Control Over the Security Services in Periods of Political Uncertainty: A Comparative Study of Russia and China
Control over the security services is a key ingredient of political survival in authoritarian regimes. This is particularly true during periods of leadership succession and high political uncertainty. In this paper, we compare the strategy used by Vladimir Putin towards the siloviki – the Russian security services – with that employed by Xi Jinping towards the Chinese security services. We find that in both countries, the security services have been significantly strengthened in recent years, while at the same time extensive anti-corruption campaigns have been used to eliminate key officials within the security structures. We argue that both developments can be seen as elements of a strategy to increase control over the public, while eliminating potential competition from regime insiders, in view of a deteriorating economic situation, and the constitutional (or quasi-constitutional) term limits faced by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in 2024 and 2022, respectively.