China's National Security Strategy
Image Credit: Xi Jinping image from Kaliva / Shutterstock

China's National Security Strategy

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On January 23, the Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) adopted the outline of a national security strategy. Chinese media reports did not go into detail about the strategy, but underlined the sense of urgency running through the document. The new strategy, without going into specifics, warned of “unpredictable” and “unprecedented” dangers facing China, both at home and abroad. To face these challenges, Xinhua said, “national security must be under the absolute leadership of the CPC’s efficient and unified command.”

While Xinhua’s official summary didn’t provide details, it gave a general sense of the issues Beijing is most concerned about: a shifting international environment; profound economic and social changes domestically; proposed reforms entering a critical period; and a wealth of “social contradictions.” Notice that the vast majority of these concerns are domestic issues, continuing a long-standing tradition wherein CCP leaders see China’s greatest challenges coming from within. In fact, the bulk of the Xinhua piece focused not on the national security strategy, but on the CCP’s determination to continue to fight against “undesirable work styles,” a key part of the anti-corruption campaign.

That doesn’t mean China is unconcerned with external affairs, however. The Politburo announcement vows that China, even while seeking to sure its own national interests, will “promote the common prosperity of all countries.” As part of this, China continues to have three main focal points: “great power relations,” the security environment in China’s immediate neighborhood, and cooperation among developing countries. The Politburo also pledged that China will “proactively participate in regional and global governance,” a tendency that was on display in 2014 as China set the agendas for the APEC Summit, CICA, and even the BRICS Summit.

Interestingly, the Xinhua summary did not specifically mention any of the non-traditional security challenges facing China. From cyber attacks to terrorism, China’s government has been increasingly calling attention to these new threats. Strategies for dealing with these issues will be a key part of China’s national security strategy, whether or not those sections are made available to the public.

It’s also clear that China will continue to reform the way its bureaucracy handles national security. After taking power, President Xi Jinping moved quickly to consolidate control over national security affairs. The creation of a new national security commission (headed by Xi himself) was announced at the Third Plenum in November 2013. The new commission unites the various threads of national security, both domestic and foreign, under the authority of one organization.

At its meeting today, the Poliburo emphasized the need to continue revamping China’s national security apparatus, namely by bringing it under unified control. China must “hold fast to a centralized, unified, highly efficient, authoritative leadership system of national security work,” the Politburo said. The CCP’s vision, according to Lu Ningsi of the Phoenix TV, is to “create a high-quality, specialized national security team.” Xi himself intends to “directly lead China’s political security, economic security, and homeland security” – setting him apart from his predecessors. As the threats facing China grow more dire, Xi is insisting upon ever more control of China’s security environment.

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