China's most prestigious and erstwhile intellectually institution, Peking University, has just had a Xi Jinping crony, Qiu Shuiping appointed as its Communist Party secretary. As Bill Bishop's superb "Sinocism" newsletter notes, Qiu "is a long time Beijing official with deep experience in the politics and law system, including a stint as the Party secretary of the Beijing bureau of the Ministry of State Security."

That's striking. Because the Ministry of State Security is China's primary domestic intelligence organization. Monitoring and constraining dissident movements that are perceived to be acting against the central committee in Beijing, the MSS is a capable secret police force. But its interests are antithetical to intellectual freedom and academic inquiry. So, the fact that Qiu will now take over as Peking University's de facto top official is significant.

Xi likely wants to tamp down any growing dissident voices in the country's academic elite, and this appointment sends a message to that effect. Qiu's experience at the MSS gives him functional power as a senior intelligence officer and, via his new position, a deterrent character against independent-minded students and faculty.

But Qiu's appointment also suggests an increasing strategic focus on incorporating academia into the state intelligence apparatus. This is of particular note at Peking University due to the thousands of international students who study there every year. The MSS and other Chinese intelligence services actively target these students for recruitment, attempting to persuade them to join government agencies once they return to their home nations. We should expect those efforts to escalate.

Regardless, the ultimate takeaway here is that Xi is doubling down on his distinctly authoritarian vision. Whether in terms of foreign policy imperialism, grotesque repression, or ideological purity, Xi has no interest in allowing a Chinese glasnost.