China’s Security State

Title:                      China’s Security State

Author:                  Guo Xuezhi

Guo Xuezhi (2012). China’s Security State: Philosophy, Evolution, and Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press

LCCN:    2012002710

JQ1509.5.I6 G86 2012


  • “China’s Security State describes the creation, evolution, and development of Chinese security and intelligence agencies as well as their role in influencing Chinese Communist Party politics throughout the party’s history”– Provided by publisher.


  • Machine generated contents note: 1. Historical evolution of public security organizations; 2. From the social affairs department to the ministry of public security; 3. Leading central security agency: Central Guard Bureau; 4. Elite security corps: Central Guard Regiment; 5. Armed police and its historical role in the CCP politics; 6. People’s armed police in the reform era; 7. Garrison commands; 8. CCP intelligence agencies and services in the revolutionary era; 9. The intelligence apparatus and services under PRC; 10. The PLA, security services, and the elite politics.


Date Posted:      October 5, 2015

I lived in China 1985-1987 and had a chance to see the “security state” up close. Guo’s book is of high interest to me, and I am somewhat surprised it could even be published.

Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake.[1]

In his article on the challenges of understanding Chinese intelligence, China expert Peter Mattis concludes that “China’s intelligence services have long been underanalyzed as major bureaucratic organizations and components of state power.”[2] In China’s Security State, Guilford College political science professor Guo Xuezhi seeks to correct that deficiency in what he terms “the first scholarly study of Chinese security and intelligence organizations and their role in elite politics.” (p. 4)

Professor Guo’s initial approach is straightforward though the narrative is dense and could do with an occasional dash of bumper-sticker simplicity. First he discusses the evolution of the security and intelligence services and outlines their distinctive functions. Then he examines how they function to protect the regime and guarantee compliance with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership. Next, he analyzes the services’ organization and operations.

From then on, with one exception, nothing is straightforward in the Chinese system. The exception is that the party is the boss. China’s Security State is the story of multiple organizations whose names change frequently and whose missions overlap as they compete to collect the intelligence used to control citizens and officials and identify spies and dissidents, who often spy on one another while protecting CCP leaders.

The first seven chapters discuss the evolution of the Ministry of State Security, the Central Guards Regiment, the People’s Armed Police and the Garrison Commands of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which are placed in major cities, at defense installations, and at various military sites. The succeeding two chapters examine the foreign intelligence elements. These are followed by a chapter on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)-which has its own intelligence and security mission-and its relationship with the other security services and the political leadership. The overlap of missions between the civilian and “PLA intelligence services [is] encouraged” and “creates· a competitive intelligence environment.” (p. 422)

Despite the authoritarian character of the security state, Guo sees some future indications of “a democracy with Chinese characteristics, which would emphasize community welfare over individual rights and that is neither fully democratic nor completely repressive.” (p. 444) Considering the complex bureaucratic relationships that dominate every aspect of society, this seems overly optimistic. One thing is evident, however: truly understanding China requires a thorough knowledge of its security and intelligence services. China’s Security State provides a necessary foundation toward that goal.

[1] Hayden Peake, “Intelligence Officer Bookshelf,” The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Stuidies (21, 2, Spring/Summer 2015, p. 133)Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of his reviews cited have appeared in recent unclassified editions of ClA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found online at

[2] . Peter Mattis, “The Analytic Challenge of Understanding Chinese Intelligence Services,” Studies In Intelligence (56, 3, September, 2012): 54. This article is available online at -56-no.-3/pdfs/Mattis-Understanding%20 Chinese%20Inte!.pdf. This link does not work. The article can be found by going to the CIA Center for Study of Intelligence and searching by article name. The working URL is Downloaded October 5, 2015

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