Fingertip Formalism - FDI Remains Strong - European Business Confidence in China - Ties with DPRK - Emphasising Performance Legitimacy & Party's 'Spiritual Bloodline'

Here are the stories and pieces from the People’s Daily’s June 21, 2021, edition that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: The first piece that I am covering today is about eliminating “指尖上的形式主义” or “Formalism on the Fingertips.” Essentially, this is about reducing formalism from government-apps and platforms so as to ease the “burden” of grassroots officials. This is serious business, as the story tells us:

“Formalism is not only a problem of style, but also a political problem. It not only seriously affects the implementation of the Party Central Committee’s decisions and arrangements, but also damages the authority of the Party Central Committee and destroys the party’s image. The same goes for ‘formalism on the fingertips’. 形式主义不仅是作风问题,也是政治问题,不仅严重影响党中央决策部署的贯彻落实,也会损害党中央权威, 破坏党的形象.

The piece tells us that much work has gone in this direction for the past six months. The primary aim has been to create standards for APPs and carry out inspections to assess implementation. Here’s what’s been done:

“Over the past six months, various localities and departments have focused on cleaning up ‘zombie’ and ‘shell’ mobile Internet applications for party and government organs and grassroots cadres, consolidated and reduced long and repetitive processes, correcting issues such as forced promotions and abuse of the ranking system. Similarly various official accounts and Weibo accounts were cleaned up. 半年来,各地各部门重点清理面向党政机关和基层干部的“僵尸类”“空壳类”移动互联网应用程序,整合多头重复的程序,纠治强行推广、滥用积分排名等问题,并对各类公众号、微博账号进行清理,以实际行动向“指尖上的形式主义”开刀亮剑.

The rest of the piece carries specific examples of actions taken in a few different areas and then comments by cadres about how this change has been such a relief and improved efficiency. For instance, Jin Jiantao, secretary of the Party Working Committee of Shuiguohu Street, Wuchang District, Wuhan, tells us that in the past the system would assess people based on speed, promptness and eagerness, but now the focus is more on performance efficiency and quality. Sheng Xinchun, secretary of the Party Working Committee of Dongfeng Street, Qikai District, Changchun, says that previously he used to be part of 60 groups, constantly getting updates through the morning. Now, with a rationalisation of groups, he gets more time to spend on the “front line” with the people rather than punching keys.

Yan Weifeng, deputy secretary of the Party Working Committee and director of the office of Houhu Street, Jiang'an District, Wuhan, tells us that “after all kinds of work groups were cleaned up and rectified, I had more energy to grasp the main contradictions and solve the main problems, and my life troubles were much less.” Yan Weifeng added that not only did the grassroots cadres reduce their burdens, but they were also encouraged by the praise from the masses. This one hit home for me. Often, my wife tells me that if my social media activity is rectified and rationalised, I will have more time to address the main contradictions in life.

Anyway, back to the front page. We have a couple of reports with useful data points. First, the Ministry of Commerce put out data about foreign investment in China:

  • Jan-May FDI was at 481 billion yuan, up 35.4% year-on-year, and 30.3% over the same period in 2019.

  • Around 18,497 foreign-invested enterprises were newly established during the period, up 48.6% year-on-year and 12.4% over the same period in 2019.

  • Service sector FDI was 381.9 billion yuan

  • High-tech industries FDI was up by 34.6%

  • Investment from BRI countries was up 54.1%; ASEAN was up 56% and EU was up 16.8%.

  • Also, geographic spread of FDI shows the challenges of unbalanced development: FDI in eastern, central and western regions went up by 37%, 36% and 10.4%, respectively.

The ministry also said that:

“According to the report of Business Confidence Survey 2021 released by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China recently; 73% of the enterprises surveyed achieved profits last year; about 68% of them are optimistic about the business prospects of their industries in the next two years; 60% of them plan to expand their business scale in China this year, and a quarter of them are or will soon strengthen their supply chain construction in China.”

I decided to look at the survey that’s been quoted (it’s good on the EU Chamber to make this freely accessible; I wish the American chamber of commerce did the same.) and some of these findings are really interesting; decoupling might be a catchy political slogan, but businesses aren’t following suit.

This chart below is really telling. From an Indian point of view too, look at where South Asia ranks in the priority list for relocation.

Moving on, the National Health Commission tells us (detailed English report) that China’s vaccination drive has hit 1 billion doses. This is truly remarkable speed. What’s also incredible is that the last 100 million doses took just 5 days. Also this: “A total of 21 COVID-19 vaccines have entered clinical trials in China since last year. So far, four have been granted conditional marketing approval and three have been authorized for emergency use within the country.” 目前,我国已有21个新冠疫苗进入临床试验阶段。有4个疫苗在国内获批附条件上市,3个疫苗在国内获批紧急使用. The NHC also says that at least 70 percent of the target population in China is expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of this year.

Next, data from China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that as of the end of May 2021, new energy vehicle ownership in the country was at 5.8 million, accounting for about 50% of the global total of new energy vehicles. From January to May, the production and sales of NEVs were 967,000 and 950,000 respectively. NEVs enjoy a market penetration rate of 8.7%.

Page 2: Just one story that I found interesting. The English version of the report is available here, and I am drawing from that.

“China has discovered a new 1-billion-ton super-deep oil and gas area in the Tarim Basin in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the largest discovery in the basin in nearly 10 years, the Chinese state-owned energy giant China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) said on Friday. The discovered well is located in the Fuman Oilfield area, a main block for crude oil production in the Tarim Oilfield. Its drilling depth reached 8,470 meters and the height of the test oil column hit 550 meters, both marking new records for the deepest oil production and the highest oil column in the desert area of the Tarim Basin.”

Page 3: First up, we have a piece by Lee Longnan, the North Korean ambassador to China.

“The repeated meetings between the top leaders of the two parties have laid a solid foundation for the continuous strengthening and development of DPRK-China relations under the complex and changing international situation and in accordance with the requirements of the times. The past three years were just a brief moment in history, but they have left a series of unprecedented events in the history of the development of relations between the two parties and the two countries that deserve to be written about. It is those far-reaching days and nights that have made the DPRK-China friendship, a giant tree deeply rooted in the earth, more lush and fruitful.” 两党两国最高领导人多次会晤,为在复杂多变的国际形势下、按照时代要求不断加强和发展朝中关系奠定了坚实基础. 过去3年只是历史长河中的短暂瞬间,但在两党两国关系发展史上却留下了一系列值得大书特书的前所未有的重大事件. 正是那些意义深远的日日夜夜,让朝中友谊这棵深深植根于大地的参天巨树,更加葱翠繁盛、硕果累累.

He talks about engagement between the two leaders, celebration of the Korean War anniversary and work done to strengthen the “strategic and tactical coordination between the two parties, the two countries, and the two militaries through a number of high-level group exchanges.”

“The relationship between North Korea and China did not form naturally only based on the geographical conditions of the border, but was forged with blood in the arduous revolutionary struggle, tested in the journey of advancing the great cause of socialism, and is a truly comrade-like strategic and friendly relationship.” 朝中关系并非仅凭国境接壤这一地理条件而自然形成,而是在艰苦卓绝的革命斗争烈火中用鲜血铸就,在推进社会主义伟业的征程中历经考验,是真正同志般的战略友好关系.

He then says that: “As long as the two parties are closely united and keep strengthening and developing strategic cooperative relations, they will be able to crush the wicked challenges and obstructionist conspiracies of hostile forces…With faith in the great cause of socialism and confidence in our own strength, we will move forward firmly along the path of our own choice, and continue to elevate and develop the traditional friendly relations between the DPRK and China in accordance with the requirements of the times.” 这一事实更加清晰地证明了如下真理:只要朝中两党两国紧密团结,不断加强和发展战略合作关系,就能粉碎敌对势力的恶劣挑战和阻挠阴谋.

Lee then congratulates the CCP on containing the pandemic, saying that “the remarkable achievements made by China today have fully demonstrated the superiority and vitality of the socialist system.” He also backs Beijing on issues like Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan. He ends by talking about North Korea implementing its new five-year plan, terming the developmental approach being adopted as being based on the concept of “putting the people first, focusing on unity, and emphasising self-reliance.” 以民为天, 一心团结, 自力更生

There are a few other stories that I am pointing to but didn’t find it worthwhile to do a detailed take. First, the State Council Information Office took foreign media to the Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial Hall for an “immersive” propaganda experience. The reporters also visited Youchegang Town in Xiuzhou District of Jiaxing, Lingang New Area of ​​Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone, China Pudong Cadre College. Next, there was a China-Latin America cooperation event held in Mexico. Finally, a commentary about the Shenzhou 12 manned mission.

Page 4: Rehearsals are underway for a grand performance at the National Stadium in Beijing to mark the CCP’s centenary on July 1.

Page 6: Three short pieces to note. First, a new series of commemorative stamps have been issued to mark the opening of the Chinese Communist Party History Exhibition Hall. Second, reconstruction work has been completed and the Memorial Hall of the Third Congress of the Communist Party of China (1923), located at No. 3, Xieguyuan Road, Guangzhou, is now open for visitors. Third, we have a new book releasing. This one’s about the “History of the development of old revolutionary counties in China.” The columns about Xi’s ‘red footprints’ covered some of these locations, I guess. This will be a series of books that aim to “fill the gaps with regard to the red genealogy in old revolutionary areas” (以填补革命老区红色家谱的空白).

Page 13: First, we have a piece by Bao Xinjian, a professor at the School of Marxism, Shandong University. Bao argues that keeping people first implies that:

“we must continue to promote the Party’s great self-revolution, to ensure that the Party always maintains flesh-and-blood ties with the people, and build the most reliable class foundation and mass foundation for the Party’s long-term rule.” 始终站稳人民立场,必须持续推进党的伟大自我革命,确保党始终保持同人民群众的血肉联系,筑牢党长期执政最可靠的阶级基础和群众根基.

He adds: “Our Party comes from the people, and its roots and bloodline are in the people. Our Party takes serving the people wholeheartedly as its fundamental purpose, and takes working for the happiness of the Chinese people and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as its original intention and mission.” 我们党来自人民,党的根基和血脉在人民,我们党以全心全意为人民服务为根本宗旨,把为中国人民谋幸福、为中华民族谋复兴作为自己的初心和使命. Now, one can dismiss such stuff as empty propaganda, and to a degree, perhaps it is. But if one thinks a little deeper, this is also about sending a message to the cadre about what is expected and warning against becoming too comfortable and lethargic assuming continued power. This is the Party telling its members that performance legitimacy matters, and not failure to address public concerns and becoming aloof elite have serious political consequences.

Bao then tells us that:

“Socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, and the main social contradictions in China have transformed. The people's yearning for a better life has become stronger. They are looking forward to better education, more stable jobs, more satisfactory income, more reliable social security, higher-level medical and health services, more comfortable living conditions, more beautiful environment, and richer spiritual and cultural life. They also want their children growing up better, working better and living better. The people’s yearning for a better life is our goal.” 中国特色社会主义进入新时代, 我国社会主要矛盾发生转化, 人民对美好生活的向往更加强烈,期盼有更好的教育, 更稳定的工作, 更满意的收入, 更可靠的社会保障、更高水平的医疗卫生服务, 更舒适的居住条件、更优美的环境, 更丰富的精神文化生活,期盼孩子们能成长得更好, 工作得更好、生活得更好. 人民对美好生活的向往, 就是我们的奋斗目标.

He then warns the Party that:

As a Party rules for a long period of time, “various factors that weaken the party's advancement and damage the party’s purity are always present, various dangers that go against the original intention and mission and shake the party’s foundation are everywhere, the issues of ideological impurity, political impurity, organisational impurity, stylistic impurity and other outstanding problems have not been fundamentally resolved. The ‘four major tests’ and ‘four dangers’ that the Party faces are long-term and acute issues, and factors that affect the Party’s advancement and weaken its purity are also complex. The longer you are in power, the more you can't lose the true nature of a Marxist political party, the more you can't forget the original mission of the party, and the more you can’t lose your self-revolutionary spirit.” 在党长期执政条件下,各种弱化党的先进性、损害党的纯洁性的因素无时不有,各种违背初心和使命、动摇党的根基的危险无处不在,党内存在的思想不纯、政治不纯、组织不纯、作风不纯等突出问题尚未得到根本解决,党面临的“四大考验”“四种危险”是长期的、尖锐的,影响党的先进性、弱化党的纯洁性的因素也是复杂的. 越是长期执政,越不能丢掉马克思主义政党的本色,越不能忘记党的初心使命,越不能丧失自我革命精神.

Ergo, to wade through the various test and challenges that the Party faces, he wants cadres to continue focussing on “the Party’s self-purification, self-improvement, and self-innovation capabilities in order to the reform of the old and innovate the new.” 在各种大考中考出好成绩,必须持续推进党的伟大自我革命,不断增强党的自我净化、自我完善、自我革新、自我提高能力,在革故鼎新、守正出新中实现新跨越.

The other noteworthy piece on the page is by Hu Changshuan, deputy director of the Research Planning Department of the Central Party History and Documentation Research Institute. It talks about continuing the revolutionary “spiritual bloodline.” He begins by talking about Xi’s recent visit to the Xiangjiang Battle memorial site. He tells us that one of the key learnings from that event in the Party’s history was that “material power is limited, but spiritual power is infinite.” And drawing from this history, he adds: “we must always remember the sacrifices and dedication of the revolutionary ancestors and martyrs, carry forward the spirit of forging ahead and bravely winning, and constantly enhance the spiritual motivation of taking the Long March in the new era.” 我们要永远铭记革命先辈和烈士们的牺牲和奉献,弘扬一往无前、勇于胜利的精神,不断增强走好新时代长征路的精神动力.

He then draws from one event during the battle when the Red Army Corps sent a telegram acknowledging that it would be difficult to keep holding the lines as the KMT’s forces advance. The message called on the leadership to ensure that other troops cross the river while the first and second divisions continue to hold the KMT’s forces. This is used to make a broader point that every member of the Red Army did not fear death and carried “forward the spirit of taking care of the overall situation while even sacrificing himself.” 红一军团有一份急电是这样写的:“如敌人明日继续以优势猛进,我军在目前训练装备状况下,难有占领固守的绝对把握。军委须将湘水以东各军,星夜兼程过河。一、二师明日继续抗敌。”这份电报字里行间体现的正是顾全大局、勇于牺牲的精神,也正是这种与国民党军队形成鲜明对比的精神,为红军血战湘江、突出重围提供了重要保证. (This is based on as best as I could gather what the argument is, but happy to get corrections on history.)

Hu says that this spirit of the Red Army was in sharp contrast to that within the KMT. He then adds:

“On the new journey of achieving the second centenary goal, various risks, challenges and uncertainties will continue to emerge one after another. The more these appear, the more we should carry forward the spirit of taking care of the overall situation and being brave in sacrifice…” 在实现第二个百年奋斗目标的新征程上,各种风险挑战与不确定性还会层出不穷. 越是如此,越要发扬顾全大局、勇于牺牲的精神,以功成不必在我的精神境界、功成必定有我的历史担当,朝着实现中华民族伟大复兴的目标奋勇前进.

The final bit in the article talks about being good at identifying and rectifying errors. Here he uses the historical example of the Zunyi Conference which followed the Xiangjiang Battle, and began the process of cementing Mao’s leadership over the Party.

“Upholding the truth and correcting errors are the distinctive features of the Zunyi Conference. In the new era, facing the arduous task of achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the historical task of building a modern socialist country, we should carry forward the spirit of facing problems head-on and making breakthroughs, stick to our original mission, keep the high spirit of revolutionary ideals above the sky, and make unremitting efforts to realize the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” 坚持真理、修正错误,是遵义会议的鲜明特点. 新时代,面对实现中华民族伟大复兴的艰巨任务,面对全面建设社会主义现代化国家的历史重任,我们要发扬直面问题、勇于突破的精神,坚守初心使命,永葆革命理想高于天的昂扬斗志,为实现中华民族伟大复兴的中国梦不懈奋斗.

Finally, on Saturday, I think, I’d covered a story about a seminar on Party building in enterprises. On Page 14 and 15 we have a special report from that event, if you are interested.