Xi Jinping’s chief of staff is China’s new internet tsar, sources say

by William Zheng at scmp.com

Cai Qi, the president’s chief of staff, has taken charge of the Communist Party body overseeing cybersecurity and the internet in China, sources say.

As the new internet tsar, Cai will oversee the country’s digital economy, which is worth more than 50 trillion yuan (US$6.9 trillion).

The position had been held by Xi Jinping since 2014, and analysts say the move reflects a trend in the past year of the Chinese leader delegating more responsibilities to trusted deputies.

Three official sources familiar with the matter told the South China Morning Post that Xi had appointed Cai to head the party’s Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission.

The body was set up by Xi in 2014 – two years after he became Communist Party leader – to consolidate the party’s direct control over the internet. It started as the Central Leading Group for Cyber Affairs and was expanded to a commission in 2018.

It was established because of concerns raised by Xi and other officials that Beijing’s lack of control over the internet and public opinion expressed online could compromise the party’s rule.

Cai’s appointment has not been announced but he took the helm of the commission some time in the first half of 2023, according to one source in Beijing.

The party does not usually announce such appointments. They are usually disclosed in official statements issued after meetings, which contain the key members’ roles and titles.

The cyber commission, along with the newly founded commission on science and technology, are the only exceptions where the party has not done so.