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PARPCC #3 With Xi, security is dethroning the economy – and we feel it so far

PARPCC #3 With Xi, security is dethroning the economy – and we feel it so far

Panda, Rice Alcohol and PCC

Panda, Rice Alcohol and PCC is a column of Camille Brugier, aimed at introducing scientific articles to a wider audience. His publications can be found on his thread Twitter.

“Security” – this word does not surprise anyone when talking about China. However, since Deng Xiaoping the Chinese leaders have preferred another word, that of development – ​​or of the economy, to speak more simply. With Xi, security has gained ground.

With Xi, security is dethroning the economy – and we feel it so far

It all started with a speech by Xi of 2014 in which he presented the new concept of "national security", followed by bitter discussions within the CCP. In effect, contrary to what is often said about authoritarian regimes with highly personalized power, Xi does not decide alone. For instance, this analysis shows that provinces and state-owned enterprises are also important players in Chinese foreign policy; this book talks about the power of the provinces in the implementation (or not) policies decided by the Party.

From a general point of view, it is within the PCC that the main orientations are negotiated, and priority between policies. The trigger for Xi came from abroad and growing tensions with the United States. Of the 2017, we have seen the new security-development “nexus” flourish in official documents. In 2021, highlight, the 14e plan quinquennal dropped the reference to the top priority of development.

This reshuffling of priorities also has an impact on foreign policy: China would now be more ready to take risks. For example, it would accept to suffer the economic consequences of actions aimed at ensuring its “security”., while this was a red line in the past. We have seen this new orientation at work with "wolves warriors", or in the more aggressive actions carried out by China in its near region (on the border with India, in the China Sea, etc).

For this article, Howard Wang examines what the official documents say, and in particular the most important ones such as the working reports of the CCP congresses, five-year plans or official press releases following plenaries. This type of document analysis is an indirect way of studying regimes that are not very transparent.. Wang's work is timely because we are at a pivotal moment of China's closure which impacts the work of researchers..

Chinese national security, the subject of the article, allows China to justify the limited access of foreigners to original Chinese sources. This is the case of statistics, which made it possible to carry out interesting analyzes such as this one on China's diplomacy budget. This also concerns access to the work of Chinese researchers.. These two types of sources were accessible on the Chinese database CNKI (the equivalent of our JSTOR or CAIRN). Or, since early April 2023, this database is no longer accessible outside of China.

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However, these sources are important: cross-referenced with other information (from the same corpus or not), they help to understand what is debated in China. Even more surprising, les expert.e.s chinois.e.s, thinking of talking among colleagues, sometimes mention “confidential” things in their articles. We have thus seen certain documents “leaked” (organizational charts, internal debates, etc.) and allow, for example, to reveal in broad daylight the existence of specific cells of the Chinese army (the famous base 311).

For these security reasons invoked by China, it is increasingly difficult to do quality open source research on the country. This is why Wang's article is interesting: for the subject it deals with, and because it is a subject in itself.

Reference: Howard Wang (2022): “Security Is a Prerequisite for Development’: Consensus-Building toward a New Top Priority in the Chinese Communist Party”, Journal of Contemporary China, August 2022.

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