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  • Sheena Chestnut Greitens

New Leaders in “National” Security after China’s 20th Party Congress

Sheena Chestnut Greitens CLM Issue 78 December 2023
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Weng Xiaohong, Chen Yixin, Chen Wengqing, left to right
Left to right: Wang Xiaohong, Chen Yixin, Chen Wenqing
The 20th Party Congress in October 2022, and subsequent National People’s Congress in spring 2023, ushered in a new lineup of leaders focused on national security, while also affirming the Xi Jinping’s vision of security in Chinese domestic and foreign policy. Experience with domestic or “national” security now appears to be an increasingly important requirement for promotion to the top echelons of China’s political system. Key positions in internal security are held either by people close to Xi, or who have played a key role in advancing his security policies in his first ten years in power. An analysis of the work history and past public statements of these officials suggest that they will continue to push forward key aspects of Xi’s vision, including strong linkage between internal and external security concerns; a prominent role for counter-espionage work; an emphasis on party discipline among China’s coercive institutions; and a role for the coercive apparatus that is not just domestic, but global in its reach and impact.

The 20th Party Congress in October 2022, and the subsequent National People’s Congress (“two sessions”) in spring 2023, ushered in a new team of national security leaders in China, while also affirming the centrality of national security in Xi Jinping’s vision of the PRC’s current and future policies.[1] What do these leadership appointments, and the way that national security was incorporated more broadly into this moment in Chinese politics, tell us about Xi Jinping’s thinking – and China’s likely future direction – in terms of domestic and national security?

Several implications emerge from the new national security leadership lineup. First, experience with domestic or “national” security appears to be an increasingly important requirement for promotion to the top echelons of the Chinese political system. Second, the key domestic-security positions – head of the Central Political-Legal Commission (CPLC, zhengfawei), minister of State Security, and minister of Public Security – are all held by people who are close to Xi and/or have played key roles in implementing Xi’s domestic security agenda during the past ten years. They appear to be there to implement and advance Xi’s vision of tighter control over and securitization of a broad swathe of Chinese society, not to debate or revise that vision.

Third, an analysis of the work history and statements by these leaders suggests that further advancement of the existing agenda is the likely near-term prognosis. For example, the new prominence of state security over public security in this leadership team is not altogether surprising, given Xi’s focus on “state” or “national” security and the inter-penetration of internal- and external-security threats since he assumed power in 2012.[2] Past work history in party discipline among the top leaders in this domain is also consistent with Xi’s focus on anti-corruption and the importance of “absolute party leadership” over national security affairs. Finally, Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong, who has played a key role in building out Xi Jinping’s call for “a global vision in state security work,” looks set to continue that agenda, with a robust pattern of active engagement in multilateral fora and bilateral meetings with foreign counterparts.

This article is the second of a two-part series examining China’s approach to national security after the 20th Party Congress in fall 2022 and the National People’s Congress in spring 2023. The first article focused on developments in China’s national security discourse and policy;[3] this one provides background on and assesses the implications of the key players in the lineup of China’s new national security leadership.

National Security Experience in China’s Top Leadership

Experience with domestic or “national” security appears to be an increasingly important requirement for promotion at the topmost levels of China’s political system; a strong majority of senior party leaders have backgrounds in either military or security affairs. Of the 15 new members of the Politburo (13) or Central Secretariat (2), at least 10 have military-security experience, including 4 Politburo members (all promoted from provincial leadership positions) who have professional backgrounds in the security or military-industrial sector.[4] Similarly, about one-half of the members of the State Council has either a military or a security background of some kind, alongside the more standard experience in provincial economic leadership.[5] Some have had hybrid careers within the internal security apparatus, moving across policing, intelligence, and party discipline.

Trends and patterns in appointments related to national security do not necessarily parallel developments inside the Chinese military. Although a full analysis of developments within the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Central Military Commission (CMC) are beyond the scope of this article and have appeared elsewhere in China Leadership Monitor,[6] Xi Jinping appears to be keeping the PLA in a relatively defined lane, while simultaneously strengthening control over it and shaping the composition of the CMC to address his highest priorities.

The ratio of military officers at the top levels has remained relatively consistent with that during the pre-Xi era: ~22 percent on the Central Committee, 2 of 24 on the Politburo, and none on the Politburo Standing Committee. Xi’s latest round of CMC appointments reflects a focus on known priorities in the military-security realm: retaining two vice-chairmen with operational experience (including one in the Eastern Theater Command that focuses on Taiwan); experience in defense technology and modernization; and personnel ties with Xi Jinping. Finally, though much public discussion has highlighted the somewhat-surprising dominance of the army in the new CMC and the resulting reduced “jointness” of the body, equally notable from a regime-security standpoint is the fact that the two non-army appointees are political commissars – unsurprising if Xi’s priority is to ensure continued political control over the PLA after having conducted a major restructuring of it as well as a significant purge of personnel within it.[7]

In addition to a focus on security experience of various kinds in the professional backgrounds of China’s top leaders, most of them are commonly described as Xi loyalists.[8] Victor Shih, for example, describes both Ding Xuexiang and Cai Qi as “sparsely networked” in terms of the number of ties that they have to other members of the Central Committee and the extent to which those ties overlap with or are autonomous from Xi Jinping’s.[9] Other aides rose to prominence after working alongside Xi Jinping in Zhejiang or Fujian; both Chen Wenqing and Wang Xiaohong, for example, have ties to Fujian, while Chen Yixin worked in Zhejiang. He Weidong, now vice chairman of the CMC, was previously based in Fujian as well.[10]

These biographical patterns can be seen in a number of the key leaders who have now ascended to senior roles in the Chinese leadership. These biographies emphasize that the Politburo Standing Committee is no longer a group of educated technocrats, as some leadership analyses have previously characterized; all of the top-ranking officials have at least some experience with security policy. This is particularly interesting given that members of the PLA have not returned to the Politburo Standing Committee since their departure in 1997. It raises the question of whether (internal) security experience has now become a requirement for promotion to the highest levels. Key examples include:

  • Zhao Leji (赵乐际) is now the third-ranking member of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee and head of the National People’s Congress, as well as vice chairman of the Central National Security Commission (CNSC). Although Victor Shih notes that Zhao Leji’s factions overlap less with Xi than with many of the other Politburo Standing Committee members, Zhao formerly chaired the powerful Central Commission on Discipline Inspection (CCDI), a Xi priority and the body that investigated and purged a large number of police, military, and other government officials during Zhao’s tenure there (2017–2022).[11]

  • Ding Xuexiang (丁薛祥) is now the sixth-ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee and vice premier of the PRC as well as head of the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macao. Ding’s previous roles include serving as director of both the CCP General Office and the CNSC Office after its establishment in 2014, while also serving as a key aide (mishu, often translated as secretary or chief of staff) to Xi Jinping. Prior to that, he worked with Xi Jinping in Shanghai, where, as secretary of Shanghai’s Political-Legal Committee, he gained experience in internal-security affairs.[12]

  • Cai Qi (蔡奇), who ranks fifth on the Politburo Standing Committee, serves as current director of the CCP General Office, the first time that office has been held by a Politburo Standing Committee member since the Mao era. Ding Xuexiang served as director of both the General Office and the CNSC Office, but it is unclear whether he currently occupies both positions. Cai Qi was previously deputy director of the CNSC Office, and he is thought to oversee the Central Guards Bureau (中央警卫局), which provides security for China’s top leaders.[13]

  • Li Xi (李希), seventh-ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee, now chairs the CCDI. Liu Jinguo (刘金国), a new member of the Central Secretariat, is his deputy at the CCDI and head of the National Supervisory Commission, the CCDI’s state counterpart, after rising through the Ministry of Public Security.[14]

  • The remaining Politburo Standing Committee members also have some experience with security in their portfolios and work experience. Li Qiang, second-ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee, served as secretary of Zhejiang’s Political-Legal Committee from 2011 to 2016, and, as Shanghai’s party secretary, he enforced the COVID-19 lockdown policies there.[15] The fourth-ranking and final Politburo Standing Committee member is Wang Huning, a former professor whose work has focused primarily on ideology (including the development of Xi Jinping Thought), who reportedly sits on the CNSC while also chairing the Central Leading Small Group on Taiwan; prior to that, he was a member of the leading small group on internet security and informatization and director of the general office of another important leading small group created by Xi, the Leading Small Group on Comprehensively Deepening Reform, which in 2018 oversaw a major restructuring of the party-state.[16]

  • Several members of the Politburo have work histories that straddle the security and corporate domains. Vice Premier and Politburo member Zhang Guoqing (张国清), who primarily oversees economic regulation, served in party leadership roles in Tianjin, Chongqing, and Liaoning over the course of 2013 to 2022. Before those appointments, he had worked for Norinco, a Chinese military contractor; in Liaoning; as party secretary, he chaired the provincial National Security Commission.[17] Some other Politburo members gained similar security-adjacent experience in industrial/corporate sectors before moving on to provincial party leadership roles.

Also consistent with broader trends is the appointment of Dong Jingwei to head Hong Kong’s Office for Safeguarding National Security (succeeding Zheng Yanxiong). Dong reportedly comes to the post from a vice-ministerial role at the Ministry of State Security, a post that he held since 2018; before that, he was head of state security in Hebei (2006–17).[18] Dong’s appointment is unsurprising given Beijing’s emphasis on threats of foreign subversion, specifically in Hong Kong, but it is also consistent with the increasingly prominent role given to state security officials during Xi Jinping’s third term.

Domestic Security: Key Leaders

In addition to these senior party leaders, the CCP now has a new team appointed to core internal security leadership positions: head of the CPLC, minister of State Security, and minister of Public Security. All three are in their early-to-mid-60s, placing them under the traditional 68-year-old age limit for promotion. (This distinguishes domestic security from the CMC, where Zhang Youxia’s retention as CMC vice chair broke the traditional age norms.)

1. Chen Wenqing (陈文清)

Chen, 63, is the current secretary of the CPLC (taking over the role previously held by Guo Shengkun). Chen is also a member of the 24-person Politburo and a former minister of State Security. Chen’s appointment is relatively unusual in the post-Tiananmen era, as the last three heads of the zhengfawei have all come from the Ministry of Public Security: Guo Shengkun (2017–2022), Meng Jianzhu (2012–2017), and Zhou Yongkang (2007–2012).[19]

In March 2023, Chen presided over a CPLC meeting in which he paired discussion of the “two establishments” (两个确立) and the “two safeguards” (两个维护) with the goal of writing a new chapter for the “two great miracles” (两大奇迹) of economic development and long-term social stability.[20] In May 2023, at a CPLC conference presided over by Wang Xiaohong, he spoke of forging a “political and legal iron army” for the new era, a phrase that Wang has also employed.[21] In June 2023, he visited Xinjiang, praising the work of the political-legal apparatus to ensure social stability there. His remarks also touched on the importance of coordinating development and security, treating “both symptoms and root causes,” and the role of “law-based governance” and political education, exhorting political-legal personnel to absolute “loyalty, purity, and reliability.”[22]

Chen is the first (former) minister of State Security in recent decades to be appointed to the Politburo, and he also holds a seat on the Central Secretariat.[23] The party rank of the secretary of the CPLC has not been particularly consistent over time: Zhou Yongkang was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, as was his immediate predecessor, Luo Gan. Luo, who served as secretary of the CPLC from 1998 to 2007, was a member of the Politburo during his first term, and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee during his second. The last CPLC head (before those two individuals) to be a member of the Politburo Standing Committee was in the 1980s. Other CPLC heads have been members of the wider Central Committee (Ren Jianxin, Chen Pixian, etc.). This variation is a contrast with the party rank of internal-security leaders in the post-1989 era, when the head of the PLC has almost always had a seat on the provincial party standing committee.[24]

Chen Wenqing began his career as a police officer in Sichuan during the mid-1980s, following in his father’s footsteps, and then he was transferred to become deputy and then director of state security in Sichuan in the mid-1990s. He also worked in the procuratorate, in party discipline, and as a PLA commissar in Sichuan and then in Fujian before becoming deputy head of the CCDI in 2012. He became party secretary of the Ministry of State Security in fall 2015 and minister of State Security in fall 2016, in a move from the CCDI that may have signaled Xi’s focus on anti-corruption inside the security services, including the Ministry of State Security.[25] As minister of State Security, he also served as deputy director of the CNSC Office.[26]

Chen has publicly signaled support for many of Xi’s key national-security priorities, from anti-corruption to the broadening of national security under the comprehensive national security concept. On National Security Day (April 15) in 2020, Chen published a commentary in Qiushi that applied the comprehensive national security concept to epidemic “prevention and control” – invoking the phrase 防控 (fangkong) that has a dual discursive history in both public health and public security, and that, under Xi Jinping, has replaced “stability maintenance” (weiwen) as the objective of China’s domestic security apparatus.[27] The commentary reiterates most of the major themes of the comprehensive national security concept: the centrality of political security and the necessity of party “absolute leadership over national security work”; the breadth of issues encompassed in the term “comprehensive” national security; coordination of traditional and non-traditional security (including COVID-19 in the latter category); the need to “prepare for danger in times of peace” and the importance of “preventing and controlling risks,” including from “internal and external linkages” (内外联动) to national security and social stability; the need to improve the “national security system” (国家安全体系) in accordance with the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee, and to achieve a “comprehensively centralized/unified, authoritative, and efficient national security leadership system” (完善集中统一、高效权威的国家安全领导体制). It also emphasized the idea that development and security are “each other’s premise and foundation” (发展和安全互为前提和基础), in this case in managing the economy while ensuring security from the non-traditional threat posed by the pandemic. Chen argued that the country had been able to respond effectively to COVID-19 precisely because of the reforms made to the national security system under Xi, and he advocated empowering the CNSC as the “nerve center” (神经中枢) of the national security system. Interestingly, he used a variation on the “building a new security pattern” tifa (see Part 1 on national security discourse and policy), observing “efforts should be made to form a pattern of ensuring security in development and promoting development in security” (努力形成在发展中保安全、在安全中促发展的格局).

Chen’s 2022 National Security Day commentary in Qiushi discusses the release of a “Study Outline” for the comprehensive national security concept (总体国家安全观学习纲要), which Chen describes as “the first major strategic thought established as the guiding ideology of national security work in our party’s history.”[28] He also describes the shift in China’s approach to national security under Xi Jinping as one of “decentralization to centralization, slowness to efficiency, passivity to initiative.”

In July of 2020, Chen publicly pledged cooperation with and support for Hong Kong’s national security and for police authorities in their implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law; he called the new law a key step for improving Hong Kong’s legal system and enforcement mechanisms to protect national security, saying that the law would be resolutely implemented to punish criminal activities such as “secession, subversion of state power, organization and implementation of terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign countries/forces.”[29] As head of the CPLC, he met with security officials from Hong Kong in summer 2023, when he encouraged them to defend national security in Hong Kong and staunchly enforce Hong Kong’s National Security Law.[30]

Chen has also, at times, played a visible role in foreign-security policy, especially in issue-areas where external events are connected, in the minds of China’s leaders, to regime stability and national security issues. In September 2021, he participated with other regional intelligence officials. in a meeting on Afghanistan hosted by the director of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence, an engagement that may reflect the CCP’s concern that instability in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover could lead to a reactivation of or an increase in “counterterrorism” issues in Xinjiang.[31] In May 2023, Chen met with Nikolai Patrushev, former head of Russia’s internal security service, the FSB, and current head of the Russian National Security Council; in July, he met with Russian Prosecutor-General Igor Krasnov on his visit to Beijing.[32] These types of foreign engagements make sense in light of the Russia-China February 4 Joint Statement’s mention of strengthening cooperation to counter interference by external forces and oppose color revolutions.[33] Chen also hosted counterparts from SCO countries in Shanghai[34] and the Vietnamese Minister of Public Security in October 2023,[35] and attended an annual bilateral security dialogue with Germany in late September 2023, on a trip where he also visited Italy and Serbia.[36]

2. Chen Yixin (陈一新)

Chen, 64, is current minister of State Security and a member of the CCP Central Committee. Chen worked as a senior aide to Xi Jinping during Xi’s time in Zhejiang (2002–2007); from Zhejiang, he became deputy director of the General Office for Xi’s Central Leading Group on Comprehensively Deepening Reform (2015–16), and then party secretary of Wuhan and deputy party secretary of Hubei (2017–18). In March 2018, he became secretary-general of the CPLC. In early 2020, Chen was sent to Wuhan, where he had previously served as party secretary (2017–18) to help oversee the party’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Reporting at the time seemed to suggest that he had shifted focus from anti-corruption to epidemic “prevention and control.”[37]

Overall, however, Chen has played a significant role in Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption efforts, especially during the past five years.[38] The first of these was his role in the saohei campaign, a three-year anti-corruption effort launched in late January 2018 to crack down on “underworld forces.”[39] Chen headed the National Saohei Office (全国扫黑办, Quanguo Saoheiban) (while also serving as secretary-general of the CPLC chaired by Guo Shengkun).[40] In July 2020, Chen announced that a new “education and rectification” (教育整顿, jiaoyu zhengdun) campaign within the political-legal apparatus would occur in 2021–22, picking up where the saohei campaign had left off and finishing prior to the 2022 Party congress; he compared it to the party rectification in Yan’an.[41] In 2021, he reported the results of the campaign’s first phase, with participation by over 2.7 million political-legal officials of various kinds.[42] In early remarks as minister of State Security, as in his January 2023 address, he continued to emphasize the importance of clean governance and political loyalty.[43]

Most recently, Chen has been placed in charge of the party’s campaign of heightened scrutiny of foreign businesses, indicating the party’s willingness to risk alienating foreign investors and overseas companies that do business in China for the sake of tightening political control.[44] In early June 2023, the Central Party School’s Study Times published a commentary, based on Chen’s speech at the school in mid-May, which exhorted officials to study the new Counter-Espionage Law and “enhance our capacity to shape state/national security with legal tools.”[45] Chen, who was known for his use of social media while serving as secretary-general of the CPLC, appears to have taken a similar approach to his work at the Ministry of State Security: MSS launched a launching a new WeChat account in summer 2023 (in conjunction with both the revised Counter-Espionage Law and a late May 2023 directive to strengthen public education on national security approved by the Central National Security Commission); the Ministry has, in recent months, also publicized details of various cases of alleged American espionage.[46]

Chen, however, also played a broad role in exhorting the political-legal apparatus to create a safe and stable political and social environment for the 20th Party Congress, calling it “the top priority on the political-legal front” in July 2022 and calling for “self-revolution” in the political-legal apparatus to ensure that the “knife handle” (a common euphemism for the internal security organs) will never rust and that the political-legal system maintains its “loyal, clean, and responsible” political character.[47] His remarks at a CPLC meeting in February 2023 focused on improving “urban social governance,” which he characterized as an important starting point for promoting construction of a “Safe China.”[48]

Chen has also been among the leaders using variants of the “constructing a new security pattern” tifa (for a discussion of this tifa, see the first article in this series, published in September[49]). He used the phrase in October 2022 remarks following the 20th Party Congress, saying, “the new security pattern guarantees the new development pattern.”[50] He also invoked this phrase in February 2023 at a meeting of the CPLC leadership group, saying that they must transform the lessons learned into innovation that will promote political-legal work, reflecting that the new security pattern guaranteed the new development pattern (新安全格局保障新发展格局).[51] His National Security Day Qiushi commentary in April 2023 highlighted Xi’s call for the “construction of a new development pattern and a new security pattern,” remarking on the need to focus on “what kind of security pattern to build and how to build it.”[52] At a leadership meeting for the Ministry of State Security in May 2023, he called provincial state security heads the “backbone” (骨干, gugan) of national security, and he exhorted listeners to “accelerate the construction of a new work pattern for national/state security organs” (国家安全机关工作新格局).[53]

3. Wang Xiaohong (王小洪)

Wang, 66, became party secretary of the Ministry of Public Security in November 2021,[54] succeeding Zhao Kezhi, and he became minister in June 2022. As of the time of this writing, following the 20th Party Congress, Wang is also a member of the Central Secretariat, which helps run day-to-day party affairs. After serving under Xi Jinping in various public security roles in Fujian in the 1990s and 2000s, Wang has been on a path of relatively swift political ascent. Although he lacks experience as head of a province (which many other senior Chinese leaders have), he reportedly managed Xi’s personal security in Fujian, and he is known to be a close ally and supporter of Xi. After a stint in Henan (2013–15), he moved to Beijing to become chief of the Beijing police bureau in 2015 and a vice minister of Public Security in 2016.[55] When he replaced Zhao Kezhi as minister of Public Security in mid-2022, he was the first professional police officer to lead the ministry in over two decades.[56]

In September 2022, Wang delivered an address that was reprinted in the Central Party School journal Xuexi Shibao, “Historic Achievements and Changes in Public Security Work in the New Era.”[57] The article argues that under Xi, the people’s sense of security had risen from 87.55 percent (2012) to 98.62 percent (2021), making China one of the safest countries in the world, and that there had been “no violent terrorist incidents for more than five consecutive years.” The commentary goes on to emphasize the importance of party leadership and the fundamentally political nature of public security; interestingly, it mentions the need to eradicate the poisonous influence of Zhou Yongkang and Sun Lijun. Much of the rest of the language is standard, but framed in the requirement to unite more closely around the party leadership in the runup to the 20th Party Congress: coordinate external and internal security, prevent “color revolutions,” place a priority on prevention of political security risks, develop early warning and prevention; develop the “Fengqiao experience” and grassroots innovations like the “Chaoyang masses” (see Part I[58]); and fully implement the comprehensive national security concept.

In June 2023, Wang spoke at a videoconference of national public security organs, calling on officials to safeguard the struggle against “infiltration, subversion, terrorism, separatism, and cults”; uphold and develop the “Fengqiao experience”; tighten prevention and control over the whole of society (严密社会面整体防控); and “forge a public security iron army worthy of bearing the heavy responsibility of the times” (锻造堪当时代重任的公安铁军).[59] Wang’s address also referred to summer “strikes and rectification actions” (夏季治安打击整治行动), possibly hinting at a potential further tightening of domestic control in the months ahead.

Among his other areas of focus in public security,[60] Wang Xiaohong has been an active participant in Xi Jinping’s call, since 2017, for the Ministry of Public Security to adopt a “global vision for state-security work.” In 2019, for example, he spoke (alongside Zhao Kezhi) at a national work conference on international public-security cooperation, noting the challenging international environment that China faced and advocating that international law enforcement cooperation “effectively resolve overseas security risks and resolutely defend national security and social stability.[61] In 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security cooperated in hosting a forum on “Peaceful China” that reportedly included representatives from 108 embassies and 8 international organizations.[62] During this period, the Ministry of Public Security expanded a range of international activities, from use of police liaison personnel deployed abroad to offering police training.[63]

Wang looks to continue an active role in police diplomacy and international security cooperation during his tenure as minister, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. This international engagement includes both bilateral and multilateral lines of effort. Multilaterally, one of the major focal points of China’s effort is the Global Public Security Cooperation Forum (GPSCF, previously called the Lianyungang Forum), which was held in November 2022 and September 2023.[64] Hosting the GPSCF also allows for additional bilateral conversations on the Forum’s sidelines; Wang’s publicly announced meetings included counterparts from a range of countries, including Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, South Africa, Suriname, Nigeria, and Guyana.[65]

With respect to other multilateral engagements, in November 2022, Wang held a ministerial-level videoconference with counterparts from the Pacific Islands.[66] In March 2023, he encouraged members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to strengthen law enforcement cooperation to “jointly create a sound security environment”;[67] in April, he welcomed the secretary-general of Interpol to Beijing;[68] and his May 2023 remarks at the Islamabad Security Dialogue in Pakistan that same month promoted China’s Global Security Initiative.[69] In June, Wang gave remarks at the ASEAN+3 High-Level Forum on Migration Policies, hosted in Beijing,[70] and in September he attended the Beijing meeting of the signatories of the Mekong Memorandum of Understanding on Drug Control (including China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar/Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam, with support from the UN Office of Drugs and Crime), where China pledged increased financial support for the UNODC.[71]

Wang also engages in bilateral security meetings and cooperation activities. In May 2023, for example, his meeting with his Lao counterpart produced an agreement to “continuously deepen cooperation to safeguard political security” and increase other areas of law enforcement cooperation.[72] Five days earlier, he had met with the Cuban Minister of the Interior to discuss strengthening law enforcement cooperation and ‘cooperation to prevent ‘color revolutions’.”[73] Wang held similarly-focused meetings with Ethiopia and Cambodia (both in April 2023);[74] with South African counterparts in June,[75] with the Solomon Islands and Thailand (separately) in July,[76] with Vietnam in September,[77] and Nepal in October,[78] after which he also visited the capital of Myanmar/Burma, to discuss security concerns amid intensified fighting along the border.[79] Wang also attended the China-Russia “Strategic Security Consultation” meeting chaired by Yang Jiechi in September 2022 in Fujian, and in July 2023 he met with Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov in Moscow, where he promised China’s assistance on political security issues, particularly “countering the subversive activities of non-governmental organizations and foreign agents.”[80]

About the Contributor

Sheena Chestnut Greitens is Associate Professor and Director of the Asia Policy Program at the University of Texas at Austin. In the 2023–24 academic year, she is also concurrently a visiting research professor for Indo-Pacific security with the China Landpower Studies Center of the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College. Views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the United States government.


[1] On Xi’s early efforts to remake national security policymaking and capabilities in China, see Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “Domestic Security in China under Xi Jinping,” China Leadership Monitor, Issue 77, 1 March 2019, ; Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “How China Thinks about National Security,” The China Questions II (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2022).

[2] Xi’s core concept, often translated as the “comprehensive national security concept,” can also be translated as the “overall state security concept.” The same word appears in the name of the Ministry of State Security.

[3] Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “National Security after China’s 20th Party Congress: Trends in Discourse and Policy,” China Leadership Monitor (September 2023).

[4] Wu Guoguang, “The China Challenge: New Leadership Focuses on the Struggle for Security,” Discourse, 15 November 2022,

[5] Cheng Li and Mallie Prytherch, “China’s New State Council: What Analysts Might Have Missed,” Brookings, 7 March 2023,

[6] Joel Wuthnow, “Xi’s New Central Military Commission: A War Council for Taiwan?” China Leadership Monitor, Issue 74, 1 December 2022,

[7] Wuthnow, “Xi’s New Central Military Commission”; Derek Grossman and Michael Chase, “Xi’s Purge of the Military Prepares the Chinese Army for Confrontation,” RAND, 21 April 2016,; “How Did the 20th Party Congress Impact China’s Military?” CSIS ChinaPower, 25 October 2022,

[8] Huizhong Wu, “Loyal and Experienced, China’s Other Top Leaders Take Posts,” Associated Press, 10 March 2023,

[9] Victor Shih, Coalitions of the Weak: Elite Politics in China from Mao’s Stratagem to the Rise of Xi (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2022), 195; 21st Century China Center, The Party Remakes China: What to Watch for After the 20th Party Congress (San Diego: University of California, September 2022), 6–11,

[10] Katsuji Nakazawa, “Xi’s Chief of Staff Cai Qi Is Symbol of a Powerful Court,” Nikkei Asia, 30 March 2023,

[11] Chun Han Wong and Keith Zhai, “China’s Leaders: Xi Jinping and His Men,” Wall Street Journal, 23 October 2022,

[12] “Xi Names Low-key Outsider as Personal Secretary,” South China Morning Post, 25 July 2013,

[13] Vanessa Cai, “China’s No. 5 Official Named President Xi Jinping’s Chief of Staff,” South China Morning Post, 21 March 2023,; for background on the Central Guards Bureau, see Xuezhi Guo, China’s Security State: Philosophy, Evolution, and Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

[14] Xinhua, “Liu Jinguo Elected Director of National Commission of Supervision,” China Daily, 11 March 2023,

[15] “Li Qiang.” ChinaVitae,|4933/career

[16] Odd Arne Westad, “What Does the West Really Know about China?” Foreign Affairs ,3 June 2023; “CCP Releases Plan on Deepening Reform of Party and State Institutions,” Xinhua, 22 March 2018,

[17] “Zhang Guoqing,” ChinaVitae,; Wu Guoguang, “The China Challenge: New Leadership Focuses on the Struggle for Security”; Joel Wuthnow, “A New Chinese National Security Bureaucracy Emerges,” China Brief (Jamestown Foundation), 3 December 2021,

[18] Danny Mok, William Zheng, and Ng Kang-Cheng, “Hong Kong’s New National Security Chief was Deputy Minister in Mainland China’s Counter-espionage Services,” South China Morning Post, 19 July 2023,[19] Another secretary of the CPLC, Ren Jianxin, came from the legal side of the political-legal apparatus; he had been president of the Supreme People’s Court before and during his tenure leading the CPLC.

[20] “陈文清主持召开中央政法委员会全体会议强调 认真学习贯彻习近平总书: 记重要讲话和全国两会精神 在新时代新征程要有新气象新作为新成效,” Xinhuanet, 16 March 2023,

[21] “陈文清在全国党委政法委系统“新时代政法楷模”表彰大会上强调:在锻造新时代政法铁军中走在前作表率 忠诚履行好党和人民赋予的职责使命,” Xinhua Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2023,

[22] “陈文清在新疆调研时强调: 完整准确贯彻新时代党的治疆方略 全力确保新疆社会稳定和长治久安,” Renminwang, 20 June 2023,

[23] Stella Chen, “Security Mission in Focus with Xi Jinping’s Key Communist Party Appointments,” South China Morning Post, 24 October 2022,

[24] Wang Yuhua and Carl F. Minzner, “The Rise of the Chinese Security State,” The China Quarterly, no. 222 (2015): 339–359.

[25] Peter Mattis, “Chen Wenqing: China’s New Man for State Security,” National Interest, 25 October 2015, ; “全国人大常委会任免国家安全部、民政部、财政部部长” [National People’s Congress Standing Committee Appoints, Removes, Ministers of Public Security, Civil Affairs, and Finance], Xinhua, 7 November 2016,

[26] “国安部部长陈文清出任中央国安办常务副主任,” The Paper, 5 May, YEAR???

[27] On the dual discursive history of fangkong, see Sheena Chestnut Greitens and Julian Gewirtz, “China’s Troubling Vision for the Future of Public Health,” Foreign Affairs, 10 July 2020. Chen Wenqing, “总体国家安全观的生动实践和丰富发展—深入学习贯彻习近平总书记关于疫情防控的重要论述” [Vivid Practice and Rich Development of the Comprehensive National Security Concept—Study and Implement In-Depth General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Important Treatise on Epidemic Prevention and Control], Qiushi, no. 8, 15 April 2020,

[28] Chen Wenqing, “牢固树立和践行总体国家安全观 谱写新时代国家安全新篇章” [Firmly Establish and Practice the Comprehensive National Security Concept and Write a New Chapter in National Security for the New Era], Qiushi, no. 8 (15 April 2022),

[29] “国家安全部:香港国安法依法治港 坚决贯彻党中央重大决策部署” [Minister of State Security: Hong Kong National Security Law Governs According to the Law and Implements Central Committee Policy Decisions], Renminwang, 5 July 2020,

[30] “陈文清会见香港纪律部队文化交流团,” Renminwang, 26 April 2023,

[31] “Pakistan ISI Chief Hosts Security Meeting of Intel Heads of Regional Countries on Afghanistan,” Times of India, 11 September 2021,

[32] “Moscow to Hold Russia-China Security Talks on Monday,” Reuters, 21 May 2023,; “Senior CPC Official meets Russian Prosecutor General,” China Daily, 14 July 2023,

[33] “Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on the International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development,” 4 February 2022,

[34] “第十次上海合作组织成员国司法部长会议举行: 陈文清宣读习近平主席贺信并致辞,” Xinhua, 6 September 2023,

[35] “陈文清会见越共中央政治局委员、越南公安部部长苏林 [Chen Wenqing Met With To Lam, Member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Minister of Public Security],” Xinhua, 14 September 2023,

[36] “陈文清将赴德国出席第四次中德高级别安全对话并访问德国、意大利、塞尔维亚 [Chen Wenqing will go to Germany to attend the Fourth China-Germany High-Level Security Dialogue and visit Germany, Italy, and Serbia],” Xinhua, 21 September 2023,

[37] Jane Cai, “Beijing Pins Hopes on ‘Guy with the Emperor’s Sword’ to Restore Order in Virus-hit Hubei,” South China Morning Post, 12 February 2020, ; “陈一新:打好武汉保卫战要发起总攻” [Chen Yixin: To Protect Wuhan Well, We Must Launch a General Offensive], Xinhua, 13 February 2020, or

[38] Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “The Saohei Campaign, Protection Umbrellas, and China’s Changing Political-Legal Apparatus,” China Leadership Monitor, Issue 65, 1 September 2020,

[39] “中共中央, 国务院发出《关于开展扫黑除恶专项斗争的通知》” [Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and State Council Issue ‘Notice on Carrying Out Special Campaign to Crack Down on Underworld Forces’], Xinhua, 24 January 2018,

[40] Chen Yixin, “陈一新在全国扫黑办第四次主任会议上强调: 把握好“时度效” 推动全面纵深发展” [Chen Yixin Emphasizes at the 4th Meeting of the National Saohei Office: Grasp ‘Timeliness/Degree/Efficacy’ to Promote Comprehensive, In-depth Development], Jiancha ribao, 7 December 2018,

[41] “全国政法队伍教育整顿试点启动!陈一新,是党中央提出的新要求” [National Political-Legal Team Education and Rectification Pilot Program Is Launched! Chen Yixin, This is a Request Made by the Party Central Committee], 中国长安网 [China chang’an net], 8 July 2020,; “陈一新:来一场刀刃向内、刮骨疗毒式的自我革命” [Chen Yixin: “Bring the Knife Blade Inward to Scrape the Bone, Have a Self-Revolution”], 9 July 2020, For an English-language report on the launch of this campaign, see William Zheng, “Chinese Official Leading Security Purge ‘May Be On Fast Track to Promotion,’ Analysts Say,” South China Morning Post, 17 July 2020,

[42] “陈一新:全国第一批政法队伍教育整顿取得“四个阶段性成效” [Chen Yixin: Education and Rectification of the First Set of the Country’s Political-legal Ranks Has Achieved ‘Four Interim Results], Ministry of Justice/Central Political-Legal Committee, 10 June 2021,

[43] “陈一新在全国国家安全机关党风廉政建设视频会议上强调:推动全面从严管党治警向纵深发展” [Chen Yixin Emphasizes at the Video Conference on the Construction of Party Conduct and Clean Government of National Security Agencies: To promote Comprehensive and In-depth Development from Strict Management of the Party and Police Administration], 30 January 2023,

[44] Lingling Wei, “China Puts Spymaster in Charge of U.S. Corporate Crackdown,” Wall Street Journal, 18 May 2023,

[45] William Zheng, “China’s Anti-Espionage Chief Urges Stronger Crackdown Using Legal Tools,” South China Morning Post, 5 June 2023,

[46] William Zheng, “China’s Spy Agency Widens Remit as well as Weach with New WeChat Social Media Account,” South China Morning Post, 6 October 2023, For a broader discussion of the more public nature of MSS’ work under Chen Yixin’s leadership, see Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “National Security after China’s 20th Party Congress: Trends in Discourse and Policy,” China Leadership Monitor (September 2023).

[47] “陈一新:认真学习贯彻习近平总书记重要讲话精神,以实际行动迎接党的二十大胜利召开” [Chen Yixin: Conscientiously Study and Implement the Spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Important Speech], Ministry of Public Security, 30 July 2022,

[48] “陈一新在全国市域社会治理现代化试点验收工作部署会上强调:以 ‘市域之治’助推 ‘中国之治,’” Ministry of Justice, 17 February 2023, ; see also

[49] Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “National Security after China’s 20th Party Congress: Trends in Discourse and Policy,” China Leadership Monitor (September 2023).

[50] “以新安全格局保障新发展格局.” “陈一新在中央政法委秘书长扩大会议上强调:认真学习贯彻党的二十大精神 扎实推进更高水平的平安中国建设” [Chen Yixin, at an Enlarged Meeting of the CPLC Secretary-General, Emphasized: Carefully Study and Implement the Spirit of the 20th Party Congress, and Solidly Advance Construction of a Higher level of Safe China], Fazhi ribao, 25 October 2022.

[51] “中央政法委领导班子召开: 2022年度民主生活会 陈一新主持并讲话,” Ministry of Justice, 6 February 2023,

[52] Chen Yixin, “深入学习贯彻党的二十大精神 加快构建新安全格局” [Study and Implement In-depth the Spirit of the CCP 20th Party Congress to Accelerate Construction of a New Security Pattern],” 求是 [Seeking Truth], 15 April 2023,

[53] “陈一新:全面提升厅局长领导水平 加快构建国家安全机关工作新格局,” 16 May 2023,

[54] “王小洪任公安部党委书记; 赵克志不再兼任,” Fazhi Ribao, 20 November 2021,

[55] Cao Yin, “Wang Xiaohong Appointed New Minister of Public Security,” China Daily, 24 June 2022,

[56] Jack Lau, “Close Xi Jinping Ally Appointed as China’s New Public Security Chief,” South China Morning Post, 24 June 2022,; Guo Rui, “China’s Party Congress Promotions to Emphasize Political Security,” South China Morning Post, 16 June 2022,

[57] “王小洪:新时代公安工作的历史性成就和变革” [Wang Xiaohong: Historic Achievements and Changes in Public Security Work in the New Era], Xuexi shibao [Study Times], 16 September 2022,

[58] Sheena Chestnut Greitens, “National Security after China’s 20th Party Congress: Trends in Discourse and Policy,” China Leadership Monitor (September 2023).

[59] “王小洪在全国公安机关视频会议上强调: 深入开展夏季治安打击整治行动 以维护安全稳定的实际行动彰显开展主题教育的成效,” Renmin ribao, 26 June 2023,

[60] For example, in May 2023, he spoke at a national teleconference on the need to crack down on telecommunications and network fraud. “王小洪在全国打击治理电信网络新型违法犯罪工作电视电话会议上强调 深入推进打击治理电信网络诈骗违法犯罪工作 全力夺取反诈人民战争新胜利,” Xinhua, 30 May 2023,

[61] “第十次上海合作组织成员国司法部长会议举行: 陈文清宣读习近平主席贺信并致辞,” Xinhua, 6 September 2023,

[62] “Build a ‘Peaceful China’ and Safeguard International Peace: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Organizes Diplomatic Envoys to the Ministry of Public Security,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 30 July 2021,

[63] Jordan Link, “The Expanding International Reach of China’s Police,” Center for American Progress, October 2022,

[64] “全球公共安全合作论坛(连云港)首届大会开幕 [First Session of the Global Public Security Cooperation (Lianyungang) Forum Opens],” Xinhua, 30 November 2022,;

[65] “China’s Police Chief Meets Guests from Guyana, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,” Xinhua, 19 September 2023,; “China’s Police Chief Meets Guests from South Africa, Suriname, Nigeria, Pakistan,” Xinhua, 21 September 2023,

[66] “China, Some South Pacific Countries Hold Dialogue on Law Enforcement, Police,” Xinhua, 23 November 2022,; “全球公共安全合作论坛(连云港)首届大会开幕” [First Session of the Global Public Security Cooperation (Lianyungang) Forum Opens], Xinhua, 30 November 2022,

[67] “China Calls on SCO Members to Deepen Cooperation on Law Enforcement, Security,” Xinhua, 29 March 2023,

[68] “China’s Police Chief Meets with Interpol Official,” Xinhua, 18 April 2023,

[69] “China Calls for Promoting Global Security Initiative,” Xinhua, 12 May 2023,

[70] “China Urges More Just, Reasonable Regional Immigration Governance,” Xinhua, 29 June 2023,

[71] “China to Increase Support for Drug Control in Greater Mekong Subregion,” Global Times, 7 September 2023,

[72] “China, Laos Pledge to Strengthen Law Enforcement, Security Cooperation,” Xinhua, 25 May 2023,

[73] “China’s Police Chief Meets Cuban Interior Minister,” Xinhua, 20 May 2023,

[74] Sok Raksa, “Cambodia, China Sign Law Enforcement Work Plan,” Phnom Penh Post, 1 May 2023,; “China, Cambodia to Enhance Cooperation on Law Enforcement, Security,” Xinhua, 30 April 2023,; “China’s Police Chief Meets Ethiopian Counterpart,” Xinhua, 14 April 2023,

[75] “China, South Africa Pledge to Strengthen Security Cooperation,” Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in South Africa, 12 June 2023,

[76] “China’s Police Chief Meets Solomon Islands Counterpart,” Xinhua, 12 July 2023,; “China’s Police Chief Meets Thai Deputy PM,” Xinhua, 19 July 2023,

[77] “China, Vietnam Pledge to Strengthen Law Enforcement Cooperation,” Xinhua, 14 September 2023,

[78] “China’s Police Chief Meets Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister,” Xinhua, 17 October 2023,

[79] “Senior Chinese Official Meets Myanmar Leader for Security Talks as Fighting Rages in Border Area,” Associated Press, 31 October 2023,

[80] “Yang Jiechi Chairs 17th Round of China-Russia Strategic Security Consultation,” Foreign Ministry of the PRC, 19 September 2022,; “China Ready to Help Russia Resist Subversive NGOs, Foreign Agents - Minister,” TASS, 13 July 2023,

Photo credit: Chen Wenqing, Chen Yixin, and Wang Xiaohong, obtained from Wikimedia commons.


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