China’s Institutional Changes in the Foreign and Security Policy Realm Under Xi Jinping: Power Concentration vs. Fragmentation Without Institutionalization

Jean-Pierre CABESTAN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This article focuses on the institutional changes that have occurred in the foreign and security policy realm since Xi Jinping became General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in November 2012. The establishment of a National Security Commission (NSC) in November 2013, the power centralization in the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the reorganization of the CCP leadership of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as well as the major branches of the PLA, the reorganization in March 2013 of the various civilian maritime security agencies and the establishment in December 2013 of a Cybersecurity and Informatization Leading Small Group (LSG) are the most striking organizational reforms introduced by Xi. But other institutional changes have taken place as Xi’s inclination to rely on a larger number of actors and in particular to give his closer political allies a bigger role also in foreign and security policy. These changes have obviously helped concentrate more power in the hands of Xi Jinping and, to some extent, better coordinate domestic and external security objectives and on the whole have well served China’s foreign and security policy’s assertiveness and initiatives. However, these changes have only partly reduced the power fragmentation that has developed extensively under Hu Jintao, and they have not contributed to institutionalizing decision-making processes at the top of the CCP and the state apparatuses. On the contrary, it appears that through these changes Xi has not only created new bureaucratic overlaps and tensions but also, in relying more on his own advisers, fed frustrations and competitions among agencies and officials, in other words, new forms of power fragmentation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-131
Number of pages19
JournalEast Asia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

User-Defined Keywords

  • Central Military Commission
  • Chinese Communist Party
  • Foreign Affairs Leading Small Group
  • Foreign policy
  • National Security Commission
  • People’s Liberation Army
  • Security policy
  • Xi Jinping


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