Ideological Security as National Security
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Ideological Security as National Security

In contrast to the United States and other democratic governments, Beijing sees ideology as an integral component of its national security. Jude Blanchette puts a translated essay on this topic in the context of Beijing’s national security strategy.

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Jude Blanchette

Freeman Chair in China Studies, CSIS

What is national security? In the United States and in democratic governments around the world, an important discussion is underway about how to rethink and reframe what should—and should not—be considered as core national security concerns. Emerging technologies and integrated global value chains have challenged more circumscribed and traditional conceptions of national security, but to date, there has been no concerted political discussion of how the concept should evolve to meet twenty-first-century realities.

This is in stark contrast with China under the Xi Jinping administration. Since Xi’s April 2014 speech outlining his Overall National Security Outlook (discussed below), “national security” has become not just a way of conceptualizing risk to the nation-state, but rather a highly expansionist political-ideological construct that has come to subsume nearly all elements of policymaking and political considerations. Rather than place “national security” in separate conceptual, policy, and bureaucratic silos from, for instance, economic development, the new Overall National Security Outlook seeks to fuse these elements so that economics, culture, technology, governance, and the like would all be seen as both critical inputs and successful outputs of an updated view of national security.

The implications of this evolving national security–first worldview are significant, not least of which is the transformation of the People’s Republic of China under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) into the twenty-first-century garrison state. As my former colleague Tai Ming Cheung recently observed, “China under Xi Jinping is seeking to establish itself as a leading power on the international stage, and the development of a more capable and assertive national security state is a critical component in this grand endeavor. This has meant that the country’s national security posture is in transition from being primarily defensively minded to combining both defensive and offensive elements.” From the draconian national security law in Hong Kong to Beijing’s iron-fisted crackdown in Xinjiang to its stepped-up campaign of political warfare against Taiwan, the fruits of Xi’s national security vision are becoming increasingly evident.

The translated essay below explores one of the proliferating components of Xi’s Overall National Security Outlook: ideology. Written by Tang Aijun, a researcher at the CCP Central Party School, the lengthy essay takes critical aim at “the West” for seeking to “subvert” the CCP’s hold on power through propagating “neoliberalism” and “universal values” such as democracy and the rule of law. While this ground has been covered in translations before, most notably in the 2013 “Communiqué on the Current State of the Ideological Sphere,” Tang’s piece offers important insights into how Beijing views official ideology as a cohering mechanism to overcome political pluralism and the forces of diversification. Finally, Tang offers suggestions for how Beijing might create a system of “ideological risk early-warning mechanisms” to help identify and eradicate discourse and ideas deemed detrimental to regime security.

In Washington, scholars, experts, and policymakers still debate whether the United States and China are in an ideological competition. There is no such debate in Beijing. As Xi declared in 2016, “Hostile Western forces have always regarded China’s development and growth as a threat to Western values and institutional models. They have not for a moment ceased their ideological infiltration of China.”

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