement posted on the website of the National People’s Congress, and replaces Zhao Kezhi who at 68 has reached retirement age. Wang also became a deputy director of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the party’s top legal body, according to its official website.

Fujian-province native Wang overlapped with Xi when he served as a deputy police head of Fuzhou, when Xi was the city’s party chief from 1990 until 1996, and then provincial deputy party secretary until 2002. When Xi took power in 2012, Wang was shortly after transferred to Henan province as police chief, marking the beginning of his rapid promotion up the security ranks.

Two years later, Wang became Beijing police chief -- entrusted by the Communist Party’s top leaders to secure the nation’s political center -- and, in 2016, was named a deputy minister of public security. His appointment as the ministry’s party secretary in November signaled he’d take over from Zhao.

“Making his ally police chief is a strong indicator that Xi remains firmly in charge, despite rumors of discontent,” Trivium China analysts wrote in a Tuesday newsletter, referencing reports of a split in the Communist Party’s upper echelons over the economic impact of the Chinese leader’s staunch Covid Zero policy.

Wang’s promotion also bucks a trend: at least five former deputy ministers of public security have been purged by Xi’s anti-corruption campaign since it began in 2012, although two fell from grace in subsequent roles.

On Saturday, Wang launched a “100-day campaign” to crack down on crime, according to a statement on the ministry’s website. He urged police to “diffuse all kinds of safety risks and resolutely safeguard social stability” in preparation for the 20th National Party Congress, the date for which has not yet been set. Xi is widely expected to clinch an almost-unprecedented third term in office at the meeting.

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