China to revamp security in face of threats at home, abroad

BEIJING Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:46am EST

Paramilitary soldiers march as they patrol around the Tiananmen square and the Great Hall of the People where the Chinese Communist Party plenum is being held, is seen in the background in Beijing, November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Paramilitary soldiers march as they patrol around the Tiananmen square and the Great Hall of the People where the Chinese Communist Party plenum is being held, is seen in the background in Beijing, November 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China will set up a new "state security committee" as it seeks to tackle growing social unrest and unify the powers of a disparate security apparatus in the face of growing challenges at home and abroad, the government said on Tuesday .

Details of how the committee will work and when exactly it will begin operations were left unclear in the announcement, carried by state news agency Xinhua at the end of a key meeting of the ruling Communist Party to map out political and economic reforms.

Xinhua said the committee would "improve the system of national security and the country's national security strategy" so as to "effectively prevent and end social disputes and improve public security".

Cheng Li, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and an expert on Chinese politics, said the idea was based on the National Security Council in the United States and would increase coordination between the various wings of China's security bureaucracy, split now between the police, military, intelligence and diplomatic services.

"The official line is to better coordinate the very different domains: the intelligence, military, foreign policy, public security and also national defense. This gives tremendous power to the presidency," Cheng said, referring to President Xi Jinping.

China's potential flashpoints overseas include North Korea and the South China Sea, where the potential exists for a crisis to escalate quickly.

For years, officials have argued for a national security agency "that can handle crises in a more effective manner", said David Zweig, a political scientist at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

"This could be a positive thing, in the sense that it would be a way for all the people involved in a foreign policy crisis to be in the same room at the same time," Zweig said.

The new committee could also strengthen the powers of the domestic security apparatus, grappling with rising numbers of protests over pollution, illegal land grabs and corruption, as well as continued unrest in places like Tibet and Xinjiang.

"I think what it says is that China, the party and government expect a considerable rise in social tensions over the next few years," said Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"Since legal reform and establishing rule of law is on the back burner at the moment...we can expect that the party and the government will try to respond to this potential risk by other means."

Critics say Xi's administration has presided over a harsh crackdown that has moved beyond the targeting of dissidents demanding political change, including detaining activists who have called for officials to publicly disclose their wealth.

The Xinhua communiqué did refer to "upholding the constitution and laws" and "improving judicial practice", but one prominent dissident said he feared things would only get worse with the new security committee.

"It will be used against rights defenders, people who uphold universal values, supporters of free speech and freedom of religion, people who are organizing protests - all those the Chinese government cannot tolerate as they seem them as a threat to their rule," Hu Jia told Reuters.

"The Soviet Union had a state security committee - it was called the KGB. Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, China is resurrecting this. It's a step backwards into history."

(Additional reporting by Adam Rose and Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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Comments (2)
MikeBarnett wrote:
China, Russia, and four of the “stans” in the SCO agreed to watch Afghanistan after the US and NATO leave in 2014. Russia fights a war in Chechnya and the southern Caucasus; China has problems in Xinjiang; and the four “stans” have their difficulties with islamic insurgents in central Asia. The six countries have held joint police and military exercises. China and India are conducting joint exercises at this time because India has had problems with islamic insurgents from Pakistan and Bangladesh. China has sold several squadrons of combat aircraft to Pakistan that have been used to bomb islamic insurgents in the tribal areas of Pakistan. China has fought Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean for several years with the International Naval Force and has sold three warships to Pakistan that have been used to fight Somali piracy.

In effect, the US, NATO, Russia, and China are allies in the same war against the same groups of islamic insurgents, but there are disputes about tactics. The US and NATO removal of Qaddafi has caused a 90% reduction in Libyan oil shipments to the US and NATO, and China opposed the exceeding of the UN resolution on Libya. The US and NATO want to help al Qaeda gain control of Syria, but Russia opposes this unwise policy. The US and NATO want to crush Shi’ite Iran and give Sunni Arabs, who support al Qaeda, control over the entire Middle East. China opposes this unwise policy and helps Iran. However, these are tactical disputes that do not change the facts of the common defense and security interests of the US, NATO, Russia, and China.

Nov 12, 2013 3:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Gesar wrote:
The CCP doesn’t respect rule of law, civil rights of individuals or ethnic minorities. Therefore, this news only means the CCP expects a rise in domestic unrest and we’ll see increasing crackdown on dissidents, protests, and ethnic minorites like Tibetans & Uighurs.

I disagree the SCO’s purpose was to fight terrorism like the USA/NATO is currently doing. The SCO was actually created to counter US/Western influence in Central Asia. In fact, the SCO has done very little to combat Al Qaido or int’l terror groups. The SCO has done little in the way of actual coordinated actions other than training exercise. Each SCO member spends more time fighting domestic dissidents than they do on int’l terrorism. In fact, Russia doesn’t want China to have too much influence in Central Asia so there’s a tension b/t the two largest SCO members.

Nov 13, 2013 9:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
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