(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC.NET)
China’s security obsession is now a point of national pride
China is the world’s ultimate security state.
Beijing police proudly boast there is no corner of public space that surveillance cameras cannot see.
Every subway entrance involves bag scans and metal detectors.
Armed military police stand guard at major public spaces.
Various levels of lower down security guards are ever present, right down to the elderly civilian volunteers who keep watch on the street when big political events take place.
Away from the capital of this authoritarian superpower things are more relaxed, but the political culture prioritising stability permeates deep.
Recently I was in the city of Dandong — bordering North Korea — where an airport video showed off SWAT patrol officers marching around empty streets.
Then a cartoon showed how they would respond to Islamist terrorists bringing fire and fury to Dandong — an unlikely scenario to contemplate in a city more well known for being China’s gateway to North Korea.
Over in far western Xinjiang the prospect of Islamist terror is far more realistic, and in recent months authorities have mobilised thousands of military police in several public displays of force.
The underlying rationale for all this security is to ensure the Communist Party’s control of China remains unchallenged — meaning some political activists and crusading lawyers have felt the full force of China’s security apparatus just as much as terror suspects.
The total annual domestic security budget hasn’t been published since 2013, when overseas media noted how it outstripped the rapidly growing funding for China’s military.
China’s massive internet censorship operation is also deeply linked to the overall concept of safeguarding stability.
Safer than other countries?
The normalisation of such a huge security presence is helping create a growing belief here that China is far safer than countries abroad.
Well-publicised cases of Chinese students and young nationals being kidnapped or murdered in the United States, Australia and elsewhere along with news coverage of mass shootings and violent protests in the West appear to affirm the idea that China’s security state is superior.
When similar incidents happen domestically, such as a violent face-off between a group of Muslims and police in the northern city of Tangshan in August, censors scrub any mention of it.
Events that could dominate the news agenda for days in a country like Australia can be neutralised and snuffed out before most people have a chance to hear about them.
“Chinese society is stable and orderly, people happily live and work in peace,” President Xi Jinping recently told an Interpol conference in Beijing.
“More and more people believe China is one of the world’s safest countries.
“This is China’s contribution to the world for security and stability.”
This emphasis on stability and security is only likely to increase in the weeks ahead as Mr Xi presides over a major Communist Party meeting confirming his leadership for another five years.
“The idea of stability is central to the Chinese Communist Party”, said Dr Michael Clarke, a specialist in China’s domestic security policies at the Australian National University.
“It also plays into this wider narrative of China returning to its place of great power status and its ability to be a leader in international affairs.
“So I think there’s a real link between stability and Xi’s concept of the China Dream.”