Recent Ministry of State Security Posts Illustrate China’s Worry About the Economy

Recent Ministry of State Security Posts Illustrate China’s Worry About the Economy

MSS propaganda poster "Safeguarding Economic Security" Bottom text: "National Security Agencies will be Staunch Defenders of Financial Security"

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What You Need to Know

On January 29th, China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) made a post on their public WeChat account titled “Take My Advice, Don’t Let the National Security Agencies Treat You to These ‘Ten Cups of Tea’.” The term “please drink tea” is Chinese Internet slang for “being interviewed or under investigation for suspected illegal crimes.”

The ten ‘cups of tea’ correlate to the various articles outlined in the counterespionage law, revised in April 2023, such as leaking information related to counterintelligence efforts and illegal production, sale, and possession of spy equipment. Other ‘cups’ cover the unique aspects of the law, such as individuals or entities failing to implement rules related to counterespionage efforts or violations related to “Construction Project Licensing Involving National Security Matters” outlined in the law. However, the post also contains two rules that cover holding or obtaining state secrets or committing acts not considered to be espionage that endanger China’s national security.

Ministry of State Security WeChat post “Take My Advice, Don’t Let the National Security Agencies Treat You to These ‘Ten Cups of Tea’”

December 2023 Post

The MSS also made another WeChat post in December 2023 about the Central Economic Work Conference that occurred in the same month. The post discussed Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s speech, but it stressed that China must adhere to and promote the “positive interaction between high-quality development and security.”

The MSS post also highlighted that China must “ensure high-quality development with high-level security” and that both development and security have to be balanced and complement one another. For example, it mentioned how “various “cliches” intended to denigrate China’s economy continue to appear” to create and use false narratives to build a ‘cognitive or discourse trap’ of China’s decline. They also said that the false narratives are also used to cast doubt on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

However, the MSS also said that “development and security are two wings of one body and two driving wheels” and that the promotion of development has to go hand in hand with security.

The post also said that the national security agencies will fulfill their responsibilities of safeguarding national security and development interests and building an effective guard for economic security. They also said they would crack down on and punish any illegal economic activities that could endanger national security.

Analysis

The recent posts the MSS made to its WeChat account illustrate the Chinese government’s ongoing worries about the Chinese economy and its negative effect on its society. The December 14th post explaining how the MSS and other national security agencies are responsible for China’s economic security highlights this aspect.

The post mentioned that various cliches, i.e., Chinese individuals who lost their jobs, retirements, and investments, criticize the current state (i.e., the decline) of the Chinese economy. The group’s posts criticizing the Chinese economy on social media apps such as Weibo and WeChat directly contradict the government’s narrative that the economy is making progress in its recovery.

In response, Chinese censors began to delete the posts but also notified social media to issue warnings for individuals not to make posts critical of the economy in mid-December. However, Chinese individuals continued to make posts criticizing the Chinese economy and other related crises and issues, such as the real estate crisis. The continued posts about the economic woes likely prompted the MSS to post the article on their WeChat outlining the ten ways individuals could be invited to “drink tea.”

While China believes that it could employ the MSS and other intelligence agencies to silence criticism related to the economy, this will likely fail since Chinese individuals will find other ways to express their viewpoints. The most widely used method is to collectively gather at random Weibo posts about topics to voice their criticisms about the Chinese economy, its outlook, and their grievances. For example, several Chinese individuals openly complained about the Shanghai Stock Exchange posting a five-year low on a post the U.S. Embassy made about giraffe conservation efforts in Namibia.

The post received 167,000 comments and 72,600 likes after its creation but was related to Chinese people showing their displeasure with the economy rather than any love for giraffes. Several people also made posts critical of the Chinese economy on the Japanese Embassy’s Weibo page on the same day as the U.S. Embassy post. However, Chinese people also made these posts to illustrate that they also want friendly relations with countries such as the United States and Japan since that could improve the economy.

Another way Chinese people complain about the economy is to collectively gather at their employer’s social media pages to ask for their pay or air their grievances. Several of these posts appeared on various social media platforms, from Weibo to Douyin, beginning in January but increasing throughout the month and into February. However, the posts critical of the Chinese economy also indicate that some Chinese people view the declining economy as being counter to the CCP’s silent social contract of allowing them total control in return for economic promises.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.
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