China-US Ties - Xi's Speech to APEC CEOs - What does Common Prosperity Imply? - Sci-Tech Cooperation Contradictions - Essay by Hou Yanqi

Here are the stories and pieces from the November 11, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: It’s quite a dull front page today, after all the glowing rhetorical pieces from earlier this week. We have short announcements at the top of the page today. The first one is about the 6th Plenum press conference, which will be held tomorrow. The second one is about Xi speaking at the APEC leaders meeting tomorrow. Prior to this, Xi did address the APEC CEO meeting, which is not covered in the paper at all. But Xinhua has the full English version of his remarks, which I am summarising below.

In his comments, Xi began by talking about the “goal of building an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future.” To do so, the first thing for Xi is to contain the COVID-19 virus and ensure economic recovery. He talked about the need for the Asia-Pacific region to put “our people and their lives first, follow the guidance of science, pull together with solidarity, extend assistance to each other, and fight to beat the pandemic.” 

Also, he wants to step up “cooperation in areas such as testing methods, treatment medicine and the research, development, production and mutual recognition of vaccines to truly create synergy against COVID-19. We should translate the consensus that vaccines are a global public good into concrete actions, ensure their fair and equitable distribution as well as their accessibility and affordability in developing countries, and thus work together to close the immunization gap.”

Second, he wants the Asia-Pacific region to remain “broad-minded, follow the underlying trend of the times and proactively expand opening-up.” This involves “trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, keep(ing) industrial and supply chains stable and functioning, and promote(ing) the orderly flow of resources and inputs to boost economic recovery and achieve interconnected development.”

“We should be forward-looking, move ahead and reject practices of discrimination and exclusion of others. Attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds are bound to fail. The Asia-Pacific region cannot and should not relapse into the confrontation and division of the Cold War era.”

He then talks about persisting in making a green transition. I thought this was an interesting argument that he was making. 

“In the Asia-Pacific, over 100 million people still live in abject poverty. Some economies are still plagued by inadequate infrastructure development, education and health care, and they are weak in food security and energy supply. Without development, it will be impossible to pool the economic strength necessary for achieving green transition. Neglecting people’s livelihood means loss of social support for pursuing green transition. We need to gain an accurate understanding of what sustainable development means, put the people first, and strike a balance between economic growth, ensuring people’s well-being, and energy conservation and emissions reduction.”

Fourth, he wants to “speed up scientific and technological innovation and institutional innovation, promote the commercialization of scientific and technological advances, and foster new drivers of growth.” For this, he wants “an open, fair, equitable and non-discriminatory environment.”

The next part of the speech is about China’s commitments. He begins by talking about persisting in opening up; he mentions the RCEP, application to CPTPP and promises to continue to shorten the negative list on foreign investment and “expand the opening of the service sector.” Here, Xi also defends recent regulatory actions, while trying to soothe nerves. 

“Recently, the competent Chinese government departments are improving and better enforcing anti-monopoly laws and regulations, and strengthening regulation over some sectors. This is called for to promote the sound development of the market economy in China. As a matter of fact, it is also a common practice in other countries. We will unswervingly consolidate and develop the public sector, and unswervingly encourage, support and guide the development of the non-public sector. We treat all types of market entities on an equal basis, and we are working to develop a unified, open, competitive and orderly market system. This will enable us to cement the foundation for long-term development of the Chinese economy and better support businesses from both the Asia-Pacific and the wider world in investing and operating in China.”

Next, he talks about persisting in making the green transition, which will provide opportunities for foreign investors: “China’s carbon reduction action is a profound economic and social transformation. However formidable the task may be, we will work tirelessly to make our contribution to promoting global green transition. Our carbon reduction action will also require massive investment, thus creating huge market opportunities and room for cooperation.”

Finally, under the banner of win-win cooperation, he talks about practicing “true multilateralism” upholding “the WTO-centered multilateral trading system” and participating in global governance.

Anyway, back to the front page, we have a piece about the spirit of the Hongqi Canal/Red Canal. This is the 36th piece in the spirit series. This spirit is about “self-reliance, hard work, solidarity and cooperation, and selfless dedication.” Of course, the objective of each of these pieces is to end by saying that it is important to persist in the future with these qualities. I am not going into the commentary. But if you are spiritually inclined, here is a brief English explanation of at least 48 spirits

Finally, we have a report on China’s marine economy. If you are interested, the numbers are available here in this English report. It says that “China's gross ocean product rose 9.5 percent to 6.2 trillion yuan (about $967.8 billion) in the first three quarters of 2021, data from the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources showed.”

Page 2: We have a report about a new State Council circular, encouraging private/social capital’s participation in ecological protection and restoration. Xinhua English has a decent summary of the report. It says that:

“China will give full play to the decisive role of the market in resource allocation, give greater play to the role of the government, increase investment in key areas, enhance market vitality, and promote the high-quality development of ecological protection and restoration works. The circular has encouraged and urged private capital to participate in the whole process of investment, design, restoration and management of ecological protection and restoration projects. It elucidated that private funds can participate in ecological protection and restoration works through different modes such as independent investment, cooperation with the government, and non-profit operation. Private capital is encouraged to focus on the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems, farmland ecosystems, urban ecosystems, mining ecosystems, and marine ecosystems while exploring the development of ecological industries, the circular added.”

Of course, what Xinhua English does not mention but the Chinese language story does, is the fact that it is important to be guided by and to implement Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilisation. 

Page 3: Two reports on the page that are worth noting. First, we have a report (English report) about the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations’ 2021 Gala Dinner. Both Xi Jinping and Joe Biden sent congratulatory letters, which Ambassador Qin Gang and Chairman of the National Committee Jacob Lew read out. 

Xi:

  • “expressed his appreciation and recognition to the Committee and its members.” 

  • said that “the China-U.S. relationship is among the most important bilateral relationships in the world today.” Whether our two countries can handle their relations well bears on the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and matters to the future of the world.

  • said that ties were at a “critical historical juncture. Both countries will gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only right choice. President Xi stressed that following the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, China stands ready to work with the United States to enhance exchanges and cooperation across the board, jointly address regional and international issues as well as global challenges and, in the meantime, properly manage differences, so as to bring China-U.S. relations back to the right track of sound and steady development.”

Useful to note that while Xi spoke about the principles of “mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation,” there was no blaming the other here. 

Qin said that Xi’s letter “reflects China’s positive attitude and position on developing China-U.S. relations.” He said that China’s US policy is “highly consistent and stable” and that it views bilateral ties “from a strategic and long-term perspective.” 

He added: Some people say that the China-U.S. relationship cannot go back to the past. But is it the reason why people can take it lightly, or even damage it as they wish? We reject this view. We look forward to working with the American government and visionary people, in the spirit of the phone call between our Presidents, to strengthen dialogue, manage differences, focus on cooperation, and make unremitting efforts to take China-U.S. relations back to the right track.” -- 

Quick take: I guess implicit in Qin’s remarks is the expectation that even Beijing would not like ties to go back to the past. It’s an oversimplification, but I read the past in this context as some sort of a subordinate role for China in the relationship. That structure and approach will no longer work. This is, after all, China in a new era. There will have to be a new dynamic that suits this new era.

Anyway, as per Xinhua, Biden said: “Today, our world is at an inflection point in history. From tackling the COVID-19 pandemic to addressing the existential threat of the climate crisis, the relationship between the United States and China has global significance. Solving these challenges and seizing opportunities will require the broader international community to come together as we each do our part to build a safe, peaceful, and resilient future.”

While on the subject of China-US ties, do note this Politico report that Biden and Xi will meet in a virtual summit on November 15. 

Also China and the United States on Wednesday released the China-U.S. Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s during COP26. This isn’t covered in PD. Xinhua reports that the two sides have “agreed to establish a working group on enhancing climate action in the 2020s to promote cooperation on climate change between the two countries and the multilateral processes.”

Some excerpts from the document.

The two sides “declare their intention to work individually, jointly, and with other countries during this decisive decade, in accordance with different national circumstances, to strengthen and accelerate climate action and cooperation aimed at closing the gap, including accelerating the green and low-carbon transition and climate technology innovation.”

“The two sides intend to cooperate on: 

  • regulatory frameworks and environmental standards related to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in the 2020s; 

  • maximizing the societal benefits of the clean energy transition; 

  • policies to encourage decarbonization and electrification of end-use sectors;  

  • key areas related to the circular economy, such as green design and renewable resource utilization; and

  • deployment and application of technology such as CCUS and direct air capture.”

It adds that “both countries consider increased action to control and reduce such emissions to be a matter of necessity in the 2020s.” 

On CO2 emissions, “the two countries intend to cooperate on: 

  • Policies that support the effective integration of high shares of low-cost intermittent renewable energy; 

  • Transmission policies that encourage efficient balancing of electricity supply and demand across broad geographies; 

  • Distributed generation policies that encourage integration of solar, storage, and other clean power solutions closer to electricity users; and 

  • Energy efficiency policies and standards to reduce electricity waste.

The United States has set a goal to reach 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035. China will phase down coal consumption during the 15th Five Year Plan and make best efforts to accelerate this work.”

Also, both countries intend to communicate 2035 NDCs in 2025.

Moving on, we have a report (English report) about the CIIE; I’ve tended to overlook a lot of the CIIE related reports in PD. But this is useful data. A total of $70.72 billion worth of tentative deals were reached for one-year purchases of goods and services, CIIE Bureau Deputy Director Sun Chenghai said. There were 281 Fortune 500 companies and corporate giants in attendance, with nearly 40 making their CIIE debuts and over 120 participating in the event for their fourth consecutive year.

Page 12: We have a piece bylined Li Yi, the deputy director of the Central Party School, talking about common prosperity. Li begins by telling us that “eliminating poverty, improving people’s livelihood and realising common prosperity are the essential requirements of socialism and an important mission of our Party.” He talks about common prosperity being a long-held goal, and says that with Xiaokang achieved, it’s now time to move towards common prosperity. “On the new journey, we must focus on addressing the problems of unbalanced and inadequate development and the urgent needs and aspirations of the people, and make more tangible and substantive progress in promoting all-round human development and common prosperity for all.” 新的征程上,我们要着力解决发展不平衡不充分问题和人民群众急难愁盼问题,推动人的全面发展、全体人民共同富裕取得更为明显的实质性进展.

Li then goes to explain what common prosperity implies. “Prosperity refers to the level of economic and social development. This is in terms of material wealth, spiritual prosperity and having a comfortable/well-off life. ‘Common’ means making the fruits of reform and development benefit all the people in a fairer way.” “共同富裕”中,“富裕”反映的是经济社会发展水平,体现着物质丰富、精神富足和生活宽裕程度;“共同”体现的是让改革发展成果更多更公平惠及全体人民.

Li adds that common prosperity is not only an economic concept, but also a social development concept, which relates to political, cultural, ecological and other fields. Now from an economic point of view, it relates to:

higher income and wealth levels, and also involves income distribution, reflecting the degree of coordination and adjustment between primary distribution, redistribution and tertiary distribution. To achieve common prosperity, we need to promote high-quality development to raise the income of urban and rural residents by vigorously promoting high-quality development, so that all people can further reignite their enthusiasm for work, unleash their potential, and create a better life through work. 共同富裕可以从不同角度理解。比如,从经济层面看,主要表现为较高的收入和财富水平,还涉及收入分配状况,反映初次分配、再分配、三次分配协调配套程度。实现共同富裕要通过大力推动高质量发展提高城乡居民收入水平,让全体人民进一步焕发劳动热情、释放劳动潜能,通过劳动创造更加美好的生活.

From a social development perspective, Li stresses on the equalisation of basic public services, which mainly include “education, employment, social security, medical and health care.” Finally, from a daily life perspective, Li talks about people enjoying a certain degree of affluence but also cultivating good habits. Li then says that achieving common prosperity will be a gradual process. “To promote common prosperity, we must make every effort to make the pie bigger and better, and divide it fairly and reasonably.” 推进共同富裕,既要千方百计做大做好“蛋糕”,也要公平合理分好“蛋糕”.

There’s also a cultural and spiritual dimension to all this, which involves promoting “social harmony and stability” and providing people with a sense of gain and peace.

Now that’s all how one should think about common prosperity. But should one do? Here Li says that common prosperity was outlined after the 5th Plenum as a 2035 goal. Getting there, requires adherence to:

  • the principles of encouraging hard work and innovation to get rich

  • the basic economic system,

  • the best efforts to do what is possible

  • gradual and orderly progress, focus on the long term, scientific planning, careful planning

  • long-term and scientific planning, careful deployment, insisting on systematic thinking, laying a solid foundation, promoting advantages, making up for shortcomings and strengths, 

  • correctly handling the relationship between efficiency and equity

  • make timely policy adjustments 

  • solidly promote common prosperity in phases

共同富裕是一个长远目标,也是一项长期艰巨的任务。党的十九届五中全会《建议》提出,到2035年,“全体人民共同富裕取得更为明显的实质性进展”;在“改善人民生活品质,提高社会建设水平”部分强调,“扎实推动共同富裕”。要坚持鼓励勤劳创新致富、坚持基本经济制度、坚持尽力而为量力而行、坚持循序渐进等原则,着眼长远、科学谋划、周密部署,坚持系统思维,固根基、扬优势、补短板、强弱项,正确处理总体安排与阶段性部署的关系、效率和公平的关系,兼顾需要与可能,确保阶段性目标的可及性,适时调整政策目标和重点,分阶段扎实推进共同富裕.

Li then writes that in order to achieve the goals in the Outline of the People’s Republic of China 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and Long-Range Objectives for 2035, it is important to:

  • pursue rural revitalisation

  • formulate and implement an action program for promoting common prosperity

  • reduce the urban-rural, region and income gaps

  • expand the middle-income group, with the focus on college and vocational college graduates, skilled workers, and migrant workers

  • support the development of a common prosperity demonstration zone in Zhejiang, which will provide a provincial-level example for others

Also on the page, we have comments from Zhu Fenglian from the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. The report basically talks about her comments related to the three Taiwan officials who have been put on the PRC blacklist. I am using the English version of the report from China Daily:

“They have been inciting confrontation between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits, undermining cross-Straits relations, plotting to split the country and undermining peace across the Straits, Zhu said, adding that ‘they can't get away with what they did’. Taiwan’s mainland affairs authority said it would consider taking countermeasures. When asked if there would be a follow-up list, Zhu said Taiwan secessionists include those who organise, plot and carry out acts to split the country and undermine national unity. They seek independence by colluding with foreign forces and making ‘constitutional amendments’ on the island, she said, adding that they and their financial backers will be punished in accordance with the law. The punitive measures include banning the Taiwan secessionists and their families from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, the office said. Organizations related to them will be restricted from cooperating with organizations and individuals on the mainland, and enterprises related to them and their financial backers are not allowed to make profits on the mainland, it said. The mainland will pursue criminal responsibility for the secessionists and they will be held accountable for life, it added.”

In PD, Zhu also talks about how this step to “punish” is aimed to “curb ‘Taiwan independence’ secession,” which in turn will “maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and protect the rights and interests of people on both sides.”

Interesting that PD did not cover Zhu’s comments about US lawmakers landing in Taiwan. SCMP reported that “a delegation of US lawmakers including Republican senators John Cornyn of Texas and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama landed in Taiwan on Tuesday in a surprise visit organised by Washington’s de facto embassy on the island.” 

Global Times reported Zhu’s comments: “We firmly oppose any form of official and military contacts between the US and China's Taiwan region. We urge some US congressmen to abide by the one-China principle and relevant provisions of the three China-US joint communiqués, and refrain from sending wrong signals to Taiwan secessionists, which will only further damage peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.”

Other Stories:

The lead piece on the theory page is by the Beijing Xi Thought research center. It talks about promoting global cooperation in science and technology. This is an interesting piece in that it touches on the different and somewhat contradictory impulses that are driving not just China but other countries too.

For instance, it tells you that there is a realisation that emerging technologies are key to geopolitical competition and future growth; there is a sense that interdependence, particularly when it comes to chokepoint technologies, leads to serious vulnerabilities; there’s also a sense that there is a need for self-reliance of some measure.

At the same time, there is a sense that complete self-reliance (whatever that means) is not really possible; there is a sense that one needs global cooperation and exchanges, i.e., science-tech advancement is fundamentally a collaborative endeavour; and there’s a sense that there are global challenges and “no country can become an independent innovation center or enjoy the fruits of innovation alone.” 

Beyond this, the authors also talk about developing countries needing to work together; using established funds; focussing on global issues like food security, energy security, human health and climate change; balancing development and security; supporting the establishment of international scientific and technological organizations in China and inviting more foreign talents; and encouraging domestic innovators to ‘go global.’

Also, on Page 15, we have an essay by Hou Yanqi, China’s ambassador to Nepal. She argues that bilateral ties “have entered the best period in history.” During Xi’s state visit to Nepal in 2019, China-Nepal relations were upgraded to a Strategic Cooperative Partnership Featuring Ever-lasting Friendship for Development and Prosperity. They have also strengthened cooperation within the United Nations and other multilateral institutions. She talks about Nepal being a BRI partner state, about feasibility study for the cross-border railway being underway, highway building and pandemic support provided by China. 

She adds that China and Nepal “hold the torch of multilateralism, promote the construction of new international relations of mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, firmly defend the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and support the UN to play a greater role in international affairs.” 

She adds that they both “support each other on major issues such as human rights, tackling climate change and peacekeeping operations, resolutely oppose attempts by individual countries to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, and jointly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries, such as sovereignty, independence, security and development. Nepal supports China’s just position on issues related to Tibet, Xinjiang and COVID-19 origin tracing, actively supports China’s global development initiatives and actively promotes the construction of a community of shared future for mankind. China firmly supports Nepal in safeguarding its sovereignty and independence, and cooperates with the United Nations Development Programme in aid to Nepal under the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund project.” 中尼携手共擎多边主义火炬,推动构建相互尊重、公平正义、合作共赢的新型国际关系,坚定捍卫联合国宪章宗旨和原则,支持联合国在国际事务中发挥更大作用。中尼两国在人权、应对气候变化、维和行动等重大问题上相互配合、相互支持,坚决反对个别国家干涉他国内政的企图,共同维护发展中国家主权、独立、安全、发展等合法权益。尼泊尔在涉藏、涉疆、新冠病毒溯源等问题上支持中国正义立场,积极支持中方提出的全球发展倡议,积极推动构建人类命运共同体。中国坚定支持尼泊尔维护自身主权和独立,在南南合作援助基金项目下同联合国开发计划署共同开展援尼合作.