China's establishment of a Central National Security Commission (CNSC) in late 2013 was a potentially transformative event in the evolution of China's national security decision-making structure. Yet, as of mid-2017, few details about this organization and its activities have been released, leading to continuing questions about its likely role and functions in the Chinese system. Based on an analysis of numerous authoritative but under-utilized Chinese sources, this article addresses the rationale, prospects and implications of the CNSC. It argues that the organization is both a fulfilment of a long-held desire by many in China for a centralized, permanent national security deliberation forum and also a reflection of the unique challenges facing China in the 21st century. Contrary to existing analyses, which argue that the CNSC is likely to be focused primarily on domestic security tasks, the article contends that it is more likely to play a major role in both internal and external security affairs. Moreover, the article argues that if certain obstacles can be addressed, the CNSC may have broad implications in areas ranging from China's crisis response capability to the role played by the Chinese Communist Party general secretary in the national security decision-making process. The conclusion recaps the findings and suggests avenues for further research.