China's security focus on 'external, local threats'

China's security focus on 'external, local threats'

China's new "national security commission" will focus equally on the country's internal and external security challenges, analysts say.

Their assessment was based on remarks by President Xi Jinping last Friday that cleared speculation about the proposed agency announced earlier in the week.

"China faces two security pressures: Internationally, the country needs to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests; domestically, political security and social stability should be ensured," Xinhua news agency quoted Mr Xi as saying.

Beijing-based security analyst Wang Xiangsui said the remarks showed the commission would be a "well-balanced agency" attaching equal weight to external and internal security challenges.

The commission was a big surprise at the Chinese Communist Party's Third Plenum last week, or the third full meeting of its Central Committee, traditionally a policy summit focused on economic and social issues.

But all that last Tuesday's communique said was that it would be tasked to "enhance the national security apparatus and strategies to ensure the country's safety".

The lack of details led to speculation on whether it would focus on internal or external security interests and who would head it.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang gave the impression of a stronger focus on domestic security when he emphasised "terrorism, separatism, and extremism" as targets of the commission.

Analysts like Renmin University foreign policy expert Jin Canrong had believed the new commission would tilt towards external security interests such as China's territorial disputes with its neighbours.

"For years, Chinese scholars like myself have been calling for the setting up of an agency like the US' National Security Council, which focuses more on external security challenges," he said.

"So when ours was announced, we thought it would also be fashioned after the US model."

In a lengthy note explaining the reform pledges, Mr Xi had said: "The variety of predictable and unpredictable risks has been increasing remarkably, and the system has not yet met the needs of safeguarding state security. A powerful platform which can coordinate security works is needed."

Beijing-based journalist Mu Chunshan, writing in Hong Kong's Ta Kung Pao, said the remarks reflected a recognition of the lack of a security apparatus to address China's growing security risks.

Thus, analysts believe Mr Xi would head the new commission, giving it enough clout to cut across bureaucratic lines to coordinate security policies and respond to emergency situations.

But it will not become China's fifth national-level organisation after the party's Politburo Standing Committee, the State Council, the national legislature and the political advisory body, say analysts.

"It is unlikely because the commission will focus on just one issue in national security, while national-level organisations like the State Council tend to have a wider work scope," Lanzhou University's terrorism expert Yang Shu told The Straits Times.

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