China’s National Security Concerns
The remarks made by Chen Yixin, the secretary-general of the Political and Legal Work Commission (PLWC) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on January 10 showed that China has tremendous national security concerns at a time when the CPC is entering its 100thanniversary in 2021.
The PLWC conference was held in Beijing on January 9 and 10. Chen Yixin said that the political and legal work in China encountered tremendous responsibilities and duties, great expectations, and the need to promote high quality development in ten areas.
First and foremost, members of the mainland law-enforcement agencies should learn how to implement “Xi Jinping’s rule of law thought” and all the police dealing with political and legal work must be the “faithful believers,” “active preachers” and “model implementation agents.”
Chen’s remarks on January 10 here were not new. On December 30, 2020, he had written an article in the People’s Daily, emphasizing that “the Xi Jinping rule of law thought is the newest result of the Sinification of Marxism” in China. Chen stressed that Xi Jinping as the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party is a “political statesman, thinker and strategist” who has made tremendous contributions to Karl Marx’s rule of law thought. Specifically, President Xi has emphasized that the rule of law construction is made for the sake of the people’s interest, rights, welfare and expectations, and that the rule of law implementation can strengthen public satisfaction, well-being and safety.
Second, Chen added on January 10 that security work must be consolidated at a significant time when the Party is entering its 100thanniversary. Given the emphasis of high-level officials on the need to ensure national security in the PRC in 2021, it is natural to witness a tightening of national security not only in the mainland, but also in Hong Kong and Macau.
Third, Chen said that China seeks to promote “healthy and stable development in Sino-American relations” and to cooperate with law-enforcement agencies externally in the security aspect. The service and protection mechanism in the Belt and Road initiatives must be maintained so that China can protect its national sovereignty, security and development interest.
Fourth, according to Chen, it is necessary to “resolutely protect the nation’s political security” and to “prevent hostile elements from infiltration, subversion and damaging activities.” Moreover, the PRC must “promote the implementation of the Hong Kong national security law, to consolidate the struggle and fruits of success in anti-terrorism and anti-secession, to systematically control the security risks of the Internet, and to construct an iron and a steel wall that can protect the nation’s political security.”
The remarks made by Chen are important to the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau. While the implementation of the national security law has led to a series of arrests and prosecutions of some people who allegedly violated the law, as we can witness the developments of Hong Kong, any website regarded as endangering national security is vulnerable to being controlled. For example, in Hong Kong, a website that allegedly revealed the identities of some law-enforcement authorities and pro-government elites was recently stopped for some hours due to the need for “investigation.”
Fifth, Chen mentioned the need to consolidate the service protection of the rule of law. The catchword of “service protection” includes the need to stabilize six areas and to protect six other aspects. The six areas that need to be stabilized include “residents’ employment, their basic livelihood, the market entity, the safety of food and energy supplies, the stability in the protection of the supply chain and logistics, and the protection of basic-level fortune.” The six other aspects that need to be protected, according to a resolution at the Politburo meeting of the Chinese Communist Party on July 31, 2018, include employment, monetary and financial industry, foreign export, foreign investment, domestic investment, and the stability of economic predictions. What Chen mentioned on January 10 was to build up from the previous resolutions reached by the Party to ensure continuities and stability during the Party’s 100thanniversary.
Sixth, Chen emphasized the importance of promoting urban and social governance in the mainland. Mainland cities are divided into three types: large, medium and small ones each of which has its governing characteristics, and each necessitates the implementation of the rule of law and different levels of risks assessment. He added that contradictions and risks in a city will be confined and they will be allowed to spread out. By implication, any protest, unstable event, accident or public health crisis would be contained in the city concerned, just like any outbreak of Covid-19 in any mainland city which requires “wartime” mobilization and immediate containment of the infectious disease.
All residents in the city affected by Covid-19 must undergo not only health tests but also confinement so that the disease cannot easily spread to other places. For instance, Shijiazhuang city in Hebei province on January 13 reportedly had 398 locals infected with Covid-19. The city envisaged an immediate lockdown and the prompt evacuation of some 5,500 residents from three villages to quarantine facilities.
Seventh, the mechanism of fighting against crime and gangs is undergoing the process of normalization. On January 4, Chen had held the 12thannual conference of fighting against crime, emphasizing that the three-year fight-crime campaign from 2019 to 2021 was not only successful but also characterized by prompt action taken by the police to combat criminal elements.
Chen revealed that the central-level law-enforcement agencies play a leadership role in overseeing the anti-crime work at the local level. Most importantly, local-level law-enforcement authorities must fulfill their targets of crime control. The purpose of central-level leadership is clear; local-level “protective umbrella” involving corrupt officials and criminal elements must be smashed and intensive performance appraisals are conducted to ensure effective local-level implementation of crime control.
Eighth, Chen pointed to the need for continuous supervision of the judicial authorities and the necessity of judicial reforms so that the public feel confident of the judiciary. As early as February 2020, Chen Yixin espoused his theory of judicial reforms in a mainland magazine named Qiushi, pointing to the need for the party committee and the political and legal work committee to supervise the work of the judiciary. He also recognized the necessity of streamlining the litigation procedures, using the prosecution branch to scrutinize the judicial branch, and increasing the transparency and legitimacy of judicial operation through a rigorous process of anti-corruption and control over the utilization of hidden actions among corrupt actors. Clearly, Chen has identified the weaknesses of China’s judiciary and suggested concrete remedies to tackle judicial corruption, inefficiency and operations.
Ninth, Chen has elaborated on the need for the political and legal work team members to undergo education and reform. In the Qiushi article published in February 2020, Chen had emphasized the importance of requiring the leaders of political and legal work to obey the law, implement the law and undergo educational training to understand and publicize the law. Like many other Confucian officials in ancient dynasties, Chen stressed the importance of sticking to moral values on the part of political and legal officers, promoting the “Chinese spirit” and “Chinese rule.” On the other hand, Chen realizes the need for political and legal officers to treat socialism as the core value, apart from the need to attach importance to social morals, professional ethics, family virtues and individual good conduct.
If Marxists emphasize the importance of economic base over superstructure, Chinese Marxists like Chen have equally stressed the significance of superstructure, which embraces Chinese cultural values and the socialist ideology. Not surprisingly, Chen in his People’s Daily article in late December 2020 asserted that the Xi Jinping rule of law thought represents “the Sinification of Marxism.”
Tenth, Chen has emphasized the necessity of preventing and containing Covid-19 effectively and concretely. Given the outbreak of some Covid-19 cases in Hebei, Jilin, Beijing and Heilongjiang, where invisible cases have been found, the mainland police have been playing a critical role of conducting quarantine work, while customs authorities adopt strict measures to inspect the food products imported into China. All other prisons, detention centers, and drugs rehabilitation centers are also regarded as crucial areas that need stringent controls over the possibility of outbreak of Covid-19.
Finally, Chen Yixin has emphasized the importance of maintaining high alert over security issues from now to the Lunar Chinese New Year when citizens will have to enjoy their holidays happily and safely.
It must be noted that Chen’s detailed remarks on China’s national security were made amid the publication of “Rule of Law China’s Construction Plan, 2020-2025,” which has mentioned that it is necessary to “prevent and oppose foreign forces’ intervention in the matters of Hong Kong and Macau, and to maintain Hong Kong and Macau’s long-term prosperity and stability.”
One mainland commentator, Wang Jiang, has interpreted this statement in the plan as a sign that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) “cannot become a gap for the nation.” If so, the perception of the PRC authorities of the 2019 protests as a “color revolution” and of the HKSAR as a possible Trojan Horse for foreign states to “subvert” both Hong Kong and the mainland is a real one – a perception that guided the PRC to enact and implement the Hong Kong national security law.
The construction plan also highlights the need to “explore a Taiwan model of ‘one country, two systems’ to promote the nation’s peaceful reunification process.”
On January 16, Chen Yixin commented in the Central Party School’s graduation ceremony that mainland cadres must understand the trend of “Eastern rise and Western decline,” pointing to the decline of Western states like the US and the rise of China. This phenomenon, according to Chen, is favorable to the PRC and the rise of the Chinese nation. However, Chen alerted the graduates to the possibilities of any sudden economic crisis regionally and globally, and of any “infiltration, subversion and damage from foreign forces” into China. As such, it is necessary to “eliminate the soil that affects political security.”
In conclusion, Chen Yixin’s remarks on the multiple dimensions of national security in China are politically significant. Born in Zhejiang province and previously worked in Hubei and Wuhan as party secretaries, Chen has been regarded as a rising star with bright prospects in Chinese politics. In 2020, he was one of the key leaders dealing with the containment of Covid-19 in China. The ten areas of security concerns outlined by Chen on January 10 concretely spelt out the dimensions of national security in the PRC not only in 2021 but also in the coming years