The Total National Security Paradigm is a set of interlinked concepts that party sources describe as Xi Jinping’s signature contribution to Chinese security theory. Xi introduced the paradigm in a 2014 address where he instructed cadres to “pay attention to both traditional and non-traditional security, and build a national security system that integrates such elements as political, military, economic, cultural, social, science and technology, information, ecological, resource, and nuclear security” (Xi, Governance of China, vol, 221-222). This distinction between traditional [传统] and non-traditional [非传统] security is key to Xi’s paradigm. “Traditional security” is oriented around threats to China’s territorial integrity and threats from foreign military powers. The Total National Security Paradigm guides cadres to place equal emphasis on “non-traditional security” threats which cannot be resolved with military tools, but which are potentially as dangerous as military defeat.
Variously translated as the Holistic Approach to National Security, the Comprehensive National Security Concept, or the Overall National Security Outlook, the core of Xi's security paradigm is a maximalist conception of security. This intellectual framework blurs the lines between hard and soft power, internal and external threats, and traditional distinctions between the worlds of economics, culture, and diplomacy. China’s accounting of its security must be “total” [总体]. Though the Total National Security Paradigm is the most forceful and systematic presentation of this idea, it is not new to Party thought. Mao introduced the phrase PEACEFUL EVOLUTION into the party lexicon to describe the threat posed by Western powers who hoped to overthrow communist regimes by instigating revolution from within. The collapse of the Soviet Union vividly demonstrated what happened to a party who ignored this threat. From that moment to the present day, party leaders and state intellectuals have portrayed the Communist Party of China as safeguarding a system under siege. Be they faced with economic coercion and political isolation or friendly offers to integrate into the international order, party authorities consistently describe their country as the object of hostile stratagems designed to subvert China’s domestic stability and the Party’s unquestioned rule.
Xi Jinping’s solution to this problem differs from its predecessors more in scale than concept. Officials in the Jiang and Hu eras offered regular warnings about the danger that ideological dissent, social protest, online media, and official corruption posed to the Party’s hold on power. The Total National Security Paradigm formalized these warnings into a more systematic conceptual framework. In Leninist systems theoretical frameworks like these are the necessary prerequisite of bureaucratic overhaul. If this was the concept’s purpose it seems to have accomplished its aim: by the 20th Congress, the Chinese government was spending more on its internal security budget than on military power, the state security apparatus saw fresh expansion down to lower levels of government, and new national bodies like the Central National Security Commission (CNSC) [中央国家安全委员会] were coordinating state security functions across China’s bureaucratic labyrinth.
See also: CORE INTERESTS; HOSTILE FORCES; PEACEFUL EVOLUTION; SOFT BONE DISEASE;
Tai Ming Cheung, Innovate to Dominate: The Rise of the Chinese Techno-Security State (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 2022); Jude Blanchette, “The Edge of an Abyss: Xi Jinping’s Overall National Security Outlook,” China Leadership Monitor (September 2022); Sheena Chesnut Greitens, "Internal Security & Chinese Strategy," hearing on "The United States' Strategic Competition with China" § Senate Armed Services Committee (2022); Joel Wuthnow, "Transforming China’s National Security Architecture in the Xi Era” hearing on CCP Decision-Making and the 20th Party Congress” § U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing (2022); Samantha Hoffman, “Programming China: the Communist Party’s autonomic approach to managing state security,” PhD diss, University of Nottingham (2017)