Chinese president Xi Jinping has warned officials to be vigilant against any threats to the party’s “political security”, underlining uncertainty in Beijing as the economy falters.
Xi spoke at a study session for senior provincial leaders and ministers on Monday, the same day official economic data showed the Chinese economy last year grew at its weakest pace in almost 30 years, pulled down by weakening spending, investment, and trade.
Yet Xi’s remarks focused more on the “political” and “ideological security” as the country’s main priorities going forward. He stressed the campaign would be focused on training the next generation to uphold “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, the Chinese Communist party’s adaptation of Marxism-Leninism.
“Now the main front of the ideological struggle is on the internet, and the main audience of the internet is young people. Many domestic and foreign forces are trying to develop supporters of their values and even to cultivate opponents of the government,” Xi said.
“There is no political security. There is only regime security,” said Li Datong, a former journalist and outspoken commentator. “They see the risks of rebellion. As the economy becomes worse, people from all walks of the society can become opponents.”
Earlier this month, China’s public security minister, Zhao Kezhi, said the police must focus on stamping out any mass political movements, or “colour revolutions”. China’s security forces must “stress the prevention and resistance of colour revolutions and firmly fight to protect China’s political security,” Zhao said.
Xi added that economic security would also be a priority, warning his party to be on guard against “black swans” – unpredictable events that can derail an economy – as well as “grey rhinoceroses”, known risks that go ignored until too late.
“In the face of a turbulent international situation, a complex and sensitive environment, and the arduous task of reform … We must be highly vigilant against ‘black swan’ and ‘grey rhinoceros’ incidents,” he said.
Xi said the government would dissolve zombie companies, those with too much debt, give support to businesses to stabilise jobs, and shore up a weakening property market, the largest store of wealth for Chinese households.
The workshop for provincial and ministerial leaders is held in Beijing usually at the beginning of each year, and scheduled to avoid local legislative meetings. But this year, some provinces were ordered to change their schedules to accommodate the meeting.