The Rise of the Security State

22 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013 Last revised: 16 Mar 2016

See all articles by Yuhua Wang

Yuhua Wang

Department of Government, Harvard University

Carl F. Minzner

Fordham University - School of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 9, 2013


Over the past two decades, the Chinese domestic security apparatus has expanded dramatically. “Stability maintenance” operations have become a priority for local Chinese authorities. We argue that the birth of these trends dates to the early 1990s, when central Party authorities adopted new governance models that differed dramatically from those that of the 1980s. They increased the bureaucratic rank of public security chiefs within the Party apparatus, expanded the reach of the Party political-legal apparatus into a broader range of governance issues, and altered cadre evaluation standards to increase the sensitivity of local authorities to social protest. We show that the origin of these changes lies in a policy response to the developments of 1989-1991, namely the Tiananmen democracy movement and the collapse of Communist political systems in Eastern Europe. Over the past twenty years, these practices have flowered into an extensive stability maintenance apparatus, where local governance is increasingly oriented around the need to respond to social protest, whether through concession or repression. Chinese authorities now appear to be rethinking these developments, but the direction of reform remains unclear.

Keywords: China, law, stability, security, social unrest, political-legal committees

Suggested Citation

Wang, Yuhua and Minzner, Carl F., The Rise of the Security State (December 9, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Yuhua Wang

Department of Government, Harvard University ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States


Carl F. Minzner (Contact Author)

Fordham University - School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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