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国之大者 on Xi's Mind - Wang Yi on China @ UN - Rejuvenation an 'Irreversible Historical Process' - Key Choices: Community of Common Destiny
Here are the stories and pieces from the November 9, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.
There’s no report in the paper today about the 6th Plenum beginning. But it’s understood from the pieces that this is underway. Xinhua has a report about what’s happened so far at the plenum. It says:
“Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, delivered a work report on behalf of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and made explanations on a draft resolution on the major achievements and historical experience of the CPC's 100 years of endeavors.”
The report also offers a glimpse at what the resolution could cover, based on the statement that was issued after the October Politburo meeting.
Page 1: ‘Tis the season for long-winded pieces in PD, which run across several pages. So today we begin with a piece celebrating Xi Jinping. It tells us that what occupies Xi’s mind is 国之大者. This is something that I’ve loosely interpreted as “matters of great significance to the state/country.” But I think this thread below by Adam offers a much better way to understand the phrase.
After a bit of talk about how remarkable it is that the CCP started the way it did and has succeeded as a ruling Party, we are told that “seeking happiness for the people and national rejuvenation are 国之大者, which have occupied the minds of generations of communists. This is sort of the “original inheritance” of the Party over the past century. 为人民谋幸福、为民族谋复兴，这是一代代共产党人的“国之大者”，这是莽莽神州的历史回响, 这是跨越百年的初心传承.
After this, we get to Xi being a man of the people. So there’s a story about Xi visiting the home of Wang Deli in Maozhushan village in Guilin. This was in April this year. In the reported interaction in this piece, the villager thanks Xi for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit them. And Xi responds by saying that it is precisely these things that keep him busy; 国之大者 is the happiness of the people. ‘国之大者’就是人民的幸福生活.
We then get an old quote/comment from Xi about him always being the son of the yellow earth (黄土地的儿子), and about his time in Shaanxi where he cultivated “the unchangeable philosophy, that I must do practical things for the people!”
This is followed by a little bit about the people going from scarcity to prosperity in China, particularly with regard to food. Then we get another exchange between Xi and a villager. Here the emphasis is on Xi as the “servant of the people.” We get the line about Xi treating people as he would treat his parents. This was also in Xinhua’s English profile of Xi that was published prior to the 6th plenum. Anyway, this leads to the piece praising the poverty alleviation campaign and the COVID-19 containment effort from last year. The idea conveyed is that Xi was intent to save lives and better people’s lives through the Party’s policies. We also get that bit about Xi ensuring fish supplies to Wuhan during the lockdown.
Anyway, I guess by now you get the drift of the piece. It’s about Xi caring for the people, visiting them on inspection tours, ensuring that even the smallest detail is taken care of and generally being a swell guy. Why wouldn’t you want him in charge indefinitely?
It’s really difficult to do a full breakdown. So I am just going to point out things that really stand out for me.
For example, there’s a paragraph about a menu that’s been circulated online, which purportedly is from one of Xi’s visits to Fuping county in Hebei. Apart from listing the dishes, the piece makes it a point to highlight that these were simple, “home-cooked” dishes and there was no alcohol served. (China Daily story on Xi’s dining habits.) 一桌10人，吃的都是这些家常菜，还特别交代不上酒水. — Quick Thought: I find making a virtue out of this a little strange. In my experience, I’ve never come across any alcohol-related stigma in Chinese public life.
It’s not just China watchers who track mentions of words/terms in reports and speeches; PD tells us that the word “people” appeared 86 times in Xi’s July 1 speech. The piece talks about looking at China’s development and governance from the perspective of the long arc of Chinese history, and while being future oriented. It also specifically emphasises environmental protection as being of “strategic importance.” In fact, there’s a quote from Xi about ensuring building an ecological civilisation as being important from the point of view of “history and future generations.”
There’s a lot about the environment in there--a key point being made is that Xi realised the importance of environmental protection early on in life apparently; he realised that actions that harm nature will eventually harm humans. 向前追溯，早在生态环境脆弱的黄土地上，青年时代的习近平同志就认识到人与自然是生命共同体，对自然的伤害最终会伤及人类自己。在福建任职期间，他前瞻性地提出了建设生态省战略构想，在那个“生态建设”还是新名词的年代，绿色种子悄然扎根东南沿海.
We also get this bit about Xi having said that despite the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic or economic ups and downs, it is important to not “sacrifice the environment for economic growth, or try to cross the red line of ecological protection.” 部署疫情防控工作的同时，习近平总书记多次实地察看各地生态保护进展，用意深远：“不能因为经济发展遇到一点困难，就开始动铺摊子上项目、以牺牲环境换取经济增长的念头，甚至想方设法突破生态保护红线.”
Then we have this bit, which I am summarising. This is really useful for a sense of the future economic direction that we are likely to see:
GDP is an indicator of China’s development; it is also a reference point to observe the 国之大者. Last year, on the eve of the National People’s Congress, the first quarter GDP was a big concern. It was the first negative growth since quarterly statistics began. Amid discussions on how to approach growth from a long-term perspective, the General Secretary offered this foresight: ‘The focus should not be on GDP growth.’ At this year’s Two Sessions, he further added that ‘We left some room in setting this year’s economic growth target, so that we can devote more energy to high-quality development.’ In the third quarter of this year, the slowdown in economic growth has again attracted attention. Media outlets believe that given the abundance of regulatory tools, it is inevitable for China’s economy to grow at a faster pace. In the face of downward pressure on the economy, the central government has maintained its strategic focus and resolutely refused to pursue indiscriminate economic policies, sending out a policy signal that China will not follow the old path of extensive growth and firmly pursue high-quality development. If the path is right, we must move forward firmly. GDP（国内生产总值），中国发展的一个指标，也是观察“国之大者”的一个参照. 去年全国两会召开前夕，一季度GDP颇受关注，那是有季度统计数据以来的首次负增长。如何加速爬坡过坎，中国着眼长远。总书记深谋远虑：“着眼点着力点不能放在GDP增速上。”今年全国两会，他进一步谈到这个话题：“我们定今年经济增速预期目标时留有余地，这样可以把更多精力用到高质量发展上.” 今年三季度，经济增速放缓再受关注。媒体分析认为，在调控工具充沛的情况下，经济增速再快一点非不能也，实不为也——面对经济下行压力，中央保持战略定力，坚决不搞“大水漫灌”，释放出不走粗放增长老路、坚定迈向高质量发展的政策信号. 路子对了，就要坚定走下去.
Later in the piece, among many other things, there’s also an emphasis on the role of leading cadres and them needing to think in big picture terms; there’s also a healthy dose of reminding people about red history and the importance of ideals. The different periods of history are linked with Xi saying that “we must succeed in the Long March of our generation.”
The last two subsections of the article hark back to the revolutionary past and then talk about the need for a whole-of-society effort to ensure national rejuvenation. And then this cheeky comparison of Xi to a foreign politician to make a point that he’s a different, special sort of bloke.
The baton of history has now been passed into the hands of this generation. Over two years ago, General Secretary Xi Jinping, who was at the helm of the great ship that is China, had an exchange with a visiting delegation. The interaction offers a glimpse of the approach of Chinese Communists: “How did you feel when you were elected President of China? Because I was very excited to be elected as the Speaker of the House (众议长), and China is so big, what do you think as a leader of such an important country?’ Xi responded saying that ‘for such a large country, the responsibility is heavy and the work is very arduous. I would like to be selfless and determined to devote myself to serving the Chinese people and China’s development. I am willing to be in a state of ‘non-self’ (无我) and dedicate myself to China’s development.’..” 历史的接力棒到了这一代人手中。掌舵领航中国这艘巨轮的习近平总书记，两年多前的一次出访会见时，一段问答令世界见证了中国共产党人的风范: “您当选中国国家主席的时候，是一种什么样的心情？因为我本人当选众议长已经很激动了，而中国这么大，您作为世界上如此重要国家的一位领袖，您是怎么想的?” “这么大一个国家，责任非常重、工作非常艰巨。我将无我，不负人民。我愿意做到一个‘无我’的状态，为中国的发展奉献自己.” 从“我将无我”到“国之大者”，一以贯之的炽热初心、一往无前的阔步前行.
Next, we have another very long piece about national rejuvenation becoming an “irreversible historical process.” I am going to try and do a quick skim. It’s now abundantly clear, and I guess, the history resolution after the 6th Plenum will say this too, the new era began 9 years ago. 这是中国特色社会主义进入新时代的9年——在我国社会主要矛盾转化的大背景下，以习近平同志为核心的党中央立足新的历史方位，把握发展大势、引领时代潮流，团结带领全党全国各族人民取得一系列原创性思想、变革性实践、标志性成就，推动中国特色社会主义事业进入新的历史阶段.
Also, there’s a glowing review of Xi’s tenure:
“These have been nine years of self-confidence, strength, integrity and innovation -- the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has united and led the whole Party and the people of all ethnic groups in making new major achievements and accumulating new valuable experience. The party, the military and the people have become more united and inspired than ever before, and China’s international standing has been strengthened. It has provided a more complete institutional guarantee, a more solid material foundation, and a spiritual force for realising the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” 这是自信自强、守正创新的9年——以习近平同志为核心的党中央团结带领全党全国各族人民取得新的重大成就、积累了新的宝贵经验，党心军心民心空前凝聚振奋，我国国际地位日益巩固，为实现中华民族伟大复兴提供了更为完善的制度保证、更为坚实的物质基础、更为主动的精神力量.
The piece emphasises the Party’s leadership. The key example of this is it becoming a norm that Xi hears work reports from leading Party groups of the NPC Standing Committee, the State Council, the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. This started in January 2015. The piece also reiterates that “without the CPC, there would be no new China and no great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Since the 18th Party Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has taken a clear-cut and firm position that upholding and strengthening overall Party leadership is the most fundamental principle of governance. This has reversed a period in which Party leadership was diluted, weakened, and marginalised, and set the course for the Party and the country to move forward. 党的十八大以来，以习近平同志为核心的党中央旗帜鲜明、立场坚定，将坚持和加强党的全面领导作为治国理政的最根本原则，一改一段时期党的领导淡化弱化虚化边缘化问题，校正了党和国家前进的航向——.
We are told that the Party’s leadership will be implemented and integrated into the work related to ideology, the governance of state-owned enterprises, the leadership system of universities, the construction of mass organizations and other fields...It talks about strengthening Party leadership over major work areas, including comprehensively deepening reform, advancing law-based governance, finance and economics, foreign affairs, national security, and cyberspace. 在党中央组建一系列顶层机构，全面加强党对全面深化改革、全面依法治国、财经、外事、国家安全、网信等重大工作的领导; 将党的领导贯彻和融入到意识形态、国有企业治理、高校领导体制、群团组织建设等各领域各方面工作之中.
We are then told that in this great struggle with many new historical characteristics, General Secretary Xi Jinping was expected to and deservedly became the core of the Party Central Committee and the core of the whole Party. This was affirmed at the 6th Plenum of the 18th Central Committee in October 2016. The birth of a new, mature core is always accompanied by a leap in thought and theory. 在进行具有许多新的历史特点的伟大斗争中，习近平总书记众望所归、当之无愧地成为党中央的核心、全党的核心。2016年10月，党的十八届六中全会正式明确习近平总书记党中央的核心、全党的核心地位. 成熟核心的诞生，总是伴随着思想理论的飞跃.
We are then told that Xi Thought has meant “a new leap forward in adapting Marxism to China.” And this curious bit: “In October 2017, at the 19th Party Congress of the, Xi Jinping Thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era and the core position of General Secretary Xi Jinping were included in the Party Constitution and written on the banner of the Party. This is the common choice, solemn choice and inevitable choice of history and people. It is the good fortune of the Party and the country, the people and the Chinese nation.” 2017年10月，党的十九大把习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想和习近平总书记的核心地位一同载入党章，写在党的旗帜上. 这是历史和人民的共同选择、郑重选择、必然选择，是党和国家之幸、人民之幸、中华民族之幸.
After this we get praise for COVID containment; praise for the anti-corruption campaign; praise for managing and shifting economic development despite things slowing; and praise for pursuing “innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development.” There is a reiteration that houses are for living; and a call for the whole Party to follow Xi’s “new development philosophy.” There’s also a comment about China continuing to remain connected to the wider world economically through dual circulation. Later in the piece, there’s talk about how China’s system and governance over the past nine years has been based on “national conditions.” It has also been focussed on ensuring stability and sustainability.
I also think that this quote from Xi about not just building a materially strong but also spiritually strong country is interesting. “我们要建设的社会主义现代化强国，不仅要在物质上强，更要在精神上强. ”习近平总书记的铿锵话语，昭示雄浑的中国精神生机无限，矢志复兴的中国力量奔腾浩荡. My personal view about this specific bit on spiritual power — and this is a bit of a digression — is that I can see why this resonates well, particularly when framed in the context of colonial history. The colonial experience left a deep sense of manufactured inferiority in large parts of the world; despite decolonisation, this has sustained in people’s psyche. This is in part owing to power politics, institutional mechanisms, domestic politics, and the evolution of post-colonial states adjusting to the post-WWII world. With the global order now in churn, these arguments have gained traction in post-colonial societies. For instance, the current wave of nationalism even in India is partly a product of society exorcising itself of this past.
Anyway, later in the piece, there’s more praise for Xi for his “broad vision, historical responsibility and broad mind” as the leader of a great party and country to have proposed the idea of a community of common destiny, BRI and Dialogue of Asian Civilisations, etc. Basically, Xi’s da man to lead China towards rejuvenation.
Moving on, the key choices piece today is about this bit about building a community with a shared future for mankind. There’s little new in the piece. Xi is the protagonist and is speaking, acting and shaping China’s policies towards this end of building a community of common destiny. And the thrust of the argument is that these policies are fundamentally benign and for the betterment of everyone. So, China is basically making contributions to the cause of human progress, as the piece argues. And it is fulfilling responsibilities as a major country. Also, one bit of the argument is emphasising China’s engagement to shape global governance norms when it comes to cyberspace, environment, etc. As is the norm with these pieces, there’s also a commentary associated with this on the page.
The General Office of the State Council has released a plan for the preservation of cultural relics and related technological innovation during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025). The document pledges to comprehensively improve its level of cultural relic preservation and attain a substantial increase in its technological innovation capability in the field, according to the document. To reach the goals, the document outlines 10 major tasks, including building a national database for cultural relic resources and building a technological innovation system that integrates preservation, academic research and higher education. Tasks also include unleashing the innovative potential of museums and fostering competent cultural relic protection professionals.
Page 6: There is a long piece on the page by Wang Yi. This draws from Xi’s speech on the 50th anniversary of the PRC getting its UN seat. Wang writes that Xi’s speech offered “strategic and profound perspective.” For Wang, the speech was “an important statement of China's major-country diplomacy in the new era and provides useful insights into the future and destiny of mankind. It will surely have an important and far-reaching impact.” 这篇重要讲话是新时代中国特色大国外交的重要宣示，也是对人类前途命运提出的有益启迪，必将产生重要和深远影响.
Wang then argues that Xi pointed out that the “restoration of New China’s legitimate seat in the United Nations” was a “major event in the world and also a major event in the history of the United Nations.” It was the “result of the joint efforts of all peace-loving and justice-upholding countries. It marked the return of the Chinese people, who account for one quarter of the world’s population, to the UN.” 习近平主席指出，新中国恢复在联合国合法席位，是世界上的一个大事件，也是联合国的一个大事件。这是世界上一切爱好和平和主持正义的国家共同努力的结果。这标志着占世界人口四分之一的中国人民从此重新走上联合国舞台.
Wang added that this was a “victory of the Chinese people.” He says that the PRC’s exclusion was “illegal” somehow, and that the “self-reliant and hard-working Chinese people...never stopped our steadfast efforts to promote national development and win support from the international community. The Chinese people, who love peace and uphold justice, have never wavered in their firm determination to support the just cause of national liberation of other countries. After 22 years of unremitting efforts, the CCP united and led the Chinese people in regaining all their legitimate rights at the United Nations...The policies of some hostile forces, isolating and blockading the Chinese people, failed completely, and the attempt of a few countries to create ‘two Chinas’ in the United Nations failed completely.” 这首先是中国人民的胜利。新中国成立后，中国人民曾被非法阻挡在联合国大门之外长达22年之久。但自力更生、艰苦奋斗的中国人民从未停止推动国家建设发展、争取国际社会支持的坚定步伐；热爱和平、主持公道的中国人民从未动摇支持各国民族解放正义事业的坚定意志。22年孜孜以求、22年坚持不懈，中国共产党团结带领中国人民重新拿回在联合国的一切合法权利，中华民族堂堂正正屹立于世界民族之林。一些势力敌视、孤立和封锁中国人民的政策彻底破产了，少数国家在联合国制造“两个中国”的图谋彻底失败了.
Wang then talks about China’s contribution to the anti-fascism cause during WWII. Based on this, he says that the PRC’s UN entry, consolidated the post-War order and initiated the process of establishing “just and equitable international relations.” 这意味着二战后国际秩序得以巩固，构建更加公正合理国际关系的伟大进程得以开启.
The second part of the piece is Wang talking about China’s contributions. This includes BRI, poverty alleviation, pandemic diplomacy, climate-related policies, peacekeeping support, “upholding multilateralism,” etc. The third part talks about how Xi has said that it is important to “follow the trend of history, uphold cooperation rather than confrontation, pursue openness rather than isolation, pursue mutual benefit and win-win outcomes rather than zero-sum games, firmly oppose all forms of hegemonism and power politics, and oppose all forms of unilateralism and protectionism.” 强调应该顺应历史大势，坚持合作、不搞对抗，坚持开放、不搞封闭，坚持互利共赢、不搞零和博弈，坚决反对一切形式的霸权主义和强权政治，坚决反对一切形式的单边主义和保护主义.
Within this framework, Wang talks about action points going ahead:
He talks about “peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom” being common values of mankind. He talks about pursuing the “principle of ‘harmony without uniformity’, respecting different social systems, treating each other as equals and refraining from interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. We should have an inclusive mentality that ‘each is beautiful in its own way’ and respect different civilizations and cultures, learn from each other, and refrain from exporting ideologies. Only by eliminating estrangement and misunderstanding through sincere dialogue and achieving common progress through inclusiveness can we draw a magnificent picture of human history.” 要秉持“和而不同”的相处之道，尊重不同社会制度，平等相待，不干涉别国内政；要秉持“各美其美”的包容心态，尊重不同文明文化，互学互鉴，不搞意识形态输出。以真诚对话消弭隔阂与误解，以兼容并蓄实现共同进步，才能绘就人类历史的宏伟画卷。
Second, build a community of common destiny. “Any beggar-thy-neighbour approach, any idea of going it alone, and any arrogance or narcissism are not in line with the trend of the times and contrary to human progress.” Building a community of shared destiny is “an inevitable requirement for countries to meet global challenges in a world of interdependence.” 任何以邻为壑的做法，任何单打独斗的思路，任何孤芳自赏的傲慢，都不符合时代潮流，也有悖人类进步。构建人类命运共同体是顺应历史发展大势的必然选择，是世界各国相互依存形势下应对全球性挑战的必然要求，是经济全球化持续发展背景下谋求合作共赢的必然路径.
Third, promote win-win cooperation and people-centered development.
Fourth, jointly address challenges and global issues facing mankind. Under this banner, he calls for “more inclusive global governance, more effective multilateral mechanisms and more active regional cooperation.” He talks about striking a balance between development and the environment. This requires coordinating development between countries and ensuring intergenerational development equity, so as to achieve sustainable development and preserve the environment. 在新的发展时期，我们要统筹好国家间发展均衡和代际发展公平，协调好人与自然、发展与自然的关系.
Fifth, practice true multilateralism. “We must faithfully practice true multilateralism, safeguard the international system with the United Nations as the core and the international order based on international law, and safeguard the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. The practice of a few forces acting under the banner of ‘justice’, acting unilaterally in the name of ‘multilateralism’ and engaging in small circles and groups must be resisted.”必须忠实践行真正的多边主义，维护以联合国为核心的国际体系和以国际法为基础的国际秩序，维护以联合国宪章宗旨和原则为基础的国际关系基本准则。少数势力打着“正义”旗号行“霸权”之实、借“多边”之名行“单边”之实、搞小圈子、小集团的做法必须被抵制.
Wang then writes that China will remain committed to:
peaceful development. Here he says, and I chuckle reading this: “Since the founding of New China, China has never initiated a war or occupied an inch of any other countries’ land. In today’s world, China is the only country that has written the path of peaceful development into its constitution...China will always stand on the side of justice, uphold sovereign equality, and oppose interference in internal affairs and hegemonic power; it will always stand on the side of justice, uphold objectivity and justice, and oppose geopolitical rivalries and formation of cliques; it will always stand on the side of peace, adhere to political settlements, and oppose the use of force and unilateral sanctions. No one should dream of making China bow to power or hegemony.” 新中国成立后，中国从未主动挑起过一场战争，从未侵占过别国一寸土地。放眼当今世界，中国是唯一将走和平发展道路写入宪法的国家。无论处于何种历史方位，中国都将始终站在公理一边，坚持主权平等，反对干涉内政和霸权强权；始终站在正义一边，坚持客观公道，反对地缘争夺和拉帮结伙；始终站在和平一边，坚持政治解决，反对使用武力和单边制裁。任何人不要幻想让中国向强权弯腰、向霸权低头.
reform and opening. Here he says that “China cannot develop in isolation from the world, and the world needs China for prosperity.”
multilateralism and upholding the international order. The UN and WTO are key here.
Also on the page, we have a report about Wang Yi’s chat with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. The English readout says that:
“China welcomes Iran's decision to return to negotiations on resumption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at the end of this month, which reflects Iran's positive gesture of commitment to the resumption of compliance. In view of the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA, the United States should first take action to make corrections. Iran can resume compliance with its nuclear-related commitments on this basis. All parties should strengthen coordination and jointly move forward the negotiations in the right direction. China supports Iran in strengthening cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will create a sound atmosphere for resuming negotiations.”