A vice minister of public security, a close confidant of President Xi Jinping, is tipped to take over as China's spy master, five sources said, as the country looks to clean up its security apparatus and plug intelligence gaps.
China has poured billions of yuan into domestic security, but the secretive Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Public Security in recent years have been hit with high-level corruption scandals and intelligence failings.
Wang Xiaohong, 60, a vice minister of public security, will replace Chen Wenqing as minister of state security during the session of parliament which begins on March 5, three sources with ties to the leadership and two foreign diplomats said.
Chen, 58, will become the country's top prosecutor after a little more than a year as minister of state security, three of the sources said. The ministry is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence and national security.
The change of guard is part of a broader cabinet reshuffle during the two-week parliamentary session.
Wang and President Xi have long-standing ties. Wang is a native of the southeastern province of Fujian, where Xi spent 17 years cutting his teeth from 1985 to 2002.
Wang was deputy director of the Public Security Bureau of Fuzhou, the provincial capital of Fujian, from 1993 to 1998 and the city's top police official from 1998 to 2002. Xi was Fuzhou party boss from 1990 to 1996 and provincial deputy party secretary until 2002.
"They are very close," a source with leadership ties said. "Wang Xiaohong used to help look after Xi Jinping's daughter."
A second source with leadership ties said Wang's rise had been fast-tracked in the same vein as other allies whose careers had overlapped with Xi in Fujian, most notably the Beijing party secretary Cai Qi, and Huang Kunming, who was promoted to head the central propaganda department late last year.
Wang, a one-time fan factory worker joined the police force in Minhou county in Fujian in 1979.
Neither the Communist Party's Organisation Department, which oversees personnel decisions, nor the State Council Information Office, which doubles as the party spokesman's office, responded to a request for comment.
The Ministry of State Security does not have publicly listed contacts.
Xi has made bolstering security, both domestic and overseas, a priority.