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TematicheCina e Indo-PacificoChina's leadership and national security challenges

China’s leadership and national security challenges

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A senior Chinese official has, inadvertently or otherwise, hit the nail on the head by reflecting on the current challenges his country faces, including the leadership challenge, and by quoting from the reports presented at the recent 20th Party Congress no less. Of course, he wrote this much before the Covid-19 lockdown spree of the Xi Jinping administration, that resulted in people taking to the streets to give vent to their anger with the leadership’s zero-Covid policy, which reflects the fact that not everything is running smoothly in the country

Liu Haixing, deputy director of the Central National Security Commission office, recently wrote an article in People’s Daily on national security issues, calling for a deeper understanding of “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, unswervingly implement the comprehensive national security concept, dare to struggle and be good at fighting, and continue to break new ground in the modernisation of national security in the new era”. At the outset, however, Liu referred to several tests the Chinese Communist Party faces, such as the test of long-term rule, of reform and opening-up, of building a market economy and of the external environment. The reference to long-term rule is noteworthy with all its implications. He goes on to write: “All these are long-term and complex tests. The risks from spiritual slackening (cadres losing faith basically or having insufficient sense of belief and purpose), lack of ability, separation from the masses, and passive corruption are acute and grave. The Party’s work style and clean government construction and anti-corruption efforts also face stubborn and recurring problems.” A near-prescient observation as the Covid unrest unravels, astounding the party leadership for the first time since the Tiananmen Square protests. 

Haixing feels that the national challenges facing the communist government are bound to create new problems in the coming days. Needless to say, he refrains from explaining who or what is causing the problems. According to him, doing a good job in regard to national security is an inevitable requirement for building a modern socialist power and realising the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. As the theory goes, the more socialist China develops and expands, the more Chinese-style modernisation moves forward and expands, the greater the resistance and pressure it will encounter, and the more problems and difficulties it will face. “We must strengthen our sense of urgency, adhere to the bottom-line thinking, be prepared for danger in times of peace, prepare for a rainy day, be prepared to withstand the great test of high waves and turbulent storms, and constantly build a solid national security barrier.” He then talks about the risks and challenges that China faces, quoting President Xi Jinping’s report at the 20th Party Congress that states how the country has entered a period of development in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges are concurrent and uncertainties and unforeseen factors are rising. Various ‘black swan’ and ‘gray rhino’ events may occur at any time, is the warning that Haixing offers. That is obliquely admitting that the top Chinese leadership is aware of the impact of current inadequacies. 

Furthermore, Liu explains the external environment China faces today. It can be safely assumed that his statement is not entirely different from what the leadership feels. The external environment remains unstable and uncertain. In the new era, the international balance of power is undergoing profound adjustment; unilateralism, protectionism, hegemonism, and power politics are posing increasing threats to world peace and security; anti-globalisation trends are rising. “The Cold-War mentality has been partially revived, and the combined impact of the once-in-a-century changes and the once-in-a-century epidemic has brought the world into a new period of turbulent change. The outbreak of the Ukraine crisis; the increasingly acute and complex nature of challenges like climate change, food security, energy security, and the emergence of regional hotspots and local conflicts have all made the international situation volatile; their efforts to contain and suppress China have continued to increase, and could escalate at any time.” 

About the domestic challenges, Liu argues that the problem of unbalanced and insufficient development is still prominent, economic development is facing the triple pressure of demand contraction, supply shock and weakening expectations, the reform task in key areas is still arduous, key bottlenecks persist in terms of China’s science and technology innovation capacity, there is a major test with regard to the security of supply chains related to food, energy, resources, finance and industrial chains, there are many challenges in the ideological field, the risk exposure in key areas has increased, the superposition, linkage, conduction and resonance effects of various risks are enhanced. At the end of a long-drawn article where Liu enunciates the principles of national security, he returns to the faithful leadership theme where all ideas in China, whether of policy, personality or change converge: “Firmly safeguard the security of state power, system and ideology; with regard to sensitive factors and incipient tendencies that can easily induce political problems, especially major emergencies, we should keep our eyes open, see things early, and act quickly to promptly remove potential political dangers, and severely crack down on infiltration, sabotage, subversion, and separatist activities by hostile forces.”

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