CMC's Top Brass Emphasise PLA's Combat Readiness - Xi's NPC Election - Green Development White Paper - Zhao Yide on Shaanxi's Priorities - COVID Cases Peak But Still a Challenge for Rural Areas
I hope this finds you well. Before, we get to today’s edition, let me wish you all a very happy Chinese New Year - 新年快乐! Here’s to hoping that the year of the rabbit brings you lots of joy and peace.
Here are the stories and pieces that I found noteworthy from the Friday, January 20, 2023, edition of the People’s Daily.
Page 1: The top story on the page is about Xi Jinping’s inspection of the “combat readiness of the armed forces via video link ahead of the Spring Festival.” The report says that Xi spoke with:
soldiers at a border defence station along the Khunjerab Pass, under the Xinjiang military command. He hailed them as models of border defence. If you are interested, here’s a CGTN report on this particular station.
a navy formation, with whom he talked about emergency response preparations
an air force aviation brigade, whom Xi ordered to remain alert and be ready for combat
soldiers from the Falcon Commando Unit under the PAP
The other top story is about Xi being unanimously elected as a delegate to the 14th NPC from Jiangsu. The Xinhua English report does not do justice to the excitement of this that’s in the Chinese report.
It says that when Xi’s election was announced, “all the representatives stood up, and thunderous applause resounded throughout the audience, which lasted for a long time.”当大会宣布习近平同志全票当选时，全体代表起立，雷鸣般的掌声响彻全场，久久激荡. Then there’s this exclamation: The people’s leader lives up to the people’s expectations and the people love their leader.“人民领袖不负人民，亿万人民爱戴领袖!”
The delegates said that under the Party Central Committee’s leadership, with Xi as the core, Jiangsu would work towards Chinese-style modernisation in accordance with the grand blueprint of ‘strong economy, rich people, beautiful environment and high degree of social civilisation’ drawn by the general secretary.” 代表们纷纷表示，步入新时代，在以习近平同志为核心的党中央坚强领导下，江苏按照总书记擘画的“经济强、百姓富、环境美、社会文明程度高”的宏伟蓝图，正与全国人民一道团结奋斗，共同推进中国式现代化伟大实践.
The article has comments from members of the Jiangsu provincial congress and there’s a lot of praising Xi for having personally been engaged in guiding Jiangsu’s development since the 18th Party Congress. Just as an aside, through the 13th NPC, Xi was a delegate from Inner Mongolia.
Also on the page is a report (English report) about Xi’s New Year greetings to the Party’s elderly members. The report lists the names and then shares their combined view:
“The veteran comrades spoke highly of the historic achievements and changes in the cause of the Party and the state over the past five years and the first decade of the new era, which were scored under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core. They expressed wholehearted support for Xi's core position on the CPC Central Committee and in the Party as a whole. They expressed the hope that the entire Party, the military, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups would rally even closer around the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, fully implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and study, publicize, and implement the guiding principles of the 20th CPC National Congress.”
They further called on everyone to “deeply understand the decisive significance of Two Establishments, strengthen the four consciousnesses and the four self-confidences and achieve the two safeguards, strengthen confidence, work hard with one heart and one mind, forge ahead courageously, and unite and struggle for building a socialist modern country and promoting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in an all-round way.” 老同志们对此表示感谢，高度评价过去五年和新时代十年在以习近平同志为核心的党中央坚强领导下，党和国家事业取得的历史性成就、发生的历史性变革，对习近平总书记作为党中央的核心、全党的核心表示衷心拥护。老同志们希望全党全军全国各族人民更加紧密地团结在以习近平同志为核心的党中央周围，全面贯彻习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想，深入学习宣传贯彻党的二十大精神，深刻领悟“两个确立”的决定性意义，增强“四个意识”、坚定“四个自信”、做到“两个维护”，坚定信心、同心同德，埋头苦干、奋勇前进，为全面建设社会主义现代化国家、全面推进中华民族伟大复兴而团结奋斗.
Next, there’s a long feature on Xi’s activities and concerns expressed by him around the Spring Festival time over the years. This basically emphasises that the “people” are at the centre of it all. This article takes a lot of space on the next page too.
Next, there’s a report on Han Zheng’s comments during a meeting of the food safety commission of the State Council, which he heads. This is in the context of the holidays. He talks about the importance of ensuring the most rigorous standards, the most stringent supervision, the most severe penalties, and the most serious accountability, i.e., the “four stringents/stricts” 四个最严.
Page 3: There are two articles on the page around the new white paper that was released yesterday on China’s green development, also the document is published in the paper today too. I am not doing a complete breakdown. But I am sharing below some useful data points from the document
China has intensified investment in scientific and technological innovation. The nation’s gross domestic research and development (R&D) spending grew from RMB1.03 trillion in 2012 to more than RMB2.8 trillion in 2021. Its R&D spending intensity, or the expenditure on R&D as a percentage of its GDP, rose from 1.91 percent in 2012 to 2.44 percent in 2021, approaching the average level of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Chinese enterprises’ investment in R&D has continued to increase, accounting for more than 76 percent of the country’s total R&D investment.
By the end of 2021, China’s energy conservation and environmental protection industry owned 49,000 valid invention patents, and the new energy industry held 60,000, 1.6 and 1.7 times more than in 2017. From 2011 to 2020, the number of patent applications filed by China for environment-related technology inventions was close to 60 percent of the world total, making it the most active country in environmental technology innovation.
In 2021, the output value of China’s energy conservation and environmental protection industries exceeded RMB8 trillion. Extensive pilot projects have been carried out at local level to explore methods and pathways to realize the value of eco-environmental products. New models of ecofriendly industry such as urban modern agriculture, leisure agriculture, eco-environmental tourism, forest healthcare, boutique homestays, and pastoral leisure complexes have witnessed rapid development.
Easing overcapacity and closing down outdated production facilities. While protecting industrial and supply chains, China has taken active and well-ordered steps to ease overcapacity and close down outdated production facilities. Measures have been taken to curb industries that over-exploit resources and cause environmental damage, such as steel, cement and electrolytic aluminum. A swap system has been introduced that allows producers to open equal or lower amounts of new capacity in return for closures elsewhere. During the 13th Five-year Plan period, China has removed more than 150 million tonnes of excess steel production capacity and 300 million tonnes of excess cement production capacity. Substandard steel products have been eliminated and almost all outdated production capacity in industries such as electrolytic aluminum and cement manufacturing has been removed.
Working to bring about a rational distribution of raw material industries. China employs overall planning of resources such as coal and water and takes into consideration environmental capacity. Several modern coal chemical industry demonstration zones have been established in the central and western regions to pilot projects for technology upgrading in the coal chemical industry. A group of large-scale high-quality petrochemical industry bases has been constructed in coastal areas to promote the safe, green, intensive, and efficient development of the industry. Expanding the division of industries and cooperation across regions. China is seeking to establish and improve a benefit-sharing mechanism by employing the comparative strengths of every region, each relying on its own resources and environmental advantages, and on the foundations of industrial development.
By the end of 2021, China hosted a total of 2,783 green factories, 223 green industrial parks, and 296 green supply chain management enterprises. The manufacturing sector has been significantly upgraded for green production.
Nationwide, a total of 592 green shopping malls had been built by the end of 2021.
By the end of 2021, 80.5 percent of e-commerce parcels were free of secondary packaging, all express delivery packages were sealed with thinner (45mm) tape, and all transit bags used in the sector were renewable.
The proportion of clean energy sources in total energy consumption increased from 14.5 percent in 2012 to 25.5 percent by the end of 2021, and the proportion of coal decreased from 68.5 percent to 56 percent over the same period. The installed capacity of renewable energy was more than one billion kilowatts, accounting for 44.8 percent of China’s overall installed capacity. The installed capacity of hydropower, wind power, and photovoltaic power each exceeded 300 million kilowatts, all ranking the highest in the world.
Optimizing the structure of transport. China has accelerated the construction of special railway lines, promoted the shift of freight transport from road to railway and waterway, and encouraged intermodal transport. In 2021, the railway and waterway freight volume accounted for 24.56 percent of the total in China, an increase of 3.85 percentage points over 2012. China has also emphasized the strategy of giving priority to urban public transport. By the end of 2021, there were 275 urban rail transit lines in operation in 51 cities, with a total track length of more than 8,700 kilometers. The length of exclusive bus lanes increased from 5,256 kilometers in 2012 to 18,264 kilometers in 2021.
By the end of 2021, the number of China’s registered new energy vehicles had reached 7.84 million, accounting for about half of the global figure. There were 508,900 new energy buses, accounting for 71.7 percent of the total number of buses in China. There were 207,800 new energy taxis. China has continued the green transformation of mobile railway equipment. The proportion of internal combustion locomotives decreased from 51 percent in 2012 to 36 percent in 2021. China has also updated the pollutant discharge standards for motor vehicles, promoted the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered boats and transformation of shore power facilities, and accelerated the transformation or elimination of obsolete vehicles and boats. Since 2012, more than 30 million yellow-label vehicles with high emissions have been eliminated, and 47,100 obsolete inland river boats have been re-engineered or mothballed.
China has continued the electrification of its railways, with the proportion of electric railways increasing from 52.3 percent in 2012 to 73.3 percent in 2021. It has also built more green port and road transport support facilities. By the end of 2021, five types of shore power facilities had been built in 75 percent of the specialized berths of major ports, and 13,374 charging piles had been built in expressway service areas – the highest number in the world.
Also in the paper is a big section on rule of law. This lists the details of legislative changes, but what’s more interesting is this:
‘GDP growth is no longer the sole criterion for the assessment of the development of regions or the performance of officials. Instead, binding targets concerning resources and the environment are set for economic and social development, and a more balanced assessment system for economic and social development is in progress – one that measures the use of resources, energy consumption, environmental damage, and the eco-environmental impact. This allows assessment to play its full guiding role in promoting green development. China has put in place an accountability system for leading officials, and formulated and/or revised a number of CPC regulations, including the Measures for Holding Leading Officials of the Party and the Government Accountable for Environmental Damage (for Trial Implementation), the Regulations on Central Environmental Inspections, and the Regulations on the Auditing of Natural Resource Assets for Leading Officials at the End of Their Tenures (for Trial Implementation). These are designed to ensure that Party committees and governments assume equal responsibilities for environmental protection, that leading officials perform their environmental protection responsibilities with diligence, in addition to their other prescribed duties, and that they are held accountable when they fail to do so. China mandates end-of-tenure auditing of natural resource assets for leading officials, and imposes lifelong accountability for environmental damage.”
On green finance, it says: “At the end of 2021 China’s green loan balance in RMB and foreign currencies stood at RMB15.9 trillion, and its outstanding green bonds at RMB1.1 trillion, both ranking among the largest in the world.”
The international cooperation section says:
Since 2016, working in other developing countries, it has launched 10 low-carbon demonstration zones, 100 projects for climate change mitigation and adaption, training sessions on climate change response for 1,000 people, and more than 200 foreign assistance programs on climate change.
It also talks about the greening of BRI. There are examples of steps taken in this regard, including the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition (BRIGC), establishment of the BRI Green Development Institute, and launching of the BRI Environmental Big Data Platform, and training of people in partner countries under the Green Silk Road Envoys Program.
There are two other reports on the page that are worth noting. First, there’s a Zhong Sheng commentary once again lashing out at Western media for “political prejudice” and “ignoring China's three-year anti-epidemic achievements” and its “great contribution to the world.” “These arguments will not change the international community's confidence in China's economic development, but will only expose the ignorance and prejudice of these Western media,” says the article.
The article basically makes the point that China’s COVID policies worked to “achieve the maximum prevention and control effect at the minimum cost.” It talks up China’s economic development during the pandemic. It talks up China’s vaccine diplomacy and it talks up the expansion of China’s foreign trade and the growth of foreign investment in China.
Second, there’s a consolidated report on Qin Gang’s talks with the foreign ministers of Iran and Uzbekistan.
First, Xinhua’s report on Qin’s chat with Iran’s Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says that:
“China always views China-Iran relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, and stands ready to work closely with Iran to well implement the important consensus reached by the two countries' leaders, and advance the comprehensive cooperation plan of the two countries…China supports Iran in safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and is ready to work with Iran to uphold basic norms governing international relations such as the principle of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, preserve the common interests of developing countries and safeguard international fairness and justice.”
“The two sides also exchanged views on the Iranian nuclear issue. Amir-Abdollahian briefed on the latest progress of the talks on the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and thanked China for its constructive role. China appreciates Iran's sincerity and flexibility, supports Iran in safeguarding its legitimate and lawful rights and interests, and calls on other parties to remain committed to dialogue and negotiation, Qin said, adding that China will continue to play its role in its own way.”
Second, Xinhua’s report on the chat with Bakhtiyor Saidov says that:
“Noting that firm mutual support on issues concerning each other's core interests is the political foundation and core essence of China-Uzbekistan relations, Qin said China will continue to unswervingly support Uzbekistan's independent development, and oppose external interference in its domestic affairs. For his part, Saidov said he is ready to make joint efforts with Qin to consolidate the two countries' friendship and push for new achievements in cooperation in various fields. Uzbekistan firmly adheres to the one-China policy, holds highly aligned positions with China on issues concerning regional security and stability, and will continue to firmly support each other on issues concerning respective core interests, Saidov noted.”
Also, some other information that’s worth noting:
Xinhua reports that Chinese and Australian representatives held talks in Davos, agreeing to a meeting between Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao and Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell in the near future.
Also in Switzerland, Liu He met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Xinhua says that the talks “were constructive.” “The two sides agreed that the world's economic recovery is at a critical stage and it is in the interest of both countries as well as the whole world for China and the United States to strengthen macro-policy communication and coordination and jointly address challenges in the economic and financial fields. The two sides discussed issues related to deepening cooperation in macroeconomic and financial fields.” “The Chinese side also expressed concern over the U.S. economic, trade and technological policies toward China, and hoped that the United States will pay attention to the impact of these policies on both sides. Yellen is welcome to visit China at an appropriate time this year, Liu said.”
While on ties with the US, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit in early February. But it seems that China-US military talks aren’t making any headway. Bloomberg reports: “The Pentagon is struggling to get China to resume military-to-military talks, according to a senior US defense official.” The report also has this noteworthy data:
“From Washington’s point of view, China has done little to ease military tensions between the two sides, despite the Pentagon reducing naval transits through the Taiwan Strait in 2022 to the lowest level in four years. The PLA last month held its largest military drills near Taiwan since the unprecedented exercises that followed Pelosi’s trip. And Beijing has repeatedly signaled that it views both Taiwan and its claims to a vast swath of the South China Sea as core national security issues. Critical to global trade, the South China Sea has seen a flurry of activity in recent months as Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines seek to counter incursions by Chinese vessels. Imagery shared with Bloomberg News by Western officials last month showed how Beijing is seeking to bolster its claims in the disputed waterway by building up several unoccupied land features. US officials have long said regular communication between Chinese and American defense personnel is key to preventing mishaps from escalating into conflict. But Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei last month said Washington needed to stop “constantly harming China’s interests” before that could happen.”
Page 4: There are quite a few reports on the page that I’d like to highlight.
First, a report on Sun Chunlan’s inspection tour of two hospitals in Beijing. She said that Of late, the overall epidemic situation in the country has been at a decline, the prevention and control work has become more smooth and orderly, and medical treatment efforts have achieved remarkable results. The number of critically ill patients in the hospital has steadily declined, but the task of treatment is still arduous. It is hoped that medical staff will always adhere to the people first and life first, carry forward and inherit the spirit of doctors in the new era, which has been tempered in the fight against COVID-19, and make new contributions to safeguarding people's health and building a healthy China.” 近期全国整体疫情已处于较低位流行水平，防控工作转段平稳有序，医疗救治成效明显，在院重症患者数量稳步下降，但救治任务仍然较重。希望广大医务人员始终坚持人民至上、生命至上，弘扬和传承好在抗疫中锤炼的新时代医者精神，为保障人民健康、建设健康中国再立新功.
Xinhua’s English report summarises the next bit well: “At a meeting held at the National Health Commission, Sun noted that the supply of drugs and medical supplies at the community level and in rural areas must be ensured. She underscored the need to augment community-level medical workforces, and called for more attention to be paid to key groups such as the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions.”
Second, a report on CMC Vice Chairman He Weidong’s inspection of a unit from the Strategic Support Force in Beijing. He stressed that it is necessary to thoroughly implement the spirit of the 20th Party Congress, thoroughly implement the Xi Jinping’s thought on strengthening the army, firmly raise the flag and forge souls, gather strength to ensure combat readiness, promote transformation and development, and actively contribute to the realisation of the armed forces’ centennial goal.
He visited the unit’s/force’s hall of honour 部荣誉馆 to learn more about the development process and achievements of the troops. He emphasised loyalty to the Party.
He demanded that all energies be focussed on combat readiness, called for strengthening the quality development of combat forces and their use in new areas, and promised to intensify efforts to tackle key problems in scientific and technological innovation. 何卫东强调，要深入推进备战打仗工作，全部精力向打仗聚焦，全部工作向打仗用劲，加强新域新质作战力量建设运用，加大科技创新攻关力度，聚力推动建设转型，加快提高打赢能力，有力遂行担负的使命任务.
Third, CMC Vice Chairman Zhang Youxia’s inspection of a brigade of the 82nd Group Army. The report says that he focussed on combat readiness and needing to be alert.
Zhang “pointed out that it is necessary to pay close attention to training and combat readiness, vigorously strengthen actual combat military training, explore new ways in simulated training, strictly implement basic training, do a good job in the innovation of mass warfare tactics, and temper the practical ability to carry out missions and tasks. It is necessary to strengthen the spirit of reform and innovation, promote system construction, improve the quality of combat effectiveness, speed up the modernisation of the army, and strive to build an elite force capable of fighting well.” 张又侠指出，要抓实练兵备战，大力加强实战化军事训练，在模拟训练上探索新路，严格基础训练落实，搞好群众性战法创新，锤炼遂行使命任务的实际能力。要强化改革创新精神，推进体系建设，提高新质战斗力，加快部队现代化建设，努力打造能战善战的精兵劲旅.
Finally, there’s an interview with Zhao Yide, Shaanxi Party Secretary on the province’s economic agenda. In response to the first question, Zhao talks about three key focus areas for the province this year:
First, strengthening modern energy industry clusters. He says that the approach to this is “stability, control, and transformation.” Stability means: “stabilising coal, expanding oil, and increasing gas simultaneously, and resolutely stabilising the basic market of energy production.” Control refers to the “blind development of ‘two high’ projects. Transformation refers to “the high-end, diversified, and low-carbon development of the coal chemical industry” and the “development of new energy and non-energy industries.” 一是扬能源优势，做强现代能源产业集群。陕西是国家重要能源基地，重点是念好“稳、控、转”三字经，“稳”就是坚持稳煤、扩油、增气并举，坚决稳住能源生产的基本盘；“控”就是加强产业布局、能耗双控与双碳目标衔接，严格控制“两高”项目盲目发展；“转”就是加快煤化工产业高端化、多元化、低碳化发展，并把传统能源挣来的“本钱”合理用于发展新能源和非能产业.
Second, promote science and education, and strengthen advanced manufacturing and emerging industry clusters. In this, he talks about Shaanxi’s strengths in terms of semiconductors, photovoltaics and supporting industries, and new energy vehicles.
Third, strengthening the cultural and tourism industry clusters.
The next question is about high-quality development and achieving common prosperity, which will inevitably require narrowing the three gaps, i.e., urban-rural, regional development, and income. To this, Zhao says that the province will focus on “increasing residents’ income, promoting urban-rural integration, and promoting regional coordination.” 下一步，将强化县域经济高质量发展的政策导向和机制保障，从三个方面着力，不断增加居民收入、促进城乡融合、推动区域协调. Do note, there is nothing in here about redistribution. These are useful signals to understand how goals like high-quality development and common prosperity are being interpreted by the folks who will be tasked with achieving them. Anyway, Zhao makes three specific points then
First, the government will work to “coordinate the construction of urban platforms, industrial platforms, innovation platforms and investment and financing platforms.”
Second, it will plan for the for the development of the characteristic economy, i.e., focus on development of sectors and enterprises that have unique local characteristics.
Third, it will coordinate and improve the infrastructure system, trade logistics system, public service system and social governance system.
The next question is about boosting the province’s innovation ecology. Zhao talks about focussing on building a comprehensive national science centre and a scientific and technological innovation centre in Xi'an and accelerating the construction of comprehensive laboratories in the fields of aerospace, energy, information, materials and life sciences. He talks about attracting innovative enterprises, promoting financing and talent support and creating more incubators.
The final question is about containing risks. The four risks he highlights are:
Maintaining political security
Maintaining food and energy security, i.e., maintain the red line of cultivated land firmly, implement the seed industry revitalization action and ensure food supply; also shoulder the political responsibility of ensuring energy supply.
Maintaining economic and financial security, i.e., containing government debt, strictly preventing risks in the real estate sector, improving supervision and internal governance mechanisms of financial institutions and improving the security level of industrial and supply chains.
Maintain social security and stability, i.e., controlling the pandemic, ensuring production safety in key industries, maintaining social stability, disaster prevention, mitigation and relief and tackling public emergencies.
Page 5: The entire page and some space on the next page too is dedicated to a piece recounting and positively appraising China’s COVID policies over the past three years.
Page 6: There’s a report on the briefing by the State Council’s Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism. This discussed the preparations with regard to the Spring Festival. But the big point being made was that China is past the COVID outbreak peak.
Guo Yanhong, head of the National Health Commission's medical emergency department, said: “The number of visits to fever clinics across the country reached its peak on December 23, 2022, and then continued to decline. By January 17, it had dropped by 94% from the peak, and had fallen back to the level before December 7, 2022. The number of emergency room visits nationwide reached its peak on January 2, and then continued to decline. On January 17, it dropped by 44% from the peak. The number of positive, critically ill patients in hospitals nationwide reached its peak on January 5, 2023, and then continued to decline. On January 17, the number of positive severe patients dropped by 44.3% from the peak.” 全国发热门诊就诊人数在去年12月23日达到峰值，之后持续下降，到1月17日较峰值下降94%，已经回落到去年12月7日前的水平。全国急诊就诊人数在1月2日达到峰值，之后持续下降，1月17日较峰值下降44%。全国在院阳性重症患者人数是在1月5日达到峰值，之后持续下降，1月17日较峰值数量下降44.3%.
Challenges still remain in rural areas, however. China Daily’s English report has a good summary of the comments in this regard.
“However, officials noted that grassroots medical institutions, especially those in rural areas, recently grappled with a shortage of equipment. To prepare for a potential spike in infections, fueled by the increase in travel during the Spring Festival holiday, officials emphasized that more support will be given to building medical capacity and stockpiling drugs. Mao Dezhi, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, said that 32 groups have been sent by the State Council to help address shortages of health workers and medicines in the countryside. Over 1.17 million pulse oximeters have been sent to 600,000 rural clinics nationwide, he said. The first shipments of oxygen generators for 832 previously impoverished counties have reached their destinations and the delivery of more began on Tuesday, he added. ‘We are also working with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the National Health Commission to supply rural areas with pain medicines,’ he said, pledging to devote ‘all-out efforts to resolving all kinds of shortages’ in rural areas. In addition to stocking up on daily necessities and medical supplies, Mao said that localities had finished surveying 590 million rural residents to assess the health conditions of the elderly, pregnant women, children and other vulnerable groups.
Another data point is with regard to travel across the country. So far, things are not nearly close to being back to pre-pandemic levels. “As of January 18, the country's railways, highways, waterways, and civil aviation have transported a total of 480 million passengers, a decrease of 47.3% over the same period in 2019 but up 47.1% from the same period in 2022.” 截至1月18日，全国铁路、公路、水路、民航累计发送旅客4.8亿人次，比2019年同期下降47.3%，比2022年同期增长47.1%.
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