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Modernizing the National Security System and Capacity


Guo Shengkun, a former State Councilor who led the Ministry of Public Security, identifies steps he believes Beijing should take to ensure national security amidst an environment he characterizes as increasingly unpredictable, uncertain, and filled with security threats. Guo emphasizes the importance of upholding CCP control of national security work, enhancing China’s economic and technological strength and independence, and improving public security governance.

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General Secretary Xi Jinping’s report at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took the overall development strategy of the Party and the nation as a starting point. The report put forward a strategic plan for modernizing the national security system and capacity; it also pointed out the direction and provided a fundamental guidepost for us to do a good job of safeguarding national security and social stability. We must take the study and implementation of the spirit of the 20th National Congress of the CCP as the primary political task. Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, we will deeply comprehend the decisive significance of the “Two Establishes,” strengthen the “Four Consciousnesses,” make resolute the “Four Confidences,” and accomplish the “Two Safeguards.” We will unswervingly implement the Overall National Security Outlook, strive to modernize the national security system and capacity, safeguard national security throughout the entire process of the Party and country’s work to ensure national security and social stability, and finally, make greater contributions to both comprehensively build a modern socialist country and also promote the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. 


 I. Fully understand the important significance of modernizing the national security system and capacity


Since the 18th National Congress of the CCP, General Secretary Xi Jinping has used the profound insight and theoretical creativity of a Marxist statesman, thinker, and strategist to coordinate the overall strategy of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as well as the great changes in the world unseen in a century. From the strategic height of adhering to and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, he has combined Marxist national security theory and contemporary China’s security practices together with the Chinese nation’s excellent traditional strategic culture. Xi has also creatively put forward the Overall National Security Outlook—it profoundly answers how to solve general security issues that are confronted during the development process of a major country as well as how to deal with major contemporary special security issues that are confronted during the critical stage of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Xi promotes the historic leap in the theory and practice of Chinese-style national security, and he has made major, original contributions to the development of Marxist national security theory. In this way, Xi Jinping has provided a fundamental action guide that should be followed in the effort to modernize the national security system and capacity. 


At present, the world’s great changes unseen in a century are accelerating, and characteristics associated with global changes, era changes, and historical changes are more obvious. China’s development is facing new strategic opportunities, new strategic tasks, new strategic stages, new strategic requirements, and new strategic environments. The risks and challenges that need to be responded to as well as the contradictions and issues that need to be solved are more complicated than before. As such, modernizing the national security system and capacity has taken on a greater and more profound significance. 


(1) Modernizing the national security system and capacity is a necessary requirement for guarding against and defusing risks and challenges as well as for providing a strong guarantee for the comprehensive construction of a modern socialist country. National security is the foundation of national rejuvenation, and social stability is the prerequisite for national power and prosperity. In the not very distant past, China gradually became a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. The painful lessons of national humiliation, the suffering of the people, and the fleeing dust of civilization tell us that without national security, the Chinese nation cannot control its own destiny. The report at the 20th National Congress of the CCP pointed out that “today we are closer, more confident, and capable of realizing the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than at any time in history; at the same time, we must be prepared to make more arduous and more strenuous efforts.” In this way, the report requires us to “rely on tenacious struggle to open up a cause for development in a new world.” China’s development has entered a period in which strategic opportunities, risks, and challenges coexist and uncertain and unpredictable factors are increasing. Various “black swan” and “gray rhino” incidents may occur at any time. The risks and tests that we face are becoming more and more complicated. We must be all the more conscious of unexpected developments and prepared to withstand big tests of wind, high waves, and even rough seas. Only by adhering to bottom-line thinking, being prepared for danger during times of safety, planning for rainy days, carrying forward the spirit of struggle, enhancing our capacity to struggle, accurately grasping new changes and new trends in the national security situation, and making efforts to modernize the national security system and capacity can we effectively guard against and diffuse major security risks. Furthermore, only by doing these aforementioned things can we provide a strong security guarantee for the comprehensive construction of a socialist modernized country as well as the comprehensive push towards the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. 


(2) Modernizing the national security system and capacity is a necessary requirement for modernizing the national governance system and administering capacity as well as for writing a new chapter in “China’s governance.” Or put differently, the modernization of the national security system and capacity is important for modernizing the national governance system and administering capacity. Since the 18th National Congress of the CCP—and interwoven between the changing circumstances of the century and the epidemic—there has been a clear-cut contrast in that “the East is rising, and the West is declining.” Under the staunch leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, it is vitally important that we have proceeded from national conditions and reality and have insisted on coordinating and managing the two major issues of development and security. We have written new chapters about the two major miracles of rapid economic development and long-term social stability and also laid an important cornerstone for advancing “China’s governance.” At present, China’s development is in a new historical position, and national governance is confronting many new tasks. These realities have put forward new and higher requirements for the national security system and capacity. Only by taking reform and innovation as driving forces and by striving to improve the national security system into a complete system with scientific norms and effective operations can we ensure that the national security system is compatible with the modernization process of the national governance system and administering capacity. 


(3) Modernizing the national security system and capacity is a necessary requirement for constructing a more secure China and for satisfying the ever-growing security needs of the people. Having a country that is both prosperous and secure is the most fundamental and universal aspiration of the people. Safeguarding national security is in the fundamental interests of people of all ethnic groups across the country. In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, security is becoming ever more important, diversified, and multi-layered in people’s pursuit of a better life. From life and property security to various factors such as secure employment, safe housing, well-being, and peace-of-mind, the connotation of security continues to expand; standard requirements are both newer and higher. Only by continuously modernizing the national security system and capacity, by striving to construct a more secure China, and by striving to solve the most direct and real security issues that the people are most concerned about, can the people’s sense of gain, happiness, and security be more substantial, ensured, and sustainable and better satisfy the people’s yearning for a better life.


II. Accurately grasp the general requirements for modernizing the national security system and capacity


The 20th Party Congress report clarified the overall requirements for modernizing the national security system and capacity. We must firmly grasp, persist, and resolutely implement these requirements in practice. 


(1) Adhere to the absolute leadership of the Party. This is the highest principle and fundamental pledge needed to modernize the national security system and capacity. Since the 18th Party Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping has attached great importance to national security work. He emphasizes that ensuring national security is a top priority and serves as the Chairman of the Central Committee’s National Security Commission (NSC). Xi Jinping makes strategic plans and comprehensive arrangements for national security; he uses his uncommon political wisdom, outstanding skills in the art of struggling, and firm willpower to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests. He furthermore promotes the continuous improvement of the national security leadership system, legal system, strategic system, and policy system. National security has been comprehensively strengthened and has withstood risks, challenges, and tests from fields such as politics, economics, ideology, and the natural world. For these reasons, a strong guarantee has been provided for the prosperity and long-term stability of the Party and the country. Practice has fully proved that it is precisely because General Secretary Xi Jinping is the core of the Party Central Committee and the core navigator and operator of the entire Party that the safeguarding of national security has a backbone that is of the greatest reliability. We must do the following to modernize the national security system and capacity: focus attention and energy on upholding both the Party’s absolute leadership over national security work as well as the Party Central Committee’s centralized and unified leadership over national security work, unswervingly follow the path of national security with Chinese characteristics, improve institutional mechanisms and systems, and earnestly implement the Party’s leadership throughout the entire process of all aspects of national security work. 


(2) Treating people’s security as the purpose. General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasizes that “This country is its people; the people are the country. As the Communist Party of China has led the people in fighting to establish and develop the People’s Republic, it has really been fighting for their support.” Treating people’s security as the purpose is a concrete manifestation of the nature, purpose, and original mission of our Party; this purpose is also fundamental for modernizing the national security system and capacity. The prevention, control, and fight against Covid-19 fully reflects this point. In the face of the epidemic’s sudden outbreak, General Secretary Xi Jinping made resolute decisions, made in-person arrangements, and personally commanded the situation. He clearly raised the point that the people are supreme, and life is paramount. He led us in persisting against the import of cases from abroad as well as the defense against a rebound of domestic cases. The unwavering insistence on a “dynamic zero” policy launched a people’s war of resisting the epidemic. The total warfare and blocking actions have maximized the protection of people’s lives, security, and health at the lowest cost. Under the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, more than 1.4 billion Chinese people have stood united together through thick and thin and built a firm defensive line for epidemic prevention and control. This historical test has fully demonstrated that national security work ultimately protects the interests of the people, and the people are the fundamental force for safeguarding national security. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to adhere to the idea that national security is all for the people, and it relies on the people. The protection of people’s security is always placed in the most important position. We must bring into play the enthusiasm, initiative, and creativity of the broad masses, and gather a powerful force for safeguarding national security. 


(3) Treating political security as fundamental. This is the top priority for modernizing the national security system and capacity. Political security is the highest form of national security as well as the lifeline for safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests. Political security occupies the leading position in national security. To safeguard political security, most fundamental is to safeguard the CCP’s leadership and ruling status and to safeguard the socialist system with Chinese characteristics. Looking back at history, the Chinese people and the Chinese nation are capable of ushering in and promoting a great leap in which standing up and getting rich leads to becoming strong. In the final analysis, it is the unremitting struggle of the people led by the CCP which has established both the foundation of the socialist system as well as the launch of, adherence to, and development towards the socialist road with Chinese characteristics. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to insist on giving top priority to political security, improve the political security work system, improve our capacity to prevent and defuse political security risks, and achieve the organic unity of political security, the people’s security, and national interests.  


(4) Treating economic security as the foundation. Development is the top priority of our Party as it governs and rejuvenates the country. Development is also the foundation and key to solving all of our country’s problems. Only by promoting sustainable and healthy economic development can we build a solid material foundation for people to live and work in peace and contentment, to have social stability and order, and ensure the country’s long-term peace and stability. In the process of winning tough battles such as epidemic prevention, flood prevention, and earthquake resistance as well as responding to external blackmail, containment, blockades, and extreme pressure, we have accumulated comprehensive national strength over a long period of time since the founding of New China—especially since reform and opening. We have calmly responded to these perilous situations with profound confidence and vigor. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to strengthen our response to economic security risk through early warnings, prevention and control mechanisms, and capacity building. We must also achieve security and control in crucial areas such as important industries, infrastructure, strategic resources, and science and technology. Furthermore, we must continuously enhance economic strength, technological strength, and comprehensive national power. Finally, we must use achievements in development to make firm and strengthen the foundation of national security. 


(5) Treating the military, science and technology, culture, and social security as guarantees. Military methods maintain a basic level of national security. Science and technology are the foundation of a country’s prosperity. Culture is the soul of a nation and a country. Social security relates to economic development and the well-being of the people. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to actively adapt to new situations and problems that are confronted by the military and in the science and technology, culture, and social fields. We must also abide by the characteristics and laws of these different fields, and establish and improve various countermeasures to strengthen foundations and avert disaster. In order to safeguard national security, we must provide both hard power and soft power guarantees. 


(6) Treating the promotion of international security as a support measure. In the era of economic globalization, the security of all countries is interrelated. No country can achieve its own security independent of international security. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to promote the establishment of a common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable global security concept. We must also strengthen international security cooperation, jointly build a universally secure “community with a shared future for humanity, and actively construct a good external security environment for our country’s modernization drive. 


(7) Overall planning for external security and internal security, homeland security and national security, traditional security and non-traditional security, and self-security and common security. National security is a systematic project, and various factors are very complicated. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to adhere to scientific overall planning, strengthen systemic thinking, and strengthen dialectical thinking. We must comprehensively grasp situations and entire schemes and coordinate our drive forward. We must also strive to solve the problem of imbalance and inadequacy in national security work. In this way, we can achieve overall management, positive interactions, and common strength in all aspects of security. 


(8) Overall planning for safeguarding and shaping national security. Safeguarding and shaping national security are integrated projects. Shaping national security is a higher-level and more forward-looking type of safeguarding. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to accurately grasp the general development trend of the world today and of the times. We must also grasp the law in changing situations, seek advantages and avoid disadvantages in chaotic situations, strive for the initiative when it comes to struggle, constantly shape an overall favorable national security strategic situation, and firmly hold the strategic initiative to safeguard national security in our own hands. 


(9) Make firm the grassroots foundation of national security and social stability. With regards to safeguarding national security and social stability, the center of focus and power is at the grassroots level. To modernize the national security system and capacity, we must do the following: stick with the direction of problems, keep an eye on shortcomings and weak spots at the grassroots level, strengthen the construction of grassroots organizations, do a good job of ensuring grassroots work, lay firm groundwork, improve professional capabilities, and strengthen grassroots cadres and the masses to safeguard national security as well as their awareness of and capacity for social stability. 


(10) Improving mechanisms for participating in global security governance. The world today is not peaceful. Global security issues are becoming more prominent, security threats are emerging one after another, and it is imperative to strengthen global security governance. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to encourage the global security governance system to face a more just and reasonable developmental direction. We must also hold high the banner of cooperation, innovation, rule of law, and win-win results. Finally, we must continuously improve mechanisms for participating and cooperating in international and regional security, promote the construction of relevant new mechanisms and rules within the domain of security governance, and contribute wisdom and strength to global security governance. 


(11) Build a higher level of peace and safety in China. Since the 18th Party Congress, the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core has focused on the long-term peace and order of the country, focused on letting the people live and work in peace and contentment, and encouraged the country to march towards a higher level of peace and safety. In 2021, the people’s satisfaction level regarding the building of peace and safety reached 98.62 percent. The international community generally believes that China is one of the safest countries in the world. The 20th Party Congress report clarified the main objectives and tasks for the next five years; it requires solid progress regarding the building of a China that is at peace and safe. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to accurately grasp the new situation and new tasks confronting the building of peace and safety in China. We must also comprehensively improve our scientific, social, legal, and intellectual level as we build a peaceful and safe country. Finally, we must strive to build a peaceful and safe country that possesses an advanced level of overall planning, possesses more governance efficiency, is more secure and stable, and has a more satisfied populace. 


(12) Use the new security pattern to assure the new development pattern. Accelerating the construction of the new development pattern—which features internal circulation as the main body as well as domestic-international dual circulation—was a major policy decision made by the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core after sizing up the current situation. This acceleration is a major strategic task related to the overall development of our country. Firmly holding on to the bottom line of secure development is an important prerequisite and assurance for building a new development pattern. To modernize the national security system and capacity, it is necessary to coordinate and safeguard various factors, fields, resources, and means of national security. We must accelerate the establishment of a new security pattern that is compatible with the new development pattern, and fight the overall battle to safeguard national security. In these ways, high-level security will assure high-quality development.  


III. Earnestly implement the major task of modernizing the national security system and capacity 


The 20th Party Congress report clearly requires that by 2035 our society will maintain long-term stability, and the national security system and capacity will be comprehensively strengthened. We must consciously benchmark ourselves against the strategic offerings that were put forth in the 20th Party Congress report, and focus on the major task of modernizing the national security system and capacity. It is also necessary for us to conduct in-depth research and planning, to refine work measures, and push forward implementation with a strong sense of responsibility. Doing so will ensure that all requirements are performed effectively. 


(1) Solidify the national security system. First of all, adhere to system concepts, improve in areas such as forward-looking thinking, overall planning, and holistic advancement, and form systematic cooperation and combat capabilities. It is also necessary to refine the leadership system. Adhere to the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee for national security work, unswervingly implement the chairmanship of the Central Committee National Security Commission, and improve the highly efficient and authoritative national security leadership system. Fully implement the national security responsibility system, and thoroughly implement the Party Central Committee’s decisions and strategies concerning national security work. It is likewise necessary to improve work mechanisms. Strengthen coordination mechanisms for national security work, and improve the coordination and command system for important special projects. Next, improve the national security review and supervisory system, crisis management and control mechanisms, and other institutional mechanisms. It is necessary to improve the rule of law, strategy, policy, risk monitoring, early warning mechanisms, and the national emergency management system. Strengthen legal guarantees for national security, actively promote legislation in important areas, and improve the national security legal system with Chinese characteristics. Accelerate the strategic deployment of foreign affairs legal work, and improve countersanctions mechanisms, interference, and “long-arm jurisdiction.” Thoroughly implement the “National Security Strategy Outline,” and strengthen security guarantees and systems in facets such as the economy, major infrastructure, finance, networks, data, biology, natural resources, nuclear, space, and the oceans. Finally, improve the overall distribution of national security power, and set-up a national security protection system that is globally linked, multi-dimensional, and highly efficient. 


(2) Strengthen the capacity to safeguard national security. Place more attention on coordination and efficiency, rule of law thinking, science and technology empowerment, and grassroots foundations. Make an overall plan to advance national security work in various fields. We must resolutely safeguard political security. Strictly guard against and severely crack down on infiltration, sabotage, subversion, and separatist activities by hostile forces. Thoroughly carry out the anti-terrorism struggle, resolutely win the ideological struggle on the internet, and resolutely safeguard regime security, system security, and ideological security. It is necessary to strengthen security capabilities in key areas. Ensure the security of food, energy resources, and the supply chains of important industrial chains. Strengthen overseas security guarantees and capabilities. Safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens abroad—including those in the field of law. Safeguard maritime rights and interests. Resolutely defend national sovereignty, security, and development interests. Improve the ability to prevent and resolve major risks, and strictly guard against systemic security risks. It is necessary to improve the national security consciousness and capabilities of cadres and the masses. Taking the implementation of national security leadership and work responsibilities as the starting point, comprehensively strengthen national security education, and encourage leading cadres at all levels to more consciously coordinate the two major issues of development and security. Performing these actions will allow us to fulfill our responsibility of defending our land. Strengthen Party building on the national security front, adhere to the Party’s political construction as the lead, and forge a loyal, pure, and reliable national security cadre team. Strengthen the national security consciousness and self-cultivation of the entire populace, and through the people build a durable national security line of defense. 


(3) Increase the level of public security governance. Public security is connected to economic and social development on one end, and innumerable households on the other end. Public security must have a footing in current situations and in the solving of outstanding problems. At the same time, however, public security must also consider the long-run by constantly improving system mechanisms, by increasing public security guarantees and capabilities, and by earnestly safeguarding the security of people’s lives and property. We must strengthen our ability to take precautions. Insist that security comes first, and precautions take priority. Establish a largescale security and emergency response framework. We must also improve the public security system, and strengthen the construction of systems and mechanisms such as information source control, precision monitoring and early warning, and dynamic risk assessment. Promote the transformation of the public security governance model so that it is able to take precautionary measures. Promote the integration of urban and rural public security supervision, law enforcement, and comprehensive management. Guard the first juncture of grassroots public security, and rectify special projects as needed. Improve and implement security production and responsibility systems. Strengthen security supervision in important industries and key fields. Carry out in-depth investigations of security hazards, rectify them as needed, and effectively contain major security incidents. Adhere to the most stringent standards, the strictest supervision, the sternest punishments, and the highest level of accountability. Strengthen the supervision of food and medicine security, and ensure that “security is on the tip of the tongue” of the masses. Solidify biosecurity supervision, including early warning, prevention, and control systems; comprehensively improve the country’s biosecurity governance capabilities. Strengthen the protection of personal information to ensure data security. It is necessary to improve disaster prevention, mitigation, and relief capabilities. Prioritize prevention, and integrate prevention and rescue. In an integrated fashion, persistently mitigate normal disasters and provide relief from abnormal disasters. Establish an efficient and scientific natural disaster prevention and control system. Strengthen the construction of national and regional emergency response forces. Improve disaster prevention, mitigation, and relief capabilities. Finally, improve our capability to respond to significant and unexpected public emergencies. 


(4) Improve the social governance system. It is necessary to solidify the social governance system of joint development, joint governance, and shared benefits. We also need to increase the effectiveness of social governance. It is necessary to strengthen our ability to guard against and resolve conflicts and risks. Adhere to and develop the “Fengqiao Experience” in the new era. Improve mechanisms for correctly handling internal conflicts among people in new situations. Strengthen and improve the work of responding to inquiries and complaints from the populace. Smooth out and standardize channels for the expression of public demands, the coordination of interests, and the protection of rights and interests. Improve grassroots governance platforms that feature network management, meticulous service, and information support. Solidify the urban and rural community governance system. Promptly resolve conflicts and disputes at the grassroots level when issues are just starting to emerge. It is necessary to accelerate the modernization of urban social governance. Give full play to the political advantages of the Party’s leadership. Coordinate the forces of the government, society, and market. Improve the organizational structure and organizational methods of social governance in urban areas. Strengthen social governance capabilities in urban areas, and strive to prevent and resolve major risks in cities. It is also necessary to strengthen the overall control of law and order. Implement anti-organized crime laws to the fullest extent, and regularly crackdown on and sweep away evil. In accordance with the law, severely punish various illegal and criminal activities—such as pornography, gambling, drugs, food and drug abuse, theft, telecommunications fraud, and internet fraud—that persist in the masses. Comprehensively implement prevention and control measures and industry supervision. Actively promote the construction of a multidimensional information-based social security defense and control system. Vigorously promote the society-wide “one, three, five minute” quick response mechanism, and effectively enhance social control. We need to develop and strengthen the power of public participation in crime prevention and control. We also need to strengthen efforts to be brave and righteous and to promote righteousness and morale. It is necessary to create a social atmosphere of being brave in the pursuit of justice. Improve the organizational form and institutionalized channels for the masses to participate in the construction of security. New work mechanisms for the masses need to be created for the internet age. Finally, we need to better absorb the wisdom and strength of the people, and we need to foster a social governance community in which everyone is responsible, everyone fulfills their responsibilities, and everyone shares the benefits. 


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郭声琨 (Guo Shengkun) (2023). "Modernizing the National Security System and Capacity [推进国家安全体系和能力现代化]". Interpret: China, Original work published November 24, 2022, https://interpret.csis.org/translations/modernizing-the-national-security-system-and-capacity/

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