East-West Collaboration, Deep Dive into the New Development Concept & More Human Rights Pushback

Here are the stories and pieces that I found worth noting in the April 9, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily.

Page 1: Let’s begin with the report about Xi’s instructions on “the work related to the collaboration and paired assistance between the eastern and western regions of the country.” Xinhua English reports (PD report largely the same) that Xi said “efforts should be made to strengthen industrial cooperation, resource complementarity, the transfer of labourers and exchange of talents to foster a sound momentum of coordinated, collaborated and common regional development.” He wants this as the next stage following the achievement of the poverty alleviation target. This instruction was delivered at a conference on Thursday in Yinchuan, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. 

Next, a new series being launched in PD on food security. Today’s report on this talks about maintaining the “red line” of total arable land being not less than 1.8 billion mu (120 million hectares). This red line was set in 2004, and has been repeated since in the No 1 Document that’s released by the State Council. The story basically talks about how this red line has been maintained in different villages using different models. So in one village it talks about the “field chief” system; in another, it talks about the demolishing of illegal construction on arable land, etc. Here’s one excerpt about Pengling Village, Lishi Town, Shayang County, Hubei Province. 

“Pengling Village has fertile land. Ten years ago, a local company wanted to build a factory in the village. Not only did the villagers who cherish their land not give up the cultivated land, they also set up the Cultivated Land Conservation Association. The association is composed of highly respected villager representatives and village cadres. It usually carries out policy propaganda and promptly reports and disposes of signs of infringement of cultivated land. Today, the experience of the Farmland Conservation Association has been replicated and promoted.”

Finally, there’s a really long, special commentary under the name 任平 Ren Ping . This is sort of like a clarion call for building the “new development concept.” It begins by talking about how “2021 will be of special importance in the process of China’s modernization drive.” It argues that the economy is beginning to get back on track after the pandemic; the Party is prepping for its centenary; and 2021 is the first year of the 14th FYP and the long-term vision for 2035. It then talks about the significance of understanding “the new stage of development” that China is entering.

This entire paragraph is worth reading for the narrative, self-perception and outlook ahead: “Entering a new stage of development is a great leap in the historical process of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Since the founding of the Communist Party of China, it has united and led all the struggles of the Chinese people in order to build my country into a modern power and realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. From the first five-year plan to the fourteenth five-year plan, the consistent theme is to build our country into a modern socialist country. After the development during the "Thirteenth Five-Year Plan" period, my country's economic strength, scientific and technological strength, comprehensive national strength and people's living standards have jumped to a new level. The completion of a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way as scheduled and the victory of the fight against poverty have taken a major step forward in the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, laying a solid foundation and creating favorable conditions for the comprehensive construction of a modern socialist country in the new development stage. Soon after the founding of New China, our party put forward the goal of building a modern socialist country. The next 30 years will be a new stage of development for us to complete this historical ambition.”

Here are some more excerpts about what socialist modernization implies:

  • “The modernization we are promoting is a modernization with a huge population. The 1.4 billion population will enter a modern society as a whole, and will completely rewrite the modern world map. It is a major event with far-reaching influence in human history…”

  • “Modernization, we adhere to the people-centered development concept, consciously and actively resolve regional gaps, urban-rural gaps, income gaps, and promote social fairness and justice; it is a modernization that harmonizes material civilization and spiritual civilization.”

  • “We pay attention to the simultaneous promotion of material civilization and ecological civilization construction…”

  • “We emphasize mutual benefit and win-win results with all countries in the world, promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind…”

On the external and internal challenges:

“At present and in the future, my country’s development is still in a period of important strategic opportunities, but both opportunities and challenges have undergone new development and changes. Most of the opportunities and challenges are unprecedented. On the whole, the opportunities outweigh the challenges. From an international perspective, a century of change is accelerating evolution, the world has entered a period of turbulent change, and the external environment has more instability and uncertainty. The key is to accurately understand the key factors that determine the direction of major changes in the world that have not been seen in a century, and maintain strategic determination.”

“From a domestic perspective, China has shifted to a stage of high-quality development. It has many advantages and conditions for continued development, and it also faces many difficulties and challenges. The key is to look at problems from a comprehensive, dialectical, and long-term perspective, and to have a deep understanding of major social contradictions and changes.” The focus here is on identifying problems and solving them.

The piece then talks about “strategic issues.” It says that “We must recognize that in the face of severe and complex situations, we must adhere to the bottom line thinking and be prepared for a longer period of time to deal with changes in the external environment. At the same time, many of the problems we encounter are medium and long-term and must be understood from the perspective of protracted warfare. The construction of a new development pattern is proposed in accordance with the changes in my country’s development stage, environment, and conditions. It is a major decision made to solve medium- and long-term problems and prepare for a protracted war.”

So why is this new development concept needed? It is because “in recent years, as the global political and economic environment has changed, the trend of anti-globalization has intensified, and the traditional international cycle has been significantly weakened. Under such circumstances, focus on building a new development pattern, based on the advantages of the domestic market, relying on the advantages of the domestic market, and fully tapping the potential of domestic demand, which is conducive to dissolving the impact of external shocks and falling external demand, and is also conducive to ensuring my country's economy under extreme conditions.”

Also this is noteworthy: “In the past, when our level of development was low, we were more complementary to others; now that our level of development has improved, we are more competitive with others. This is completely an objective reality that does not depend on human will in the course of historical development. Whether it is to adapt to changes in the global political and economic environment or to adapt to the laws of my country's economic development, we are required to build a new development pattern.” This is interesting. It sounds clear-headed but it also sounds like a defense of Xi’s policies, which have led to counterbalancing moves and moves towards segmented globalisation.

Then article then argues that this focus on the domestic cycle does not mean closing to the outside world. One of the goals, in fact, is to attract “global resource elements through the domestic cycle.” All of this, of course, requires speeding up of domestic demand. This bit is followed by a discussion on technological self-reliance. 

“Speeding up scientific and technological self-reliance is the key to ensuring the smooth flow of the domestic cycle and shaping my country’s new advantages in the international cycle. The most essential feature of constructing a new development pattern is to achieve a high level of self-reliance. It is necessary to put more emphasis on independent innovation. Only by mastering core technology in one’s own hands can we truly grasp the initiative in competition and development, and fundamentally guarantee national economic security, National defense security and other security. We must adhere to the core position of innovation in the overall situation of my country's modernization drive...”

Also noteworthy is this: “Promoting the optimization and upgrading of the supply chain of the industrial chain is an urgent need to consolidate the dominant position of the domestic big cycle and enhance the ability to drive in the international big cycle...”

Page 3: A few stories to note. First, International Liaison Department chief Song Tao led the CCP’s dialogue with delegates from the Ba'ath Party of Syria. Second, a seminar titled “The Communist Party of China and the Development and Progress of China's Human Rights Cause” was held in Changchun, Jilin. PD reports that more than 100 experts and scholars from more than 20 countries and international organizations participated. Xiangba Puncuo, president of the Chinese Society for Human Rights Studies, praised China’s development and then said:

“Under the impact of major changes unseen in a century, the traditional Western human rights paradigm has been unable to provide a satisfactory framework. The international community is paying close attention to China's propositions and China's plans. Guided by Xi Jinping’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, we must thoroughly study and interpret General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important expositions on human rights, and study China’s human rights development path and China’s contribution to the world’s human rights development, and jointly promote global human rights governance.”

Jiang Jianguo, the deputy minister of the Central Propaganda Department, said that “the 100 years of the Communist Party of China are a century of the great practice of respecting and protecting human rights, a century of creating a miracle of human rights development in the history of the Chinese nation, and a great contribution to the development of the cause of human rights in the world.” Here’s more from Jiang: “The international community should take a long-term view, provide more support to developing countries, respect diverse civilizations, advocate exchanges and mutual learning, transform diversity and differences into development vitality and driving force, replace confrontation with cooperation, and replace monopoly with win-win. Promote the development of global human rights governance in a more just and reasonable direction.” This talk sounds really cheap when one understands how difficult the Party finds managing diversity at home and how much it strives for homogeneity. But this echoes really well internationally, and like I’ve argued for a while, this is not just about domestic legitimacy. This is about reframing global norms.

Page 4: Not a story, but something for folks in India to note. Former ambassador to India Luo Zhaohui has now been appointed as the director of the National Agency for International Development Cooperation. 

Page 16: Once again a long piece on the international page attacking the US on human rights. This one says that 

  • “the disorder of the democratic system triggers political chaos, which tears apart American society. The politics of money in the United States has distorted public opinion and turned elections into a ‘one-man show’ for the wealthy. Money is deeply rooted in all aspects of American elections. Without enough money, it is impossible to compete for any important political office.”

  • It quotes WSJ to highlight partisan polarisation in the US. 

  • Then the author talks about gun violence: “The two parties in the United States are unable to reach a consensus on gun control based on their partisan interests. The prolonged proliferation of guns is caused by political divisions and partisan struggles, and the cost is that tens of thousands of Americans become the souls of guns every year.”

  • The next bit is about racial discrimination and then about inequality, unemployment, and the lives lost due to COVID-19.

  • Then there’s specific mention of the Trump administration, attacking it for pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council, etc.

  • There’s also a bit in there talking about “vaccine nationalism.”

Then this is really interesting:

“From July 2017 to July 2020, in violation of international human rights law and international humanitarianism, the US immigration authorities forcibly separated more than 5,400 children from their parents who were refugees or illegal immigrants in the southern border area, resulting in a tragic separation of flesh and blood. Children died in custody. In 2019, a total of 850,000 immigrants were arrested in the southern border of the United States. Most of them were treated roughly and their human rights were abused. In 2020, the detention facilities where immigrants are held in the United States have become the “hardest hit areas” for the spread of the new crown virus. The US government is also forcibly repatriating a large number of illegal immigrants as the epidemic spreads, increasing the risk of the epidemic in Central American countries. In the past three months, more than 100,000 illegal immigrants have poured into the United States. US law enforcement officers separated more than 5,000 children from their parents and detained them in crowded simple houses, creating multiple ‘children's concentration camps’.”

The other piece worth noting is the G20s decision to extend to the end of this year its debt service suspension initiative by 6 months to December 2021. The piece also talks about the G20 calling on the IMF to push a special drawing rights allocation plan totaling $650 billion to help respond to the pandemic and to promote the global economic recovery.