Politburo group-studies national security: what Xi says on "holistic" NatSec could mean
Open-sourced information to put NatSec, as Beijing now sees it, into context
1. NatSec has been raised to unprecedented high prominence in Beijing, now on par with 发展 Development.
2. The keyword is a 总体国家安全观 holistic approach to national security, meaning the Party and government work which previously, conventionally thought to be unrelated to NatSec, now must take their NatSec implications into consideration.
NatSec, in proper context, is now a broadly-defined term - not narrowly restricted to, let’s say, defense, intelligence, or public security. With the coronavirus pandemic in mind, public health is also NatSec.
Your Pekingnologist will even go out on a limb and say cutting crucial supplies such as crude oil or essential chips that are at the bottleneck of China’s development, could also be NatSec issues.
3. Party and especially the Party Central Committee’s leadership of NatSec has been emphasized - it’s not any single Party/Govt organ’s own responsibility.
4. Identify and resolve (nip?) hidden dangers that may bring significant risks in the bud.
Since NatSec is a sensitive subject anywhere and many subscribers actually cover, study, or even work in NatSec, allow your Pekingnologist to emphasize this is a PERSONAL, UNPAID newsletter trying to use OPEN-SOURCED information to put China news into context and perspective. Nothing more, nothing less.
As noted earlier, the Politburo as a group gathered once (almost) every month to study a particular subject. In What did the Politburo learn in 2020?, Pekingnology comprehensively reviewed these sessions in the first 11 months of this year.
As usual, today’s group-study session invites an expert: Yuan Peng, President of China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).
Not sure if Yuan would like to see this, but it would be journalistic malpractice not to mention the Reuters exclusive news in May, which has been out in the open for months but your Pekingnologist can NOT independently verify.
Yuan’s official, English-language bio says he followed American studies for decades and highlighted his interests in Sino-U.S. relations, Asia-Pacific security, and China's foreign policy.
The readout, as usual, did NOT reveal what the invited expert said at the group study session. So, your Pekingnologist did some homework on Yuan’s recent writing to see if he touched on NatSec in public.
These sentences are from his Chinese-language article titled 新冠疫情与百年变局 Coronavirus pandemic and profound changes unseen in a century on the 5th issue of Contemporary International Relations, the official publication of the CICIR, in May or June.
The economic foundation determines the superstructure, and economic security is the basis of national and international security.
The relationship between development and security must be set right. The biosecurity issues revealed by the coronavirus pandemic and the various national security issues listed under the holistic approach to national security show that development needs to be guaranteed by security. Otherwise, from the outside, there is a risk of being-attacked halfway across the water, and internally, the achievements of economic development might be reduced to zero overnight. Development is of course the hard truth, but the development after 40 years of reform and opening up needs to be prefixed with "development with security" as the real hard truth.
Economic security is the basis of NatSec, so, at least according to Yuan at the time, threats to China’s key economic infrastructure or supplies could be understood as NatSec issues.
发展（才）是硬道理 Development is the hard truth is what Pekingnologists would call a 提法, one of the prescribed formulations/set phrases/Party-govt special phrasings. It was from Deng Xiaoping’s famous 1992 trip to southern China, meaning economic development is China’s top priority.
Essentially, Yuan believes the set phrase needs to be prefixed with security, supposedly because he believes that’s the requirement of the times and development stage China is currently in - challenges in NatSec now requires it.
Perhaps not coincidentally, some of Yuan’s writings made it into the most important part of the readout - General Secretary Xi Jinping’s remarks in this Politburo group study session, which will be noted below. Xi’s remarks include:
Emphasize national security in the whole process and all aspects of the work of the Party and the country, make plans and arrangements for national security in coordination with those for economic and social development, adhere to systematic thinking in building a holistic national security architecture.
NOTES: “systematic” “holistic” are words in generality. Basically, it means every part of economics, society, and the undertakings of the Party and the government involves elements of NatSec. Put it another way, NatSec is everywhere, and every Party and government function should take into consideration their work’s relevance and impact on NatSec.
Coordinating development and security has been written as a guiding thought into the Communist Party of China Central Committee’s Proposals for China’s 14th Five Year Plan (2021-2025), and there is a whole chapter devoted to coordinating development and security, which is a historic first. This illustrates NatSec’s importance in the Party and Country’s agenda. This is determined by the historical orientation of China's development, the current situation and tasks that its national security now faces.
NOTES: NatSec is now more prominent than ever.
Our party was born at a time of China's internal and external problems and national distress, with a deep-seated understanding of the importance of NatSec.
NOTES: The CPC was established in 1921, when internally it was a divided mess with political chaos, economic weakness, and social misery. Externally, Jiaozhou/Kiautschou Bay, as the colony changed hands from Germany to Japan, despite China’s victory as a member of the Allies in the World War. As a result, there was no NatSec to speak of, and the CPC is fully aware of the painful history.
Xi put forward 10 requirements for pursuing a holistic approach to national security:
1. Upholding the Party's absolute leadership over national security work, adhere to the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee on national security work…and promote the Party committees (Party groups) at all levels to put the national security responsibility system into practice.
NOTES: The leadership of NatSec work does not rest with any single Party/govt organ, but with the Party Central Committee. Lower levels of Party committees also bear responsibilities, supposedly in their respective jurisdictions.
2. Adhere to the road of national security with Chinese characteristics, the implementation of the holistic approach to national security, adhere to the organic unity of political security, people's security, and the supremacy of national interests. With People's security as the purpose, political security as the fundamental, economic security as the basis, defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, prevent and resolve major security risks, to provide strong security guarantees to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
Notes: Your Pekingnologist fails to explain this paragraph, except adding the above-quoted Yuan’s writing proposed “economic security as the basis”.
3. Adhere to the people's security for the purpose of national security all for the people, all rely on the people, give full play to the people's initiative, initiative, creativity, and effectively safeguard the rights and interests of the people's security, always take the people as the foundational force of national security, converging on the powerful force to maintain national security.
NOTES: Your Pekingnologist utterly fails to explain this paragraph.
4. Adhere to the coordination of development and security, adhere to the parallel importance of development and security…through development to enhance the strength of national security and create a security environment conducive to economic and social development. Give more consideration to security factors in development…
NOTES: NatSec is effectively raised to the equal of development, suggesting Beijing now significantly raises, within its order of business, the profile of NatSec - some risks can not be overlooked or overridden in the name of development. The gist is also in Yuan’s writing quoted above.
5. Insist on putting political security in the first place, safeguarding the security of the regime and (political) system, and working more proactively in all areas.
NOTES: It speaks for itself.
6. Insist on promoting security in all fields in an integrated manner, dealing with traditional and non-traditional security in an integrated manner, making use of the coordination mechanism for national security work, and making good use of the national security policy toolbox.
NOTES: Not totally sure of the coordination mechanism, but could mean the CPC Central Committee National Security Commission, the first meeting of which took place in April 2014. The phrase national security policy toolbox is also noteworthy because, to the best of your Pekingnologist’s abilities, it was unheard of previously.
7. Adhere to putting the prevention and resolution of national security risks in a prominent position, improve the ability to foresee and predict risks, and strive to identify and resolve hidden dangers that may bring significant risks in the bud.
NOTES: Not sure if the ability to foresee and predict risks should be referenced with COVID-19, but it’s a fact that the international community including the U.S., with the best intelligence capabilities, failed to see the pandemic coming. But Yuan did mention biosecurity (see above).
Identify and resolve hidden dangers and put them out in their beginning stage probably requires China to act more proactively - intervene at an even earlier stage before “dangerous” events (and people?) grew “big”.
8. Insist on promoting common international security. Hold high the banner of cooperation, innovation, rule of law, win-win, promote the establishment of a common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable global security concept, strengthen international security cooperation, improve the global security governance system, and jointly build a universal security community of human destiny.
NOTES: Not sure but a lot of things come to mind: Shanghai Cooperation Organization? Chinese navy’s patrol of the Gulf of Eden? Interpol? Identification of terrorist organizations? UN Security Council?
9. Insist on promoting the modernization of national security system and capabilities…strengthen the rule of law, build a systematic and complete, scientific and standardized, effective national security system, improve the ability to use science and technology to maintain national security…
NOTES: It could mean that the NatSec should not be fragmented, that there are rules and mechanisms which increase its comprehensiveness and interoperability - different agencies operate and cooperate more efficiently. It definitely calls for more tech in NatSec, perhaps in operational reconnaissance, information gathering and processing, cybersecurity, etc.
10. Adhere to strengthen the teambuilding of national security cadres, strengthen Party-building on the national security front…create an indestructible team of national security cadres.
NOTES: It speaks for itself.
Also, glad to report and in the spirit of disclosure: the last newsletter focusing on a Politburo meeting was quoted in SupChina’s distinguished newsletter by Jeremy Goldkorn and retweeted by @XHnews on Twitter.
Lastly, today (Sunday, Nov. 13 is China’s national memorial day for the Nanjing Massacre victims in World War II.