State security covers political security, homeland security, military security, economic security, cultural security, social stability and information security, meaning that these can be understood as conditions for the regime’s continued monopoly on power. In order to fully grasp the Party’s notion of state security, it is relevant to understand the perceived threats to it, which are also threats to Party rule. An overarching threat, in the party’s mind, is the ideological infiltration of “Western hostile forces”, including foreign NGOs and international media. Rhetorically speaking, an individual’s personal security will not be safeguarded if the regime is not secure. Meanwhile there is an underlying assumption in China that those who act in line with the interests of the ruling class should be kept safe.
China’s emphasis on the Party-State as the key beneficiary of state security, rather than highlighting, for example, social and individual freedoms, is reflected in Article 2 of the National Security Law (NSL) of 2015: “State security refers to the relative absence of international or domestic threats to the state’s power to govern, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, the welfare of the people, sustainable economic and social development and other major national interests, and the ability to ensure a continued state of security” (emphasis added).
In Chapter 2, Article 15, the NSL furthermore defines “the state” as ruled by the CCP: “[t]he State persists in the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party”. Similar language can be found in China’s constitution. Hence, “state security” should ultimately be understood as security for the Party.
The primary missions of China’s civilian intelligence service, the Ministry for State Security (MSS), further reflect the Chinese concept of state security. In contrast to its equivalents in democracies, the MSS, for example, conducts espionage on dissidents with foreign connections at home, Uighurs, Tibetans, Taiwanese, democracy activists, and members of the Falungong movement, as well as their supporters overseas. This reflects concerns within the Party that these groups could become security threats, including any advocacy against Beijing which could negatively affect China’s international image.
An example of how the concept of ‘security’ is used by Chinese officials is Beijing’s efforts to defend the establishment of re-education camps in Xinjiang from 2017. While detainees have not been charged with any crimes, the Chinese government has depicted the camps as part of its counter-terrorism efforts, thereby safeguarding state security.
Cultural security is aimed at protecting Chinese society from cultural infiltration by hegemonic powers, Westernization and cultural decay. The concept of cultural security is intertwined with “ideological security”, which involves threats including “Western-style democracy, Western cultural hegemony, the diversified dissemination of Internet information and public opinion, and religious infiltration”. In 1994 Wang Huning, a member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee and a prominent ideologue, asserted that globalization should be understood as Western cultural hegemony, which constituted an existential threat to the party.
Food security is defined as national food self-sufficiency and is also aligned with regime security. This can be compared to the definition of the Food and Agriculture Organization, where food security is “a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Human security is understood in China as focused on the collective humankind, rather than emphasizing security for individuals, which is normally at the heart of human security discourses. In the Chinese conception, the state is seen as the key guarantor of human security, rather than as a threat to it.
This definition was written for the Decoding China project. To learn more about Decoding China, visit the project website HERE.