Ecological Compensation Mechanism - Why Nice Guys are Dangerous - Xi Thought: Strict Governance for Beautiful China & the Overall National Security Concept
Here are the stories and pieces from the September 13, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.
Page 1: It’s a rather uneventful edition today, to be honest. But let’s begin with the new guideline on deepening the reform of China’s ecological compensation mechanism. The document calls this an important means to implement the rights and responsibilities related to ecological protection. The first paragraph also ends this way:
“In order to thoroughly implement Xi Jinping Thought on ecological civilization, further deepen the reform of ecological protection compensation system, and accelerate the construction of ecological civilization system, the following opinions are put forward.” 为深入贯彻习近平生态文明思想，进一步深化生态保护补偿制度改革，加快生态文明制度体系建设，现提出如下意见. I am highlighting this to basically argue that one of the purposes of the document is to implement Xi Thought; that’s very different from regulation/policy deriving guidance from a thought.
Another bit that I thought was interesting was the Guiding Ideology section talking about the goal to “accelerate green and low-carbon development, promote all-round green transformation of economic and social development, and build modernization in which man and nature coexist in harmony.” The view there is that this system will provide “a solid institutional guarantee for safeguarding national ecological security” and lay the “foundation for sustainable development.”
There are two sets of goals. Xinhua English captures these well.
“By 2025, an ecological compensation mechanism that is aligned with economic and social development should be basically built up. The classified compensation system targeting ecological elements such as rivers, natural forests and wetlands, and the comprehensive compensation system that features fiscal support will be improved. In the meantime, a market-oriented and diversified compensation pattern will be formed with the whole society more actively participating in ecological protection. By 2035, the country will form an ecological compensation mechanism that meets the requirements of ecological civilization in the new era, according to the document.”
The next section is about the compensation system. This mentions the different domains that will fall under the compensation system -- so we have specific water bodies/sites like sources of rivers, areas that impact soil erosion, damaged lakes, etc; then we have forests, with local governments specifically being told “to explore differentiated compensation for non-commercial forests”; then we have the aim of gradually covering all of China’s important wetlands; and cultivated lands and grasslands. The responsibilities for these efforts, of course, rest with local governments.
As Xinhua explains:
“The classified compensation system will take into account factors including the economic and social development of the ecological protection areas, and the protection costs of diverse ecological elements. Efforts will be made to explore a protection mode that facilitates local governments to strengthen coordination in practicing ecological protection measures.”
The next bit talks about vertical and horizontal compensation mechanisms. The vertical ones refer to the central government’s support. It says that the central government will “gradually increase transfer payments to key ecological function zones.” However, the priority for this spending will be “the development of infrastructure and basic public service facilities in key functional ecological zones.” It also promises to continue to compensate “ecologically fragile areas,” linking this with the poverty alleviation effort. Provincial-level governments, meanwhile, are called to “increase investment in ecological compensation” and put together policy guidelines for incentives and restrictions based on local conditions.
The guideline also promises a differentiated compensation system with regard to central transfers, based on factors like positive ecological externalities of investments in an area, the importance of an area, and sensitivity and vulnerability of an ecological environment. There’s also a reference to introducing “ecological protection red lines as a factor in the distribution of relevant transfer payments.” Areas with high adherence to red lines will attract increased support. 引入生态保护红线作为相关转移支付分配因素，加大对生态保护红线覆盖比例较高地区支持力度.
The horizontal mechanism is also rather interesting. It talks about learning from the trials to establish a horizontal compensation mechanism for ecological protection with regard to inter-provincial river basins. The aim is to speed up the development of cross-provincial mechanisms. “We will encourage local governments to explore ways to compensate for horizontal ecological protection of air quality and other ecological and environmental factors, and promote sound interaction between beneficiary areas and areas under ecological protection through pairing, industrial relocation, personnel training, joint construction of parks, and purchase of ecological products and services.” 鼓励地方探索大气等其他生态环境要素横向生态保护补偿方式，通过对口协作、产业转移、人才培训、共建园区、购买生态产品和服务等方式，促进受益地区与生态保护地区良性互动.
The next few sections are nicely summarised by Xinhua English:
“Efforts will be made to give full play to the role of market mechanism to promote diversified compensation and help regions that conduct ecological protection measures obtain benefits, so as to encourage the whole society to participate in ecological protection. According to the document, the country will accelerate the building of a national market for trading energy use rights and carbon emission rights, which is to involve voluntary emission reduction projects on greenhouse gases in the fields of forestry, renewable energy and methane utilization. To expand market-oriented financing channels, financial institutions, qualified non-financial firms and insurers are encouraged to provide green services and products.”
Next, we have a commentary about the spirit of earthquake relief. This is the 17th in the series of spirit commentaries. This relates to the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Finally, we have data on new energy vehicles production and sales in China, which hit a new record high of 309,000 and 321,000 units, respectively, in August. The production and sales of electric vehicles were 252,000 and 265,000 units respectively.
Page 4: If you recall, at the Party School, Xi Jinping had criticised folks with a Mr. Nice Guy (好好先生) attitude. Today, there’s a piece on the page telling us what it means to be 好好先生 and why such folks are not not...well, nice. I am doing a quick paraphrasing to get the point across. The author decries these individuals as “yes men” who nod their heads and never speak about principles, or about right and wrong, sidestepping contradictions instead of addressing them. Often their goal is to stay out of trouble, which of course leads to inaction. They are “selfish” in that their primary goal is to protect their own interests. For instance, they may turn a blind eye to wrongdoing or corruption in order to preserve their relationships. In this sense, these “good people” are actually damaging to the cause, in that they do not have public interest at heart.
So I guess, this should be in vogue now.
Page 5: The 41st piece in the Xi Thought Q&A series. The first question is about the need for the strictest ecological and environmental protection system to build Beautiful China. The answer tells us that “to build an ecological civilization, the key is to formulate rules and regulations.” It says that since the 18th Party Congress “system construction” has been the top priority, with the focus being on institutionalization and rule of law development with regard to environmental work. And over time, a system of institutions for promoting ecological civilisation development has been basically established. However, the “vitality of a system lies in implementation.” While praising the effort in this direction, the piece also promises to “implement the central supervision system for ecological and environmental protection and ensure that all levels of government are responsible for protecting the environment.”
It is necessary to “strictly enforce the principal responsibility of enterprises and the responsibility of government oversight, improve the systems of environmental credit evaluation, mandatory disclosure of information, severe punishment and heavy penalties, etc, and significantly raise the cost of violating laws and regulations, so that those who violate environmental laws and regulations ‘lose more than they gain’ or stand to lose everything.” The last bit here is an idiom: 倾家荡产 - qīng jiā dàng chǎn -- 要严格落实企业主体责任和政府监管责任，健全环保信用评价、信息强制性披露、严惩重罚等制度，大幅提高违法违规成本，让生态环境违法行为人“得不偿失”，乃至“倾家荡产”.
The next paragraph emphasises the responsibility of leading cadres, when it comes to environmental work. “Leading officials at all levels are the primary persons responsible for ecological and environmental protection in their respective administrative regions. They should make arrangements for important work, ask questions about major issues, coordinate key links, and supervise the handling of important cases.” Then the piece rather directly says that:
“It is necessary to establish an evaluation system for ecological progress, implement the strictest possible evaluation and accountability, and use the results of these evaluations as an important basis for rewarding and punishing leading bodies and officials at all levels and for promoting them.” 要建立生态文明建设目标考核制度，实施最严格的考核问责，将考核结果作为各级领导班子、领导干部奖惩和提拔使用的重要依据.
It also warns that those who have “blindly” made decisions disregarding environmental costs and have had serious consequences, these individuals “must not be let go and must be held accountable for the rest of their lives.” -- So I guess, even if you retire, you can face action?
The second question is rather straightforward: Why is national security a top priority? This starts with the pandemic, saying that it has taught everyone a lesson in the importance of biosecurity. We are told that “development is the foundation of security, and security is the condition for development.” The piece tells us that there are obvious linkages between the threats and challenges to China’s national security and social stability, “foreseeable and unforeseeable risk factors are on the rise” and the tasks of safeguarding national security and social stability are increasingly arduous.
The piece says that it is necessary to “have an accurate understanding of the national security situation, firmly establish and earnestly implement the concept of overall national security, integrate security development into all areas and the whole process of China's development, guard against and defuse all risks affecting China's modernization drive, and build a solid national security barrier.” 要准确把握国家安全形势，牢固树立和认真贯彻总体国家安全观，把安全发展贯穿国家发展各领域和全过程，防范和化解影响我国现代化进程的各种风险，筑牢国家安全屏障. -- This is as good a moment as any to share this really excellent article by Tai Ming Cheung in the China Leadership Monitor from September 2020 on the evolution of the Chinese national security state.
The piece then says that when people think of security, they conventionally imagine conflict; however, this is traditional security thinking. In today’s world and in the perspective of the overall national security concept, what matters is the term overall.
This covers “politics, military affairs, land, economy, culture, society, science and technology, network, ecology, resources, nuclear, finance, biology, space, deep sea, polar regions, artificial intelligence, overseas interests, etc.” 总体国家安全观关键在“总体”，突出的是“大安全”理念，涵盖政治、军事、国土、经济、文化、社会、科技、网络、生态、资源、核、金融、生物、太空、深海、极地、人工智能、海外利益等诸多领域，而且随着社会发展不断拓展.
Also, the “overall national security concept emphasizes systematic thinking and approaches. It attaches importance to both development and security, external and internal security, homeland security and the security of the people, traditional and non-traditional security, and self-security and common security.” 总体国家安全观强调的是系统思维和方法，既重视发展问题又重视安全问题，既重视外部安全又重视内部安全，既重视国土安全又重视国民安全，既重视传统安全又重视非传统安全，既重视自身安全又重视共同安全.
Also: “The overall national security concept calls for making political security a top priority, and coordinating national security work in key areas such as political security, homeland security, economic security, social security, cyber security, and scientific and technological security.” 总体国家安全观要求把确保政治安全作为首要任务，统筹推进政治安全、国土安全、经济安全、社会安全、网络安全、科技安全等重点领域国家安全工作, 指明了维护国家安全的主阵地、主战场.
Then we have some details of actions taken since the 18th Party Congress. Some of the data points mentioned are the special campaign to eliminate gangs/vice 消除罪恶的特别运动. As of October 2020, some 3,463 gang-related organisations and some 10,878 criminal groups have been taken down. It talks about the crackdown on P2P lending, celebrating that such institutions have fallen from around 5000 at their peak to nearly zero as of November 2020. This “grey rhino” threatening financial security has been controlled, the piece says. The piece refers to the crackdown on illegal data collection by APPs, saying that “the defense line of network security is being built.” It also mentions the 2015 evacuation of Chinese and foreign nationals from Yemen.
Page 16: On the international page today, we have two reports/pieces about the US. First, there’s a report criticising the US’ human rights record through the wars over the past 20 years. This includes reproduction of data from a Guardian report and other reports to emphasise the loss of civilian lives in the US’ wars since 9/11.
Second, there’s a report based on former British MP George Galloway’s comments to Xinhua around the war on terrorism on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.