Five New Generals - WTC Gets New Chief - Qianhai Zone Plan - Rectification of Political & Legal Affairs Cadres - Xi Thought: Discourse Power & Livelihood Priorities

Here are the stories and pieces from the September 7, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1:  Let’s begin with China’s latest Generals today. Five senior officers were promoted (English report) to the rank of General in a ceremony in Beijing on Monday. Xi and the CMC vice chairmen were present.

The promoted officers are: 

  • Commander of the Western Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army Wang Haijiang

  • Commander of the PLA Central Theater Command Lin Xiangyang

  • Commander of the PLA Navy Dong Jun

  • Commander of the PLA Air Force Chang Dingqiu

  • President of the PLA National Defence University Xu Xueqiang.

It’s remarkable that General Wang Haijiang is now the fourth person to lead the Western Theater Command since December 2020. In this thread below, I’ve touched on the changes that have taken place since then. WTC, of course, overlooks the boundary with India, Nepal and Bhutan. Throughout this period, we’ve had a standoff between India and China in Eastern Ladakh.

Also Neil Thomas’ thread below offers useful details about the new Generals.

Next, we have reports about two letters/messages from Xi for two different events. First, Xi’s letter (English report) to the founding conference of the International Research Center of Big Data for Sustainable Development Goals. Xi had announced setting up the research center during his address at the 75th UN General Assembly. Second, Xi’s letter to (English report) the 32nd Congress of the International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences. Xi said that the world “is undergoing a profound scientific and technological revolution as well as industrial transformation, and there are unprecedented opportunities for the development of aeronautical science and technology.”

Moving on, another day and another zone. Today, we have the full plan for the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone. Before I get to the plan, here’s a useful background from SCMP

“Originally created in 2009 to boost cooperation between businesses in Shenzhen and Hong Kong focused on the service industry, Qianhai is home to about 11,500 Hong Kong-invested companies, accounting for more than 10 percent of registered enterprises that make tax contributions in the area.”

The document’s Guiding Ideology section begins with Xi Jinping Thought but it also provides other markers that guide the effort. These include supply side structural reform, innovation as the driving force, coordinating development and security, focussing on institutional innovation, development of the Greater Bay Area while building Qianhai as a high-level gateway for opening up to the world. 

The Greater Bay Area is an initiative to link major cities along the southern coast of China into a unified urban belt to supercharge growth and innovation.

The plan talks about two target periods. By 2025, it calls for establishing a new system of a higher-level open economy, initial development of a globally competitive business environment and development of a modern service industry. By 2035, Qianhai will boast of a world-class business environment, and will become an engine for high-quality development with strong capability in global resource allocation, breeding innovation and leading coordinated development. The plan talks about expanding the Qianhai Cooperation Zone from 14.92 square km to 120.56 square km. The details of the expansion are mentioned in the plan.

Part 3 of the plan talks about deepening reform and establishing an innovation test platform. The first part of it is the development of the modern service industry. This is followed by innovation and technological development. It talks about focussing on areas like “artificial intelligence, health care, financial technology, smart cities, Internet of Things, and new energy materials” and  developing “new R&D institutions for cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao.” The aim here is also to “promote the transformation of scientific and technological achievements into technical standards.” In doing this, the plan calls for improving “the whole chain supporting measures such as international talent services, innovation funds, incubators and accelerators, and promote the transformation of basic research results leading industrial innovation.” There is also a specific focus on the blue economy with development of technologies and focus on developing modern marine service industry clusters.

The next bit talks about developing a world-class business environment. This talks about “investor protection regulations,” a “protection mechanism for the rights and interests of foreign capital and private enterprises,” and exploring a “competition policy implementation mechanism,” the “establishment of a fair competition committee,” and talks about policies related to finance, taxation and talents.

Section 4 talks about liberalization of service trade with HK and Macao. Even before the steps are outlined, the document talks about “not jeopardizing national security and controlling risks.” This talks about harmonising certification and standards; cooperation between universities; development of medical institutions in Hong Kong and Macao, etc. The next bit talks about financial sector opening. This refers to welcoming “international insurance institutions,” a “cross-border RMB business innovation pilot zone,” “cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau in green finance,” and support for “the Qianhai Joint Trading Center of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in carrying out spot commodity trading.” The next bit talks about building “an international legal service center and an international commercial dispute resolution center in Qianhai.” It talks about exploring and improving “the mechanism for applying Hong Kong laws to the Qianhai Cooperation Zone and choosing Hong Kong as the place of arbitration to settle civil and commercial cases.” It also talks about building “an international inter-regional commercial dispute settlement platform where litigation, mediation and arbitration are independent of each other and cooperate with each other.” 

“Well-known overseas arbitration and other dispute resolution institutions are allowed to register with the judicial administrative department of the Guangdong Provincial Government and report to the judicial administrative department of the State Council for the record, to set up business offices in the Qianhai Cooperation Zone to carry out arbitration with regard to civil and commercial disputes arising from foreign-related commercial affairs, maritime affairs, investment and other fields.” 允许境外知名仲裁等争议解决机构经广东省政府司法行政部门登记并报国务院司法行政部门备案,在前海合作区设立业务机构,就涉外商事、海事、投资等领域发生的民商事争议开展仲裁业务. Part 5 of the document talks about safeguards. 

So with the two plans over the past days deepening Hong Kong and Macao’s linkage with the mainland, this is an interesting angle. SCMP’s Lilian Cheng reports that: 

“Beijing’s two new master plans to forge closer mainland Chinese links with Hong Kong and Macau take very different approaches to furthering the “one country, two systems” model of governance, analysts and pro-China veterans have said. Macau would serve as a showcase for the experiment of extending the one country, two systems principle, as the plan would allow the city to apply its governance in neighbouring Hengqin on the mainland over economic affairs. But the proposal for Hong Kong was focused more on providing growth opportunities from the nearby Qianhai economic zone in Shenzhen without any room to extend governance rules, analysts noted.”

We also have a commentary discussing the two plans over the past two days, in the context of the Greater Bay Area vision, which is described as “an important strategic position in the overall development of the country.”

The other commentary on the page draws from Xi’s Party School speech. This one talks about the Party and country facing “long-term” struggles. It says that:

“to carry out a great struggle, advance a great cause and realize a great dream, it is necessary to build a great project and cultivate a cadre team with iron-like strong conviction, iron-like strong beliefs, iron-like strong discipline and iron-like strong responsibility.” 进行伟大斗争、推进伟大事业、实现伟大梦想,必须建设伟大工程,培养造就一支具有铁一般信仰、铁一般信念、铁一般纪律、铁一般担当的干部队伍. 

Then the piece reiterates Xi’s point about blades/knives needing to be sharpened on stones, while calling on cadres to take responsibility.

Page 3: First, Wang Yi attended (English report) a symposium in Beijing on Monday to mark the publication of the study outline for Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. Wang called Xi Thought “the fundamental guideline for China's work on external affairs in the new era.” He also “urged foreign-service personnel to take the lead in learning the thought and turn it into real results in work.”

PD’s report summarises Wang’s five points as:

  • One must “deeply understand the ideological power of Xi Jinping's diplomatic thought.”

  • One must deeply understand the brilliance and the theoretical innovation and Sinicization of Marxism that Xi Thought represents.

  • One must understand that Xi Thought aims to carry out China’s fine traditional culture.

  • One must understand that Xi Thought is about human progress

  • And Xi Thought guides China’s major power diplomacy.

Next a story based on MoFA’s comments (English comments) that the US should “listen to the objective and rational voices of the international community and be a supporter rather than a saboteur of international cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the origins tracing of the coronavirus.”

Page 4: One report to note is the one about the rectification campaign focussing on the political and legal apparatus. This went from February till the end of June. The report says that the effort focussed on “​​the purification of the political ecology, team building and other aspects of the work.” 政法队伍教育整顿涉及政治生态净化、队伍建设等多方面工作,构建起了条块结合、上下联动、左右协同、齐抓共管的责任体系.

The report tells us that 16 central teams were sent throughout this process. Through the period till June 8, more than 50,000 open day events were held. The report tells us that “relevant departments in various localities have further promoted political education, warning education and role-model education to ensure that all political and judicial officers and police officers are firmly committed to their ideals and convictions and maintain political loyalty.” 各地各相关部门深入推进政治教育、警示教育、英模教育,确保广大政法干警坚定理想信念,筑牢政治忠诚. 

And, “in order to carry out political education, the fundamental task is to thoroughly understand Xi Jinping Thought.” 开展政治教育,根本任务是学深悟透习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想. 

The report carries specific examples of the kind of activities carried out. For instance, the Guangdong Public Security Bureau produced a warning education film, which “effectively stimulated the officers self-examination and self-correction consciousness in ideology and action.” “播放当天,就有多名民警主动向组织说明问题,切实激发了民警自查自纠的思想自觉和行动自觉。”广州市公安局党委委员、市纪委监委驻市公安局纪检监察组组长龙康生说. The key policy driving the rectification effort is “leniency in self-examination and strictness in investigation.”自查从宽、被查从严

There are more details in the report, which ends with telling us that the second round of rectification campaign is currently underway.

Page 5: The 37th piece in the Xi Thought Q&A series. The first question is about telling China’s stories well. This starts with Edgar Snow and the impact of Red Star over China. Then there’s this warning: “If you lag behind or are backward, you will suffer/get a thrashing; if you are poor, you will starve; and losing the ability to speak will lead to you getting scolded” - 落后就要挨打,贫穷就要挨饿,失语就要挨骂. And then the piece says that after many years of efforts, the problems of thrashing and starving have been solved, but the scolding issue has yet not been adequately addressed.

This gets to the heart of the issue of discourse power, which if I may plug, is a key concept discussed in my book Smokeless War.

So the piece says that while China’s position in this regard is weak, the trend is not irreversible. While steps have been taken to strengthen “international communication capabilities,” it is worth keeping in mind that China’s image in the world is still to a large extent “shaped by others” rather than “shaped by ourselves,” and “we are sometimes still in a passive position in the international arena where we often cannot communicate effectively.” In addition, there is “a ‘contrast’ between China’s true image and the West’s subjective impressions;’ there is a ‘gap’ between soft and hard power’ and the phenomenon of ‘being scolded’ still exists significantly.” 同时也要看到,中国在世界上的形象很大程度上仍是“他塑”而非“自塑”,我们在国际上有时还处于有理说不出、说了传不开的被动境地,存在着信息流进流出的“逆差”、中国真实形象和西方主观印象的“反差”、软实力和硬实力的“落差”,“挨骂”现象还大量存在.

Ergo, it is important to tell China’s story well, the piece says. The story that needs to be told is why the CPC ‘can’/has been able to deliver, why Marxism ‘works’, and why socialism with Chinese characteristics is ‘good’. 中国故事最精彩的主题,是讲清楚中国共产党为什么“能”、马克思主义为什么“行”、中国特色社会主义为什么“好”. Also it calls for publicising Xi Jinping Thought; Chinese governance, culture, China’s positions on issues, Chinese wisdom, and Chinese values, etc.

Of course, for all of this, storytelling is important. The piece tells us that storytelling is about “facts, images, emotions, reasoning”’ facts are used to convince people, images to move people, emotions to infect (感染) people, and reasoning to influence people.讲故事就是讲事实、讲形象、讲情感、讲道理,讲事实才能说服人,讲形象才能打动人,讲情感才能感染人,讲道理才能影响人. The next bit talks about tailoring messages for effectiveness. For instance, Zhou Enlai had introduced The Butterfly Lovers 梁山伯与祝英台 as China’s Romeo and Juliet. This is an example of tailoring messages within a context that foreign audiences can grasp. The next paragraph talks about media development, highlighting CGTN, think tank collaboration and cultural exchanges. It then says that in order to tell China’s stories well, it is important to strengthen the right to speak (话语权), and although there has been important progress in this context, the West is still dominant, the piece says in a nutshell.

The next question is about focussing policy to address livelihood issues. So we are told that:

“In 2019, spending on people’s well-being accounted for 68 percent of government spending, 282 million students were enrolled in schools of all kinds, 13.52 million new jobs were created in urban areas, and 5.6 million housing units were renovated in rundown areas. These figures vividly reflect the tremendous efforts made by the Party and the government to enhance the people's sense of gain, happiness and security.” 2019年,民生支出占财政支出的比例达到68%,各级各类学历教育在校生总规模2.82亿人,城镇新增就业人口1352万人,改造棚户区住房560万套……这一组组数据,生动反映了党和政府为增强人民获得感、幸福感、安全感所作出的巨大努力.

With that said, there are still challenges. China is still a “developing country;” it is also still in the primary stage of socialism, the piece says. There are regional gaps in development and shortcomings when it comes to issues of livelihood. Therefore, it is most important to focus on areas like “education, employment, income distribution, social security, medical and health care,” the piece argues. 

Education is fundamental to people’s wellbeing. We should give high priority to developing education and ensure that it meets with people’s satisfaction. Employment is the biggest project to improve people’s wellbeing, the people’s livelihood, and the foundation of our work. We need to create more jobs of higher quality. Income distribution is the source of people’s wellbeing. We need to make income distribution more rational and orderly. We need to establish a fairer and more sustainable social security system. People’s health is an important part of improving wellbeing. We need to improve our national health policy and provide people with a full range of health services.” The author warns against engaging in extravagance or chasing ostentatiousness in favour of improving the people’s livelihood security system in urban and rural areas as a whole. 教育是民生之基,要优先发展教育事业,努力办好人民满意的教育;就业是最大的民生工程、民心工程、根基工程,要实现更充分和更高质量就业;收入分配是民生之源,要促进收入分配更合理、更有序;社会保障是普惠托底的民生问题,要建立更加公平更可持续的社会保障制度;人民健康是增进民生福祉的重要内容,要完善国民健康政策,为人民群众提供全方位全周期健康服务. 要坚持多谋民生之利、多解民生之忧,不搞“花架子”、“空壳子”,不能“垒大户”、“造盆景”,坚持和完善统筹城乡的民生保障制度,努力织就幼有所育、学有所教、劳有所得、病有所医、老有所养、住有所居、弱有所扶的民生保障网.