Xi Jinping tells China’s national security chiefs to prepare for ‘worst case’

Hong Kong | Wed May 31, 2023

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has called on his top national security officials to think about “worst case” scenarios and prepare for “stormy seas,” as the ruling Communist Party hardens efforts to counter any perceived internal and external threats.

At a meeting of the party’s National Security Commission on Tuesday, Xi stated that “the complexity and difficulty of the national security issues we now face have significantly increased.”

The key tests of strong winds, heavy waves, and even dangerous, stormy seas must be prepared for, he continued, adhering to bottom-line thinking and worst-case scenario thinking.

The latest strict directives from Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, come as Beijing deals with a number of difficulties, including a sputtering economy and what it perceives as a more hostile global climate.

Xi stated that China must expedite the upgrading of its national security system and capabilities in response to the “complex and grave” situation, with an emphasis on enhancing their effectiveness in “actual combat and practical use.”

Additionally, he urged China to advance the development of a national security risk monitoring and early warning system, strengthen national security education, and increase the management of data and AI security.

National security has become a central concept that permeates all facets of Chinese politics under Xi since he came to power ten years ago, according to experts.

He has broadened the definition of national security to include cyberspace in addition to politics, the economy, defense, culture, and ecology. It encompasses big data and artificial intelligence, as well as the polar regions, the deep sea, and space.

China has introduced a slew of regulations to defend itself against perceived dangers under Xi’s concept of “comprehensive national security,” including laws on counterterrorism, counterespionage, cybersecurity, foreign non-governmental organizations, national intelligence, and data security.

Most recently, it expanded the coverage of an already comprehensive counter-espionage statute to include all “documents, data, materials, or items related to national security and interests,” in addition to state secrets and intelligence.

“Everything in Xi’s PRC is national security and there is an intensifying focus on better coordinating security and development, with the security side winning out over the economics side it appears,” Bill Bishop, a long-time China observer, wrote in the Sinocism newsletter, using the People’s Republic of China’s official name for China.

Beijing implemented a broad national security measure in Hong Kong to quell dissent after the city was rocked by massive democracy rallies.

Numerous recent raids on foreign enterprises, notably American consulting company Bain & Company and due diligence firm Mintz Group, have added to the idea that security has supplanted economic growth as Beijing’s main concern.

The raids have alarmed global corporations at a time when the Chinese government is attempting to attract foreign investment to help resuscitate a faltering economy crippled by three years of zero-Covid regulations.

The 17th Japanese national to be jailed in China since the counter-espionage law was established in 2014, Chinese police apprehended an Astellas Pharma employee in Beijing in March on suspicion of espionage.

At the conference on Tuesday, Xi emphasized the need for China to take proactive steps to create a “secured external environment” in order to better safeguard the security of its “opening up” and “promote the deep integration of development and security.”

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