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China: Domestic or Foreign Role for New National Security Committee?

Lam Shiubun uploaded a political cartoon to inmediahk.net. Beneath the big rock of "national security" is a dead body and on top is the flag of Chinese Communist Party.

Lam Shiubun uploaded a political cartoon to inmediahk.net. Beneath the big rock of “national security” is a dead body and on top is the flag of Chinese Communist Party.

The establishment of a new top-level authority – State Security Committee (NSC) – was announced by the Chinese Communist Party at the end of the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on November 12, 2013. The details such as whether it is a government body or an authority under the Communist Party and who are the committee members are yet to be unveiled but many China experts believe that the committee will strengthen the power of China's top leader, Xi Jinping, within the Party.

Chinese netizens’ initial reactions to the new political body are rather cautious. Some are worried that unlike the U.S.A's National Security Agency (NSA), the China's NSC will aim at domestic rather than foreign security control. On the other hand, netizens with strong nationalistic sentiments believe that the new authority is a necessary political infrastructure for a strong country.

Lu Qiyuan on Sina Weibo more or less represents the nationalist viewpoint:

整体情况是令人振奋的。左翼至少阻止了形势进一步恶化。国安会的建立,对遏制公开卖国有重要意义 […]

The situation is thrilling. The left [pro-communist] has stopped the deteriorating trend. The establishment of NSC will repress openly treasonous behaviors […]

“Not-movie-actor JohnnyDepp” believes the NSC is mainly designed for domestic security control:

嘿嘿,国家成立国安会,国家第五大机构,在我看来,国外的国安会都是对外的,估计只有我国的国安会是对内的,因为现在最大矛盾不是外面,而是来自内部的矛盾,这部门最大作用就是维稳了。

Hehe, the State sets up NSC and makes it a top-five authority. Most of the foreign national security bodies are for external security, but our NSC will be the rare one that targets internal security control. The reason is that our main conflict does not come from outside, but from inside. Hence the main function will be stability control.

Is there any monitoring mechanism that can restrict the power of the future NSC? Many are worried that the committee will operate above the law. “Songta Luxi” points out that without Constitutional rule, the NSC will function as a tool to sustain dictatorship:

只有宪政国家才配有“国安会”,极权国家只有“党安会”。从此军警特界线模糊,负责维稳的暴力变形金刚合体了。

Only constitutional countries deserve to have an “NSC”. As for authoritarian states, they only have a “Party Security Committee”. The line between the military, police and intelligent agencies will be blurred and turned into a transformer-like stability control machine.

“Watching wind and rain with tea” points out that the NSC should be restricted by law:

【有矛就有盾】设立了国安会,就应有制衡他的机构。国安会在对公民实施监视监听等行为时,有没有法律依据,应向哪个机构取得授权?

[the spear and the shield should come together] Once the NSC is established, another institution's power should be consolidated to provide checks and balances. For example, when the NSC have to monitor people's communication, it should have a legal basis and be endorsed by another authority.

“Squeeze him” is worried that the NSC will turn into something similar to “Leading Team for the Cultural Revolution” under the Central Committee of CPC:

政治局与常委平时开会不讨论国家安全与改革问题吗?国安会与改导组的地位是否像中央文革领导小组那样,凌驾于宪法、人大、国务院、党中央之上?

The Political Bureau and its steering committee also discuss issues related to national security and reform. Would the position of the NSC and the reform steering committee turn into something like “Leading Team for the Cultural Revolution” [the team was controlled by the Gang of Four and turned the Cultural Revolution into a purge of the so-called reactionaries within the party] and have the power to operate beyond the Constitution, and the monitoring of People Representatives, the State Council and even the Party Central Committee?

Harley-Jun raises a more fundamental question:

一个三中全会,就几个人竟然决定成立国安会,经过民众讨论了吗?民众支持率如何?国家第五大机构成立竟然不进行全民讨论?

An NSC is formed in a party meeting without engaging the people. How many Chinese people support such a set up? How can the establishment of such a top-level authority happen without public deliberation?

On Twitter, the criticisms on the NSC are more explicit. JiaJia, a Chinese journalist, highlights the stock market's reaction to the setting up of the NSC.

Because of the NSC, the stock price of companies which produce surveillance and monitoring technologies surged. Nothing to be explained here. Look at the domestic market of more than a billion population.

@CensoredWeibo, a Twitter account managed by FreeWeibo.com which is a project to collect censored microblogs from China, re-posted a deleted comment about NSC on Weibo:

The Bo Xilai incident has given birth to NSC. Jiang Zheming had failed to exercise the plan. But Xi has now managed to push through. It is difficult to estimate its impact on China. However, judging from the history of the past 200 years, China usually makes bad choices at history's turning points.

@CaoniBird elaborates more on the shift in the balance of power after the Third Plenary Session:

In terms of power distribution, the Third Plenary Session kept talking about giving more power and autonomy to government authorities. Yet in three major aspects, it tightens the control of power: 1. strengthening the party leadership; 2. the introduction of two centralized authorities — NSC and reform committee; 3. anti-corruption and improving work performance. In translation, it is: centralize economic development, tighten political control, strengthen the “kingdom”, restrict the power of the government bureaucrats, suppress human rights and centralize power!

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