China’s paramilitary police force, the People’s Armed Police, will be brought under the direct control of the Central Military Commission, the body that controls the country’s armed forces, Chinese state media reported Wednesday.
The 1.5 million-strong paramilitary police force serves as a backup for the military in times of war and is also involved in putting down protests and counterterrorism operations in areas such as the western Xinjiang region, as well as border defense and firefighting, according to the South China Morning Post. The force previously came under a dual command structure of the CMC and the State Council, or cabinet, via the Ministry of Public Security.
Since taking power five years ago, President Xi Jinping has overseen a root-and-branch modernization of the People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest military force, laying off troops, streamlining its organization and investing in advanced weapons. The paramilitary police force underwent a leadership reshuffle in 2014 that saw its commander and political commissar replaced with PLA officers. Xi ally Wang Ning, who had no police force experience, was put in command.