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While no threats threaten Xi Jinpings’ authority, China’s changing homeland security landscape reveals systemic cracks

Internal security is an integral part of the strategic dynamics of state security. However, for authoritarian regimes and political ideologies, where power flows from the barrel of the weapon, the concept transcends this traditional role and becomes a tool of both political survival and power for rulers. As such, it becomes crucial for authoritarian rulers to exercise absolute command over the state’s internal security apparatus.

It is in this context that the recent fall in China of top security officials to corruption and the creation of a new small ruling group take on importance. At the very beginning, they reflect the vulnerabilities perceived by Chinese President Xi Jinpings and one of Beijing’s main socio-political dilemmas.

Commentary | The gradation of the aura of a Chinese strong man

Targets of anti-graft training

In addition to sanctioning aggressive foreign policy posture and military assertiveness in various sovereignty disputes in China, Xi announced his post-COVID-19 blitzkrieg on the national stage by once again launching an attack on the soi – saying tigers through his fight against corruption. campaign. Among others, the former deputy minister of public security, Sun Lijun, is one of the main officials accused of corruption. This makes Sun the third vice-ministerial-level official in China’s Ministry of Public Security to have fallen in recent years since the arrests of Meng Hongwei and Li Dongsheng in 2018 and 2016, respectively. Notably, Meng was president of Lyon-based Interpol at the time of his arrest.

In addition to his high-profile status, Suns’ arrest is significant as he was the head of the Prime Office Ministry which deals with sensitive issues of homeland security and Hong Kong affairs. Police chiefs in major provinces such as Shanghai (Gong Daoan) and Chongqing (Deng Huilin) ​​are other senior security officials accused of corruption.

Deng Huilin’s arrest once again underscores Chongqing’s challenge that Mr. Xi first took up in the form of the infamous Bo Xilai scandal which involved an alleged coup attempt against the Chinese president shortly after taking office. Chongqing has become one of the main targets of the anti-corruption campaign, with several senior officials falling under the net of corruption over the years.

Commentary | For Chinas Xi, coronavirus challenge comes with economic costs and political risks

Challenges from within

The arrests of Meng, Sun and Deng follow Mr. Xis’ struggles with the security establishment that began with the fall of former public security czar and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang in 2014 Although the information remains sketchy, it is widely believed that Sun, Meng and Li were close to Zhou who himself was considered a prominent member of the Shanghai clique, the powerful faction of the Chinese Communist Party led by his patriarch and former Chairman Jiang Zemin. Viewed in this light, Xi appears to continue to face the challenges of fragments of a faction that once catapulted him to the top of Chinese politics, but has since become one of his main targets in the quest for supremacy.

At one level, these cases serve to underscore the depth of the malevolent corruption within the Chinese Communist Party; they also highlight Mr. Xi’s ever-increasing efforts to exercise absolute authority over China’s internal security apparatus; therefore, they reveal a possible challenge to his meticulously crafted and skillfully marketed all-powerful image. In fact, as prominent Chinese observers noted, a 2015 article (by Xinhua) listed the national security forces as one of the 12 expressions most frequently used by Xi in his first two. years in office.

Read also | The rise and rise of Xi Jinping

Planned events

Another initiative that highlights Mr X’s renewed efforts to control internal security mechanisms is the launch of a nationwide campaign to rectify the education of politicians and law enforcement officials. The goal is to scrape the poison from the bones of the country’s political and legal systems under the aegis of the Central Committee on Political and Legal Affairs (CPLC), China’s top law enforcement and law enforcement body. public security. This campaign will run from next year in the first quarter of 2022. A pilot program will be tested in some regions between July and October of this year. Interestingly, 2022 is the year the CPC is due to hold its 20th Party Congress. It will be perhaps one of the most important political events in recent Chinese history, as it will decide the political fate of Mr. Xis and the continuation of his direct or indirect influence (via a fully loyalist political office ) on the country. In addition, the commission announced its intention to use technological advancements such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and big data to help monitor its police and judges.

Along with this campaign, a new body called the Safe China Construction Small Coordination Group has been established with CPLC Secretary Guo Shengkun as its head. This group has been tasked with tackling emerging challenges for the country’s social and political stability. It should be noted that at a Politburo Standing Committee meeting in February, Xi called the coronavirus pandemic a major test for China’s system of governance, with implications for the country’s social stability.

Read also | Chinese Communist Party says Xi’s top leader: Xinhua

In fact, these new measures came amid a growing international chorus against Chinese policies in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, the South China Sea, and China’s land dispute with India. Domestically, Xi has faced rare public criticism from individuals such as Xu Zhangrun, a (now former) professor at Tsinghua University (incidentally, alma mater presidents) and others. princelings or second generation reds such as Ren Zhiqiang and Cai Xia. Faced with an increasingly complex international and domestic scenario, it is no coincidence that Mr. Xi wants to maintain strict control over the security establishment of the Chinese Party-state.

Mix the game

While these latest moves are to a large extent governed by Mr. Xis’ assessment of China’s current vulnerabilities (and his own), they nonetheless complement his efforts since coming to power to place the internal security front. under its supreme control. A key initiative in this regard was the restructuring of the command structure of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) in 2017-2018. Prior to 2018, the PAP had a dual command structure in which it reported to both the Council of State and the Central Military Commission (CMC). With the restructuring, the PAP now operates under the sole command of the CMC, and therefore of its chairman, Mr. Xi. In addition, Xi created at least two new institutions to streamline, better integrate, and oversee China’s internal security apparatus in the form of the Central National Security Commission and the National Monitoring Commission. These bodies were created in 2013 and 2018, respectively. However, little information is available on the exact nature, role and activities of these institutions.

Read also | X’s obsession with looking strong amid domestic unrest, likely reasons for China’s rogue behavior, experts say

Upon closer inspection, recent developments in China’s domestic security landscape may not indicate a significant threat to Mr. Xis’ authority. They nevertheless give an overview of the existing cracks in the Chinese system.

Shikha Aggarwal is a fellow of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan Fellow at National Chengchi University

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