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CA 38 – Control at the Grassroots: China’s New Toolbox – June 2012


Maintaining social stability is at the core of China’s authoritarianism. An elaborated system of “social management” aims at anticipating and preventing social disorder. The Chinese Communist Party has been able to extend its reach by embracing new technologies and embarking on cautious reform. The latest edition of China Analysis examines China’s system of social management, political control and public security. The paper explains how the different parts of the system are being transformed -and it explores the public debates surrounding China’s security apparatus.

China’s complex “stability maintenance machine” is made up of different ministries and administrative bodies – but the system seems incapable of dealing with China’s underlying social problems.

“Social stability” has become a costly activity for local governments as it is their responsibility to deal with incidents that threaten stability. The logic of “zero incidents” led not only to superficial solutions but also to a privatisation of stability maintenance. The central government increasingly controls the public without relying on biased local authorities.

The mission of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) is changing. The PAP is transforming itself from a paramilitary force into a modern integrated and multi-tasking force with a broad mandate to “defend national security and maintain social stability”.

The reform of China’s criminal procedure law sparked a lively debate about the role of the state and how liberties of the individual can be upheld. However, covert investigations, secret detentions and the death penalty remain a feature of the legal system in China.




Enforcing Stability by Managing Social Conflicts (David Péneau)

Subcontracting Weiwen to Private Firms (Jérôme Doyon)

The Challenges of Transforming People’s Armed Police (Emmanuel Puig)

The Controversy Over Secret Detention (Hugo Winckler)