China appoints Xi to head national security commission

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese President Xi Jinping has been appointed head of the new national security commission by the ruling Communist Party's decision-making Politburo, the latest sign of his rapid consolidation of power.

The move puts Mr Xi in charge of a commission that deals with crises at home and abroad and comes nearly a month after the government said that Mr Xi would head a leading group to steer the country's overall reforms.

Premier Li Keqiang and Zhang Dejiang, number three in the party's hierarchy and head of China's largely rubber-stamp parliament, will be vice-chairmen of the commission, state news agency Xinhua said on its microblog.

It will also include several other members of the Standing Committee, the apex of power in China. Xinhua gave no further details.

Details of how the commission would operate were left unclear when it was announced in a government communique in November, but China had hinted it would have a domestic focus.

Experts say it is based on the National Security Council in the United States and would increase coordination among the various wings of China's security bureaucracy, split now among the police, military, intelligence and diplomatic services.

Possible international flashpoints for China include Japan, North Korea and the South China Sea.

China says it also faces considerable threats at home, pointing to continued unrest in two regions heavily populated by ethnic minorities which chafe at Chinese rule - Tibet and Xinjiang.

At a key party plenum meeting in November, China unwrapped its boldest reforms since Deng Xiaoping set the country on a course of opening up to the world in the 1970s and 1980s.