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Brief #149: Central National Security Commission Meeting

On May 30, the Central National Security Commission (中央国家安全委员会) convened a meeting, the first since the Communist Party’s leadership reshuffle in October 2022.

The Commission noted that China’s national security has recently been strengthened. However, it struck a sombre note on the current situation:

the complexity and severity of the national security issues that we face have significantly increased...we must consider worst-case and extreme scenarios and be ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms...

The Commission emphasised the importance of safeguarding development and accelerating national security modernisation as overarching goals. Other priorities listed include political security, cyber security, data security, artificial intelligence security, risk monitoring and early warning, national security education, leveraging technology, and theoretical innovation.

A translation of the meeting readout follows the brief below.


What is the Commission?

Established in November 2013, the Commission oversees the Party’s national security portfolio. It is one of the Central Committee’s “decision-making, deliberative, and coordinating institutions” (中央决策议事协调机构), answering to the Politburo and the Politburo Standing Committee.

The Commission has a broad mandate, encompassing traditional and non-traditional national security issues as well as the political security of the regime. It sets the directions for various policy areas and actors under the broad “national security” rubric.

Since 2014, the Chinese Party-state has been guided by what it calls the “holistic approach to national security” (总体国家安全观). One notable feature of this approach is securitisation. Numerous areas, from ethnic relations to youth education, cultural heritage, and food production, have undergone varying degrees of securitisation.

Black Box

The Commission operates in a black box. We don’t even have a list of who sits on the Commission, let alone much information about its activities.

Since its establishment a decade ago, there have only been a handful of official reports on the Commission: a meeting in April 2014, a work conference in February 2017, and the recent meeting.

Following the Party leadership reshuffle in October 2022, the membership of the Commission, including the Commission's members and members of the Commission’s standing committee, would have been reconstituted.

From the readout of the current meeting, we know who the chair (Xi Jinping) and vice-chairs (Li Qiang, Zhao Leji and Cai Qi) are, but not the other members.

The lack of transparency is not unusual for Communist Party institutions. But the Commission, presumably because of the subjects it deals with, is particularly secretive, even compared to other institutions of its type.

Based on past patterns, we will unlikely hear more about the Commission from Party-state media until the first half of 2028. In all likelihood, only the first meeting of a reconstituted Commission (after the leadership reshuffle) would be publicised.

Current Meeting

The main takeaways from the meeting relate to the following:

  1. Review of recent national security work
  2. Assessment of the national security situation
  3. National security priorities

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