Security high on the minds of policy makers at Party Congress

More than 2,000 Communist Party delegates are gathering in Beijing this week at the 20th Party Congress, to deliberate on a new leadership line-up, pass a new charter for the party and agree on its mission for the next decade and beyond. 

Ensuring the security of energy, food and other key supplies powering the Chinese economy, in an era of great uncertainty, has been a central message coming out of top-level speeches and press conferences over the past few days. 

A simple word count comparing Party Secretary Xi Jinping’s address to the Party Congress this time with Secretary Hu Jintao’s 18th Party Congress address 10 years ago shows the elevation of security and stability in the party’s priorities. This reflects a hardening world view brought about by trade wars, geopolitical tensions and the pandemic. The concept of “holistic national security” was a keyword in Xi’s address, with special emphasis on food, energy and supply chain security, among others.

At the press conference on Monday 17 October journalists bombarded ministers with questions about how such security will be achieved.

In reply to one on energy security, after severe power shortages this past summer, Ren Jingdong, vice minister of the National Energy Administration, underscored shoring up energy production capacities and emphasised the “orderly” replacement of fossil-based power by renewable energy. He also highlighted the importance of risk management, through enhancing early warning capabilities for coal, oil, gas and power supply disruptions. 

When answering another question along the same lines, Ren further elaborated that the government intends to stave off any power shortage this winter by pushing up coal inventories at power plants, which are currently at an all-time high of 170 million tons, and by adding production capabilities at coal mines and generation capacities from all power sources. He said that since the beginning of 2021, China has added 270 GW of power generation capacity. Enhancing grid flexibility to dispatch power across provinces was another key point.

Ren’s colleague Cong Liang at the National Food and Strategic Reserve Administration also addressed questions of food security and key minerals supply. The former involves safeguarding China’s arable land and boosting domestic production of staple crops combined with measures against food waste. The latter entails strengthening China’s strategic reserve system for minerals critical to supply chain security.

Read China Dialogue’s earlier coverage of the 14th Five Year Plan that also has energy security at its core.