Anti-espionage work - Laws on Land Borders, Data Protection & PLA's Honour - Criticising 'hegemonic bullying' of Russia - Cultivating 'historical thinking' ability

Here are the stories and pieces from the April 27, 2021, edition of People’s Daily.

Page 1: First, there’s a story about development in Jilin and the outlook from the 14th FYP point of view. Actually, this is more about telling the bosses that the province is doing a good job in terms of its planned progress and that the provincial government has been following the centre’s lead.

The story talks about Xi’s visit to the province in July 2020 and then the subsequent development plan put together by the provincial government, i.e., a layout of “one main and six double.” It talks about work being done from this year onward to develop facilities across sectors like automobile parts, processing of agricultural products, leisure and eco-tourism, petrochemicals, equipment manufacturing, medical and healthcare, textiles, and so on. 

The “one main” bit implies building Changchun into a “regional hub for Northeast Asia.” The “six double” refers to different themes like combined development of say the pharmaceutical and health sector or developing “two tourisms” during summer and winter, etc. The idea in all of this is to focus on technology and industrial upgradation. 

Second, a new document has been issued by the Central Committee and the State Council on “Establishing and Improving the Mechanism for Realizing the Value of Ecological Products.” The guideline promises that “a basic policy framework” for value realization of such products will be put in place by 2025. Xinhua says that “problems related to measuring, mortgages, transactions, and value realization of ecological products will be effectively solved by 2025, and an interest-oriented mechanism for environmental protection will take a basic shape.” In addition, “a sound mechanism for realizing the value of the products will be formed by 2035, and green production and a green way of life will be widely adopted in the country.” 

What this process entails, as per the document, is:

  • a standardised registration system for natural resources and ecological products

  • clearer definition of ownership and usage rights, including lease and transfer rights.

  • establishment of an ecological product value evaluation system.

  • local governments “are encouraged to first carry out ecological value accounting focusing on the physical quantity of ecological products, and then explore the economic value accounting of different types of ecological products through market transactions, economic compensation and other means, and gradually revise and improve the accounting methods.”

  • promoting the construction of ecological product trading centers, offline and online.

  • establishing and standardizing ecological product certification evaluation standards, and building an ecological product certification system with Chinese characteristics.

  • improving the carbon-trading schemes, piloting carbon emissions trading, and fine-tuning the system for paid use of pollutant discharge rights.

  • supporting green finance and encouraging banks to increase medium- and long-term loan support for entities managing or developing ecological products

With all this said, my biggest challenge with this is that there isn’t a clear definition of an ecological product. The idea seems so broad that anything could fall in this category, from mines and minerals to cars to tourism and agriculture.

Third, Li Keqiang chaired a State Council meeting on clean governance this week, with PSC members Zhao Leji, who also heads the CCDI, and Han Zheng in attendance. Also present were Sun Chunlan, Hu Chunhua, Wang Yong, Wang Yi, Zhao Kezhi and Yang Xiaodu, who heads the National Supervision Commission. Xiao Jie led the meeting. Xinhua English reports that Li said corruption and misconduct still pose challenges in some areas. He “called for measures to give full play to the leading role of strict Party self-governance to ensure that the targets and tasks for economic and social development this year will be accomplished.” 

Li called for:

  • strengthening the entire process and all-round monitoring of fiscal funds, and better utilization of the direct mechanism of fiscal funds to benefit enterprises and the people.

  • strengthen the supervision of investment in the fields of employment, education, medical care, and elderly care…this needs to be done to “resolutely investigate and punish behaviors such as interception, misappropriation, false claims, and favoring relatives and friends.”

  • government should tighten its belt and reduce expenditure to allow more funding for people’s livelihoods

  • “governments at all levels must adhere to the guidance of Xi Jinping’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era...and improve political judgment, political comprehension, and political execution.”

Finally, the NPCSC met to discuss a bunch of new laws. Four bills were seen as mature enough to be passed at the session. These are: 

There’s an explanation of the changes in each of these cases on Page 2, too.

Among the other interesting laws that were discussed. For instance, the draft data security law has gone through its second revision; and the draft personal information protection law has also gone through its second review. According to Xinhua, the personal information protection law will require “big internet platforms that possess the personal information of a large number of users…(to) set up an independent body mainly composed of outsiders to supervise how the information is handled. The internet giants are also required to publish social responsibility reports on personal information protection on a regular basis.” It further states that “the draft also bans ‘coercive’ measures in handling personal information. Internet platforms shall use the minimum amount of personal information possible in ways that have minimum impact on the rights and interests of users.”

Also reviewed were the Hainan Free Trade Port Law and a draft law on the protection of the status, rights and interests of military personnel, which says that “no organization or individual may in any way slander or derogate the honor of servicemen, nor may they insult or slander the reputation of members of military forces.” 

Finally, two more laws to highlight. First, do note this about the proposed Land Borders Law: “the meeting reviewed the proposal of the National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee on submitting the draft Land Borders Law for deliberation. Zhang Yesui, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, gave an explanation.”

Second, lawmakers started deliberating a draft of China’s first-ever futures law. Xinhua says that the “draft aims to stipulate futures trading, settlement and delivery systems, and establish related mechanisms to protect the rights and interests of futures traders. It also regulates the running of institutions dedicated to futures operation, trading, settlement and service, and clarifies the supervision and management of the futures market. China currently has 70 types of futures and 22 types of options in its futures market, with the total trading volume of commodity futures ranking first in the world for 11 consecutive years.”

Page 3: Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe is traveling to Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Today’s report is about his visit to Vietnam, where he met with General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc. 

Xinhua reports that:

“Regarding the issue on the South China Sea, Trong said the two countries should properly handle the issue based on mutual trust and respect, and prevent any related negative effect on bilateral relations. In his remarks, Phuc said Vietnam firmly upholds the one-China principle and opposes any forces’ interference in China's internal affairs. Vietnam will stay on guard against and firmly resist any schemes to undermine the Vietnam-China relations, and will never follow other countries in opposing China, Phuc noted.

The story quotes Wei as saying:

“On the South China Sea issue, China and Vietnam should take a broad and long-term perspective, properly handle differences, plan maritime cooperation well, resolutely stand against the interference from powers outside the region, and jointly protect the peace in the South China Sea.”

Also, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing a unit to strengthen international cooperation between the two armies.

Next, a piece with MoFA’s response to the US and EU imposing sanctions on Russia, which includes expulsion of Russian diplomats. And then in his latest State of the Union address, President Putin warned the West not to cross the red line. 

Wang Wenbin said that:

“we reject the approach of wantonly resorting to unilateral sanctions or threat of sanctions. Such behaviour constitutes power politics and hegemonic bullying, which gains no support and is increasingly rejected...China and Russia are comprehensive strategic partners of coordination in the new era. We will continue to understand and support each other in safeguarding our respective sovereignty, security and development interests.”

Page 6: Two pieces to note. First, if you recall, yesterday, we’d covered the data from the CCDI and NSC on punishment of officials for violating the eight-point code on improving Party and government conduct. Today, we have a report on typical cases of such violations. There are stories of illegal use of public property for private purposes, dereliction of duty, ignoring public complaints, misuse of state assets for personal functions, accepting bribes, hosting banquets, misuse of subsidies and public funds for private gains, etc.

Two cases that I found interesting

  • Gong Yunzun, former member of the Standing Committee of the Dehong Prefecture Party Committee of Yunnan Province and former Secretary of the Ruili Municipal Party Committee, who was derelict in his duty during the pandemic. The piece says that “since September 2020, there have been 3 outbreaks in Ruili City, especially the ‘March 29’ outbreak in 2021, which occurred while the overall epidemic situation in the country was stable.”

  • There’s the case of Zhang Xuebin, deputy head of Dawa District, Panjin City, Liaoning Province, and Luan Zuogang, Secretary of the Party Leadership Group and Director of the District Water Conservancy Bureau. This pertains to the infamous flammable tap water of Siyingtun Village in Dawa District in Panjin City. Basically, the officials had ignored repeated complaints about this over two years. In November 2020, the story was reported by CCTV and became a viral thing in China. 

Next, a new book is published, curated by He Yiting, the former executive vice president of the Central Party School and key ideologue for Xi Jinping. Zhen Zhanmin, deputy director of the Central Party School is the editor-in-chief. The book details key moments of “self-revolution in the history of the Party, telling 100 stories of Party history with typical significance, and interpreting the political character and spiritual qualities of self-revolution of the CPC.”

Page 7: Two reports to note. First, Dong Hong, a former senior disciplinary inspector for the central government and an aide of Vice President Wang Qishan, has now been arrested. Dong has been under investigation for bribery since October last year at least. 

Second, a survey (short English report) by the National Intellectual Property Administration shows that: 

  • industrialization transfer rate of China’s effective patents stood at 34.7 percent in 2020. 

  • for enterprise patentees, the patent industrialization rate is 44.9 percent

  • proportion of patent holders affected by infringements dropped to 10.8 percent, 3.7 percentage points lower than the survey data in 2015.

Page 9: One piece to note. This one’s from the Chinese Academy of History under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It’s incredible how much they mention and quote Xi Jinping. Including the title, his name’s mentioned 15 times. But the piece is interesting because it seems to suggest, and this is not a new phenomenon, that the Party sees value in summarising history as though it reveals certain truths and insights for action. 

For instance, they write that: “The ability of historical thinking is the ability to learn from the past and learn from the present, and to use a historical perspective to understand the law of development, grasp the direction of progress, and guide practical work. Improving the ability of historical thinking is a concrete manifestation of the ability to analyze and solve problems with a big historical perspective.” 

And how does one do this? They propose that “continuously improving the ability of historical thinking requires us to deeply think about the continuity of history and see clearly that history, reality and the future are interlinked.”

Here’s more advice: “Improving the ability of historical thinking requires us to insist on looking at history concretely rather than abstractly. The development of human history has its own laws, but the development of different countries and nations is not the same. Only by insisting on specific analysis of specific issues can we draw correct conclusions. As far as China is concerned, its unique cultural tradition, unique historical destiny, and unique national conditions are destined to follow a development path that suits its own characteristics.

The authors pat the Party on the back for being able to do this: “Understanding historical laws, grasping historical trends, seizing historical opportunities, and keeping up with the trend of the times are valuable experiences of the CPC’s development in the past century, and are important reasons for the CPC to lead the Chinese people to win one victory after another.”

Here’s more: “A correct understanding of the historical position and development stage of the party and the people’s cause is the fundamental basis for our party to clarify its central tasks and formulate lines, principles and policies. It is also an important experience for our party to lead revolution, construction, and reform to continuous victory. Looking back on the party’s century of development, our party attaches great importance to the correct understanding and accurate definition of historical position. This is the key for our party to gain insight into the historical development trend, stand up to the trend of the times and lead the cause of the party and the people to win continuously.”

Then they write that: “Standing at the historical intersection of the “two centenary” goals and planning the economic and social development in the next five years and beyond, it is necessary to correctly understand the historical position and development stage of the cause of the party and the people, and deeply understand the profound and complex changes in China’s development environment…”

Page 11: First, the Ministry of State Security has issued new regulations on counter-espionage security work. The regulations state that the national security authority to draw up lists of companies and organizations that are susceptible to foreign infiltration and require listed institutes to adopt security measures to prevent foreign infiltration. PD reports that organs, groups, enterprises, institutions and other social organizations have the main responsibility for the anti-espionage security work of their own units, but security authorities will be working with them on these. Global Times’ report on this has more information. 

It says that:

“According to the regulation, companies, organizations or social groups on the list shoulder the responsibility to roll out detailed measures against foreign espionage, including arranging their working staff to sign letters of commitment before taking up posts, reporting their activities related to national security, giving education to personnel ahead of their departures abroad, and interviewing personnel after their return to China.”

The report quotes an unidentified staff member in charge of foreign affairs at the headquarters of a central state-owned enterprise in Beijing as saying that: 

“Staff going on business trips to foreign countries, such as countries of the Five Eyes alliance - the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand - have been told to strictly report their travel destinations, agendas, and meetings with foreign personnel, and they must get approval from their direct superiors before the applications are reviewed by the headquarters.”

The report adds that:

“In particular, electrical devices including mobile phones, laptops, and USB drives, which usually contain sensitive information, are key objects for intelligence agencies, and the person told the Global Times that the company has required staff involved in sensitive fields or those holding important files to leave their electrical devices at home and bring new ones abroad.”

There’s also this interview with MSS officials about the regulations. They provide some of the details that I’ve highlighted above, but here’s their primary assessment of the need for the regulations:

“The formulation of regulations is a practical need to prevent and defuse national security risks and safeguard my country’s national security and interests. At present, foreign spies and intelligence agencies and various hostile forces have intensified their infiltration and stealing activities in China, with more diverse methods and broader fields, posing a serious threat to our national security and interests.”

On anti-espionage security guidance, they say that this includes two aspects. First, they will be focusing on “providing work manuals, guides and other publicity and education materials...holding training, holding work meetings,” and so on. Second, the focus will be on clarifying “the relevant regulations on the commendation and reward of anti-espionage safety protection.”

They also say that “security agencies may inspect the anti-espionage security work of agencies, groups, enterprises, institutions, and other social organizations in accordance with their management authority.”

Here’s more: “If the relevant units and their staff fail to perform or fail to perform their anti-espionage security responsibilities and obligations in accordance with the regulations, resulting in adverse consequences or impacts, the state security organs may transfer clues to the relevant organs and units, and suggest that the relevant organs and units should be responsible according to their management authority. Leaders and directly responsible personnel shall be dealt with according to regulations and disciplines; If a crime is constituted, criminal responsibility shall be investigated according to law.”