[Source: The New York Times]
By JANE PERLEZ
Published: November 13, 2013
BEIJING — China’s new national security committee is mainly based on the Washington model. It will put at the disposal of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, a highly empowered group of security experts who can work the levers of the country’s vast security apparatus — and presumably respond more nimbly than the country’s multilayered party, police and military bureaucracies have been known to do.
But the Chinese body, which was announced at the conclusion of a party meeting this week, will apparently differ from the American National Security Council in one crucial aspect: The Chinese version will have dual duties with responsibility over domestic security as well as foreign policy, Chinese experts say.
That means the new body will deal with cybersecurity as well as the unrest in China’s Tibet and Xinjiang regions, where resistance against the Han majority population is continuing, according to Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing and an occasional adviser to the government.
“In China, the security question is largely domestic: cyber, Xinjiang and Tibet,” Mr. Shi said. The focus will be on foreign policy with a considerable domestic component that will call for the Public Security Bureau to participate on the committee when it discusses matters of internal security, he said.
The decision by Mr. Xi to push ahead with the national security committee drew special attention because although two of his predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, had contemplated forming such a coordinating policy group, bureaucratic resistance, particularly from the military, had prevented its creation, the experts said.
Over the years, Chinese officials have asked their American counterparts about the workings of the National Security Council, established after World War II by President Harry S. Truman, to advise presidents on national security and foreign policy and to coordinate policies among government agencies.
In the United States, the president is chairman of the National Security Council, and the regular attendees include the vice president and the secretaries of state, defense and the Treasury. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the military adviser to the council, and the director of national intelligence is the intelligence adviser.
It seemed clear from the Chinese announcement that Mr. Xi would head the new Chinese agency and that his position at the helm would serve to increase his already firm grasp on power, said Zhao Kejin, an associate professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, who is an expert on China’s diplomacy.
The precise membership of the new committee was not specified in the statement. It may take some months and considerable political jockeying before the exact composition of the new body is defined, Mr. Shi said.
Another obvious difference between the American model and the new Chinese agency is the dominant role of the Communist Party in China. “The Standing Committee will still be king for all important things,” said Mr. Shi, referring to the seven men, including Mr. Xi, who are decision makers of the Politburo.
At Sunnylands, the California estate where President Obama and Mr. Xi met for a two-day summit meeting in June, an official in Mr. Xi’s entourage asked an American official about how the National Security Council was staffed, according to an American official who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“I know of specific inquiries key Chinese officials were making as recently as a month ago about how the U.S. N.S.C. has evolved,” said Kenneth G. Lieberthal, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who was on the National Security Council staff during the Clinton presidency. “My understanding was that this was on behalf of the highest levels of the leadership.”
The Chinese version of the National Security Council would most likely borrow elements from the Department of Homeland Security, the agency created after the September 2001 attacks to manage terrorism threats in the United States, said Xie Yue, a professor of political science at Tongji University in Shanghai who is an expert on Chinese domestic security policy.
“Now China and other countries are paying increasing attention to antiterrorism, and China doesn’t have an established body to coordinate or lead here,” said Mr. Xie, who has followed the debate in the Chinese government about establishing a security committee.
The twin concerns of the new committee show that making a distinction between domestic and foreign affairs is a thing of the past, said Mr. Zhao, the Tsinghua professor.
“We believe security is not only traditional security, not only territory and borders, but also means climate change, financial reform and terrorism,” Mr. Zhao said.
Mr. Zhao said Mr. Xi would dominate the new national security committee and would add the title to the three major responsibilities he already holds: general secretary of the Communist Party, head of the People’s Liberation Army and head of state.
Who will serve as China’s equivalent of the United States national security adviser is a tantalizing question, Chinese experts said.
The front-runner for the senior staff job at the Chinese agency is considered to be Wang Huning, 58, who is a member of the Politburo, the director of the policy research office of the Communist Party and a close adviser on domestic and foreign policy to three Chinese presidents: Mr. Hu, Mr. Jiang and now Mr. Xi.
Mr. Wang is unusual in the Chinese policy firmament because his expertise covers American politics and Chinese domestic concerns as well as foreign policy, a portfolio of interests that would seem to coincide with the mandate of the new national security committee.
“His skills span both foreign and domestic policy and his membership in the Politburo gives him more political clout than anyone in the formal foreign policy system has,” Mr. Lieberthal said.
In the late 1990s, he wrote an essay that called for greater separation of government and industry, a period when such ideas were less discussed than now. Before joining government, he served as a professor of international politics and as dean of the law school at Fudan University in Shanghai.