Bad April Data - Li & Sharif Discuss Terror - Wang Yi to Park Jin: 'Oppose Camp Confrontation' - State of the China's Media - Human Rights Diplomacy - Xie Fuzhan on Philosophy & Social Sciences
Here are the stories and pieces that I found noteworthy in the Tuesday, May 17, 2022, edition of the People’s Daily.
Page 1: What an odd day. There’s no Xi Jinping-related story on the front page today. Instead, the top two stories are focussed on providing a positive spin on what has been a dismal first four months for the Chinese economy.
At the top of the page, a report informs us that some 195.8 billion yuan, an increase of 45.5% over the same period last year, have been spent already on water conservancy projects so far this year. Some 72 billion yuan of special bonds have been issued for 830 water conservancy projects by local governments this year, an increase of 38.6 billion yuan or 115 percent over the same period last year. The total expenditure on such projects through 2022 is expected to be around 800 billion yuan.
The other top report talks about steps taken so far this year to stabilise market entities. These include a number of measures, from steps taken to support specific sectors, measures to maintain employment, reduction of taxes and fees for enterprises, steps to ensure the availability of “reasonable and sufficient liquidity,” measures to ease tax burdens related to R&D, and steps to reduce corporate financing costs.
For instance, the report says that as of April broad M2 money supply grew by 10.5 percent from a year earlier, and outstanding total social financing (TSF) was 10.2% - both maintaining a high level of more than 10%. What this masks, however, is that Chinese banks extended 645.4 billion yuan in new yuan loans in April, down sharply from March. and TSF also slowed down from 10.6% in March. The PD report also adds that from January to April, the corporate loan interest rate was 4.39%, remaining at the lowest level since statistical records began.
The PD report also talks about VAT refunds. These are expected to be around 1.5 trillion yuan this year. “From April 1 to 30 this year, a total of 801.5 billion yuan of VAT was refunded to 1.452 million taxpayers’ accounts. Adding in 123.3 billion yuan of tax refunds under the old policy of refunding tax rebates that was continued in the first quarter, a total of 924.8 billion yuan of tax refunds has been refunded to taxpayers’ accounts from January to April. The policy effects of corporate bailouts are already being felt.”
The report then talks about the measures adopted at the two State Council meetings from April 6 (my breakdown here) and May 11 (my breakdown here). It says that these meetings. At the end of the report, there’s a comment by Fu Linghui, spokesperson for the National Bureau of Statistics saying that the fundamentals of China’s “long-term economic growth have not changed” and the “trend of sustained economic recovery has not changed.” Xinhua English has more from Fu:
“The country’s economy took a hit from the domestic resurgence of COVID-19 cases in April, but the impacts are ‘short-lived and external,’ Fu said. ‘The fundamentals of the Chinese economy remain unchanged. The overall trends of economic transformation and upgrading and high-quality development remain unchanged,’ he said. 'There are many favorable conditions for stabilizing the economy and achieving the expected development goals,’ the spokesperson said.”
However, in all of this, what we haven’t seen in PD on the front page is the actual numbers for April. Those are available on Page 2, which covers NBS’ press conference. I am compiling below data from the NBS report and these Reuters and WSJ reports:
Retail sales in April shrank 11.1% from a year earlier, the biggest contraction since March 2020.
Factory production fell 2.9% from a year earlier
Surveyed urban unemployment rate for April hit 6.1%—the highest since February 2020’s 6.2%. Joblessness among those ages 16 to 24 rose to 18.2%, the highest level since before the pandemic.
Year-over-year growth in fixed-asset investment, including infrastructure and real-estate projects, slowed to 6.8% for the first four months of the year from 9.3% for the first quarter
22.7% drop in catering revenue in April
Auto sales plunged 47.6%
Property sales by value in April slumped 46.6% from a year earlier, the biggest drop since August 2006, and sharply widening from the 26.17% fall in March. Amid this, the “People’s Bank of China did, however, let banks cut mortgage rates for first-time home buyers on Sunday, in a move to prop up the sagging property sector,” WSJ reports.
Reuters’ report adds: “Nationwide property investment by developers fell 2.7% from a year earlier in January-April, after a 0.7% gain in the first three months of the year. In April, property investment fell 10.1% year-on-year, the fastest pace since December, compared with the 2.4% decline in March. New construction starts measured by floor area plunged 44.19% from a year earlier, the fastest pace since January-February 2020. New construction starts fell 26.3% in January-April from a year earlier, after a 17.5% decline in the first quarter of the year.”
In April, the added value of high-tech manufacturing increased by 4% year-on-year, of which electronic communication equipment manufacturing increased by 9.7%.
The central and western regions were less affected by the impact of the pandemic, and industrial production continued to grow. In April, the added value of industries above designated size in the central and western regions increased by 4.6% and 5.6% year-on-year respectively.
Meanwhile, the added value of industries above designated size in the Yangtze River Delta fell by 14.1%, and the industry in the Northeast fell by 16.9%
Next, there’s a report about Li Keqiang’s conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Xinhua reports:
“China always regards its ties with Pakistan as a priority in its diplomacy with neighboring countries, and will, as always, firmly support Pakistan in defending national sovereignty and security (again, no territorial integrity here), and will support the country in developing its economy, improving people's livelihood and maintaining financial stability, Li said. China stands ready to work with Pakistan to strengthen strategic communication, promote cooperation on such major projects as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and strengthen bilateral personnel exchanges on the condition of effective epidemic prevention and control, he added. Li pointed out that the Chinese side is shocked and outraged by the recent attack on Chinese nationals in Karachi, and strongly condemns this terrorist attack. The Chinese premier hoped that Pakistan will bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible, make every effort to handle follow-up matters, comfort the bereaved families and the injured, and comprehensively strengthen security measures for Chinese institutions and citizens in Pakistan to ensure that similar tragedies will not happen again.”
“Sharif once again expressed deep condolences over the death of Chinese nationals in the Karachi terrorist attack and sincere sympathy to the injured. Pakistan strongly condemns terrorism, cherishes the lives and safety of Chinese nationals in the country, and regards Chinese victims and those wounded as its own compatriots without distinction, Sharif stressed, adding that the country will do its utmost to find out the truth, arrest and punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law. The Pakistani side will strengthen security measures for all Chinese institutions and nationals in Pakistan to prevent similar incidents from happening again, he said. Sharif said the friendship between Pakistan and China has been deeply rooted and bilateral cooperation has reached an unprecedented level. Pakistan is ready to work with China to speed up the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, deepen cooperation on key projects and special economic zones and increase personnel exchanges to bring more benefits to the two peoples.”
What’s interesting about this conversation is that as per Pakistani media reports, Beijing has recalled all Chinese faculty/staff at Confucius Institutes across Pakistan.
“Chinese instructors teaching at the Confucius Institute of the University of Karachi have left for their country, the director of the department told Geo News on Sunday. Director Dr Nasir Uddin said that the teachers at the different Confucius Institutes in the country, not just the University of Karachi, have been called back by China. The director assured that the institute will not be closed, adding that Pakistani teachers are being asked to help in teaching Mandarin.”
Also, do note comments by Senator Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the Pakistan’s Senate Defence Committee, in this Dawn report:
“The Chinese confidence in Pakistan’s security system’s ability to protect their citizens and their projects is seriously shaken,” said Senator Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the Senate Defence Committee. Senator Mushahid, who led a Senate delegation to the Chinese embassy last week to express his condolences over the loss of three Chinese lives in a suicide attack on their van on the university’s premises last month, was sharing the mood on the Chinese side in a conversation with Dawn on Friday. The Karachi University attack was the third terrorist attack on Chinese citizens on Pakistani soil in a year. “It has caused serious concern and understandable indignation in China. More so, the pattern of attacks is so recurring and it’s clear that Pakistani promises of ‘foolproof security’ are mere words, not matched by countermeasures on the ground,” he maintained. Criticising the security arrangements, he said security agencies seemed to have been caught napping. “If such attacks continue, not just Chinese but other foreign investors will be forced to review their role in Pakistan,” he said. There were reports on social media of Chinese workers leaving Pakistan in large numbers after the attack.
Next, a report about Wang Yang presiding over the 71st Chairperson’s Council meeting of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC in Beijing. Xinhua says that “the meeting reviewed and approved a draft agenda and schedule for the 22nd session of the Standing Committee of the 13th CPPCC National Committee, among other matters. The session is scheduled to take place from June 20 to 22 and will discuss green, low-carbon and high-quality development.”
In addition, the meeting deliberated and passed the decision on revoking the membership of Yu Luming, vice chairman of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the CPPCC, who is facing a corruption probe.
Page 2: There’s a report about measures to deal with the COVID outbreak in Beijing and Shanghai’s phased reopening. Shanghai Vice Mayor Zong Ming talked about three phases of opening up. Global Times has an English report on his comments:
“Shanghai will restart social activities gradually, and will resume normal life and activities from June 1 to mid- or late-June under epidemic prevention and control management, according to Zong. From now on to May 21, the city aims to reduce the number of residents under ‘lockdown’ and allow residents who are under ‘prevention-level’ to move within limited areas in an orderly manner. From May 22 to 31, the emergency preventive and control management will speed up to shift into regular management.”
Page 3: First, a report about Wang Yi’s video meeting with South Korean foreign minister Park Jin. Xinhua reports:
“Noting China has always viewed the ROK and China-ROK relations from a strategic and overall perspective, Wang said their bilateral relations have experienced ups and downs and achieved leapfrog development, benefiting both peoples and promoting regional stability and prosperity. China and the ROK have always respected each other's development paths, core interests and cultural traditions, Wang said, adding China-ROK trade has increased by more than 50 times and mutual investment has exceeded 100 billion U.S. dollars over the past 30 years…Wang said the two countries got rid of the shackles of the Cold War and opened a new chapter of cooperation 30 years ago. ‘Today, it serves the fundamental interests of China and the ROK to keep the region open and inclusive, guard against the risks of the new Cold War and oppose camp confrontation,’ he stressed. ‘Standing at a new starting point, we should grasp the right direction and create a new 30 years of greater development of China-ROK relations,’ Wang said.”
“He suggested the two sides make good use of dialogue mechanisms at all levels, maintain smooth and high-quality political and diplomatic communication, enhance understanding, promote cooperation and manage differences. Both sides should proceed from their respective and common interests, oppose the negative tendency of ‘decoupling’ and ‘cutting off chains’, and maintain the stability and smoothness of the global industrial chain and supply chain, Wang said…Wang said China is glad to see the ROK play a more constructive role in promoting world peace and prosperity, and stands ready to work with the ROK to safeguard the common interests of the two countries, Asia and emerging markets, and inject stability and certainty into the turbulent and changing times.”
“Park Jin said the ROK attaches great importance to developing relations with China and is willing to establish a more healthy and mature bilateral relationship with China based on the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation. He added that the ROK always adheres to the one-China principle.”
Next, there’s the second in the series of Zhong Sheng commentaries that began yesterday. This one says that the “financial relationship between interest groups and politicians is the root cause of gun violence in the United States. Gun violence is a chronic disease and a symptom of the failure of American governance.” 利益集团与政客的金钱瓜葛，是美国枪支暴力顽疾难除的根本所在。枪支暴力顽疾难除，也是美国治理失灵的集中体现.
The lead story on the page is about China’s human rights development and diplomacy. The first part of the story talks about China’s achievements at home. These include poverty alleviation, raising incomes of citizens and improvement of public services and building “the world’s largest” social safety net. This is followed by comments from foreign observers praising the Chinese governance system and its “democracy” and “people-centred human rights development concept.”
This is followed by a section talking up China’s vaccine and pandemic diplomacy. The next bit is a summary of China’s engagement in terms of global human rights governance.
China has been elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council five times, and since 2017 has promoted the idea of building a community with a shared future for mankind into Human Rights Council resolutions more than a dozen times. It adds that China advocates adhering to the people-centered approach for protecting human rights, integrating the universality of human rights with the reality of all countries, systematically promoting all kinds of human rights, and upholding international human rights dialogue and cooperation.
China has ratified or acceded to 26 international human rights instruments, including six core United Nations human rights conventions. China abides by its human rights treaty obligations, links its domestic laws and policies with its treaty obligations, and earnestly participates in the treaty body's performance review. It has submitted more than 40 performance reports, which has been termed as ‘model performance’. China successfully participated in three United Nations country-specific human rights reviews, and accepted 284 suggestions from various countries during the third review, which was highly praised by more than 120 countries.
China has held human rights dialogues or consultations with more than 20 countries or organisations, exchanged and learned from each other on the basis of equality and mutual respect, and properly handled differences.
On the issue of human rights, China also actively stands up for developing countries, promotes the common values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom for all mankind, supports developing countries in safeguarding their own interests, opposes western countries' politicisation of human rights issues and interference in the internal affairs of developing countries, and urges the United States and others to stop infringing on other countries' human rights and respect the human rights development path independently chosen by other people.”
Page 9: Finally, on the theory page, CASS’ Xie Fuzhan draws from Xi’s speech at Renmin University, discussing the theme of accelerating the construction of philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics, which requires the construction of China’s independent knowledge system.
“A great era calls for strong ideological power, and the Chinese nation, which is heading for a great rejuvenation, calls for rich theoretical creation. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out: ‘Contemporary China is experiencing the most ambitious and unique practice innovation in human history. The tasks of reform, development and stability are heavy, there are many contradictions, risks and challenges, and most of the tests of governing the country are unprecedented and the world has undergone profound changes unseen in a century; a large number of theoretical and practical questions have emerged, and these need urgent answers.” … it is urgent to summarise and condense China’s practice with a more independent knowledge system, and to promote and guide future development.” 伟大的时代呼唤强大的思想力量，走向伟大复兴的中华民族呼唤丰硕的理论创造。总书记指出：“当代中国正在经历人类历史上最为宏大而独特的实践创新，改革发展稳定任务之重、矛盾风险挑战之多、治国理政考验之大都前所未有，世界百年未有之大变局深刻变化前所未有，提出了大量亟待回答的理论和实践课题。”进入新时代新阶段，实现中华民族伟大复兴进入不可逆转的历史进程。统筹中华民族伟大复兴战略全局和世界百年未有之大变局，把握机遇、应对挑战，迫切需要以更加自主的知识体系概括和凝练中国实践、推动和指引未来发展.
Later he writes: “As a big country in philosophy and social sciences, China should not only have its own theoretical scholarship, but also a systematic knowledge system. Faced with a new situation, new tasks and new requirements, the fields of philosophy and social sciences urgently need to sum up China’s experience in depth, further strengthen scientific and systematic interpretation, and develop China’s independent knowledge system to better serve China's economic and social development.” 我国作为哲学社会科学大国，既应有自己的理论学术，更应有学理化和系统化的知识体系。面对新形势新任务新要求，哲学社会科学界迫切需要深入总结中国经验，进一步加强学理化和系统化阐释，建构中国自主的知识体系，更好地服务我国经济社会发展.
Xie adds: “Any knowledge that gains worldwide influence must be scientific, ideological and practical. As an important part of cultural soft power, the construction of knowledge system is firstly an exploration of truth and regularity. In the new era, our Party has led the people in successfully embarking on the Chinese-style modernisation path and creating a new form of human civilisation, which has met the development needs of the Chinese nation, reflected the common aspirations of people of all countries, and promoted the common development of different civilisations. The successful creation of the new form of human civilisation shows that time is ripe to develop China’s independent knowledge system. The construction of China's independent knowledge system should be rooted in the civilisational history of the Chinese nation for more than 5,000 years, and draw nutrition from the brilliant achievements of Chinese civilisation and the outstanding achievements of the long history of mankind; it is also necessary to profoundly sum up the great practice of China’s socialist modernisation, and constantly expand and enrich the connotation of China’s independent knowledge system; it is also necessary to strengthen the exchange of civilisations and learn from each other, learn from others' strengths, and use them for our own benefit, so that our knowledge system has more national characteristics and characteristics of the times…through research in philosophy and social sciences, we can actively respond to external concerns, promote international exchanges and cooperation, integrate Chinese and foreign cultures, enhance the exchange of civilisations, and spread Chinese voices, Chinese theories, and Chinese thoughts, so that philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics can truly stand in the academic world. In order to promote philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics to the world, we should not only tell the story of China well, but also raise China’s experience to the general theory of understanding and transforming the world, and contribute Chinese wisdom and strength to the innovation and development of human civilisation.” 任何能够获得世界性影响的知识，必然具有科学性、思想性、实践性。作为文化软实力的重要组成部分，知识体系建构首先是一种真理性、规律性的探索。进入新时代，我们党领导人民成功走出中国式现代化道路，创造了人类文明新形态，这契合中华民族发展需求、体现各国人民共同心声、促进不同文明共同发展。人类文明新形态的成功创造，说明建构中国自主的知识体系的时机已经成熟。建构中国自主的知识体系，既要植根于中华民族五千多年文明史，从中华文明璀璨成果和人类历史长河的优秀成果中汲取营养；又要深刻总结我国社会主义现代化建设伟大实践，不断拓展和充实中国自主的知识体系的内涵；还要加强文明交流互鉴，博采众长、为我所用，使我们的知识体系更具民族特色和时代特征。要不断推动中华优秀传统文化创造性转化、创新性发展，不断推进知识创新、理论创新、方法创新。通过哲学社会科学研究积极回应外部关切，促进国际交流与合作，融通中外文化、增进文明交流，传播中国声音、中国理论、中国思想，使中国特色哲学社会科学真正屹立于世界学术之林。推动中国特色哲学社会科学走向世界，不仅要讲好中国故事，更要将中国经验上升为认识和改造世界的一般性理论，为人类文明薪火相传、创新发展贡献中国智慧和中国力量。
On Page 4, there’s a report about Sun Chunlan and Hu Chunhua attending a teleconference on employment of university graduates. The meeting called for public career service providers to play an exemplary role in boosting employment; it called for boosting skills training and internship opportunities. It is necessary to strengthen the real-name assistance for unemployed graduates, ensure the employment of difficult graduates, and help previous unemployed graduates integrate into the job market as soon as possible. It is necessary to effectively regulate the order of the employment market and protect the legitimate rights and interests of graduates.
The meeting pointed out that it is necessary to broaden the market-oriented employment channels, encourage enterprises to absorb employment through social security subsidies, start-up loans and tax and fee cuts, and will implement favourable policies for graduates seeking grassroots jobs. We should strengthen targeted employment guidance services to help college students develop a correct view of employment and career choice, provide targeted assistance to graduates from low-income families and those from areas severely affected by the pandemic, continue to optimise the setting of disciplines and majors in colleges and universities, and improve the alignment of talent training with the needs of economic and social development. 会议指出，要拓宽市场化就业渠道，通过社保补贴、创业贷款、税费减免等鼓励企业吸纳就业，落实引导毕业生到基层就业的优惠政策，组织好各类升学、职业资格考试招录工作。要加强有针对性的就业指导服务，帮助大学生树立正确的就业观、择业观，对低收入家庭和受疫情影响严重地区毕业生开展精准帮扶，继续优化高校学科专业设置，提升人才培养与经济社会发展需求的契合度。各地区各部门要细化实化有利于扩大就业的政策举措，推动高校毕业生更加充分更高质量就业，以实际行动迎接党的二十大胜利召开.
On Page 8, there’s a piece about a new report from the All-China Journalists Association (ACJA) titled Development of China’s News Media. The report says that “China’s news sector employed approximately 1 million employees.” Xinhua reports:
“Citing statistics, the report noted that as of December 2021, the number of online news users had reached 771 million, increasing by 28.35 million from December 2020 and accounting for 74.7 percent of China's total Internet users. Over the past two years, traditional media such as radio, television and newspapers have seen a slow pace of growth and continued to focus on deep convergence and digital transformation, the report noted. According to the report, emerging technologies, such as media platforms, data transmission, high-definition video technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G, have driven media reform and innovation.”
There are some interesting graphs in the full document. I’ve put together some of these below: