Hebei Visit - 'Correct Path' in Ethnic Policies - Curbing the 'Two Highs' - Party 'Missions & Contributions' - Xi Thought: Dual Circulation & Political System - US's Democratic Transformation Failure

Here are the stories and pieces from the August 27, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: There’s a lot to cover today, with just about every story from the front page extending to other pages. Let’s begin with Xi’s Hebei visit. The first piece around this is again a recounting of Xi’s visit, but unlike a bland summary of key comments and destinations, this one’s got colour. So we have details of Xi engaging with people. Such reports have really little conventional news value, but they do offer insights into messaging and the cult-building effort.

For instance, during his visit to Moon Mountain at the Saihanba Mechanical Forest Farm, Xi spoke to farmers Liu Jun and Wang Juan, praising their “hard work and selfless dedication.” The piece also tells us about Wang Shanghai, the first party secretary of the forest farm, who died in 1989 and his family, as per his wishes, scattered his ashes across the farm. The piece tells us “This is the spiritual strength of effecting change.” 这是改天换地的精神力量. This is followed by a conversation on forest fire prevention.

From the forest, we get Xi at the Chengde Mountain Resort, looking at a painting of the resort’s map. “The summer resort has a profound culture and beautiful architectural conception, which is an important cultural heritage of our country." General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized that “garden culture is a treasure of Chinese culture for thousands of years. It should be protected and its spiritual connotation should be explored at the same time. There are our excellent Chinese traditional culture genes.” He then went to Puning Temple, along which there are engravings in Putonghua, Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan. 

Anyway, amid all of this, the one bit that I thought was interesting was Xi’s chat with a local from Daguikou village. The villager has a large family - 11 people across three generations. The piece then says

“‘Look at this family, they are thriving!’ Looking at the lovely children, the General Secretary said happily.” When one of the family members praises the Party’s governance and government support in terms of agriculture subsidies and medical insurance, the piece says: “‘We are the servants of the people. This sentence is not a slogan. We are doing things for the people,’ General Secretary Xi Jinping responded.” “我们是人民的勤务员,这句话不是一个口号,我们就是给老百姓做事的。”习近平总书记回应道. 

The second piece is about the “enthusiastic” response of local officials to Xi’s visit.

Next, through this week, we’ve seen a focus on ethnic policy; today we have another long piece around the idea of building the consciousness of the Chinese nation as a community.

My Quick Take: The piece today frames the Party as the great emancipator and unifier when it comes to ethnic minorities. It also doubles down on the approach that has been adopted under Xi. So there is a validation of the policies since the 18th Party Congress. The key tools that it talks about are maintaining Party leadership, ensuring development, persisting in propaganda and education, cultural assimilation and maintaining security. It is likely a conference or some significant crystallisation of policy direction in the pipeline. Who knows, maybe we are also likely to also get a book and center on Xi Jinping Thought on Ethnic Work.

Anyway, the piece starts with Xi’s July 1 comments and outlines a set of challenges before telling us that Xi’s got this figured out.

“Marching towards the critical stage of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, our ethnic work is facing new situations and challenges. Looking at the domestic situation, there is an unprecedented breadth and depth of interactions and exchanges among ethnic groups, the distribution pattern of ethnic groups has undergone significant changes, and there are more complex factors affecting ethnic relations. Looking at the world, there are unprecedented changes in the past century that are unfolding, terrorism, separatism and extremism continue to linger, populism is on the rise, and ethnic issues are constantly affecting global peace and development. In this scenario, how should our national work adapt to the new era and create a new situation? General Secretary Xi Jinping has profound thoughts on this important theoretical and practical issue.” 行进到中华民族伟大复兴关键一程,我国民族工作面临着新的形势和挑战. 审视国内,各民族交往交流交融的广度深度前所未有,民族分布格局发生重大变化,影响民族关系的因素更加复杂. 放眼国际,世界百年未有之大变局下,恐怖主义、分裂主义、极端主义挥之不去,民粹主义抬头,民族问题不断影响全球和平与发展. 我国民族工作如何顺应新时代、开创新局面?习近平总书记对这一重大理论和现实问题有着深刻的思考.

At a certain point, the piece talks about the “correct path” going forward with regard to ethnic policies.

  • Maintaining strong leadership of the Party

  • Maintain the direction of development of the system of regional ethnic autonomy. Regarding this, the piece says:

“There was a period of time, there were different voices about the system of regional ethnic autonomy in society. In this regard, General Secretary Xi Jinping clearly pointed out: ‘The system of regional ethnic autonomy conforms to China’s national conditions and plays an important role in safeguarding national unity and territorial integrity, strengthening ethnic equality and unity, promoting the development of ethnic areas, and enhancing the cohesiveness of the Chinese nation.’ As a great achievement of institutional innovation led by the Communist Party of China, the system of regional ethnic autonomy has injected more vigorous impetus into the cause of national unity and progress in the new era.” 曾经有一段时期,社会上对民族区域自治制度出现不同声音. 对此,习近平总书记明确指出:“民族区域自治制度符合我国国情,在维护国家统一、领土完整,在加强民族平等团结、促进民族地区发展、增强中华民族凝聚力等方面都起到了重要作用." 作为中国共产党领导中国人民进行制度创新的伟大成果,民族区域自治制度在不断发展完善中为新时代民族团结进步事业注入更加蓬勃的动力.

  • Effectively safeguarded the unity of the motherland and the tranquility of the frontier. This focuses on border infrastructure and villages; no specific details provided.

  • The correct path embodies the strong recognition of Chinese culture by children of all ethnic groups - this talks about language and affinity towards the Party and connection with the motherland.

Finally, at one point the piece compares patriotic education in ethnic minority areas to drip irrigation. It tells us that”

“With ‘trickle drip-irrigation’ publicity and education, ethnic policies can be promoted into textbooks, classrooms and minds, and the work of creating national unity and progress can be carried out deeply and persistently. Consequently, the seeds of loving China will surely take root in the hearts of every member of the Chinese nation, and this will push the Chinese nation towards a more inclusive and cohesive community of destiny.” 以“细流滴灌式”的宣传教育推进民族政策进教材、进课堂、进头脑,深入持久开展民族团结进步创建工作,爱我中华的种子必将扎根中华民族每一位成员的心灵深处,推动中华民族走向包容性更强、凝聚力更大的命运共同体.

Next, we have a report about Han Zheng emphasising the  need to “resolutely curb the blind development of projects with high energy consumption and heavy carbon emissions,” i.e., the two highs. Xinhua English tells us that Han said “existing projects with high energy consumption and heavy carbon emissions that do not meet the requirements should be rectified, while new projects failing to meet the requirements should not be approved. Enterprises that violate laws and regulations should be strictly investigated and dealt with...He underlined carrying out strict project examination and approval, strengthening daily oversight and firmly adhering to laws and procedures.” -- This story could have been anywhere in the paper. The fact that it is on the front page, to me, indicates that this is a high priority.

The PD story also tells us that He Lifeng attended the meeting, along with relevant people from departments and units of the central and state organs and provincial and local governments. Also, the NDRC highlighted some projects that were in violation of the policy.

Finally, we have the full document on the CCP’s Mission and Contributions (Xinhua English version, although it’s missing a few sections), which was released yesterday. Let me do a quick breakdown. (Also, Xinhua English’s report on the press briefing to release the document - PD’s report on the presser is on Page 4.)

  • First, the preamble offers a really good version of the Party’s narrative on its history.

  • Section 1 is about “putting people first” -- this talks about development and performance legitimacy, but there’s also a moral argument being made throughout. This is not just about the system, but about party members, and the exceptionalism of the Party itself owing to its history and ethos. At one level, this is for external consumption, drawing moral legitimacy in comparison to Westernised liberal democracy (such a terrible generalization); at another, it is also about expectation setting with regard to cadres and officials. Here’s an example:

“From the very day of its creation, the CPC has represented China's working class, the Chinese people, and the Chinese nation. It has no special interests of its own, nor does it represent any interest group, establishment group, or privileged social group. Its only goals are to deliver happiness for the people and achieve national rejuvenation...Members of the CPC are ordinary people. They love life and are hard working. They are sincere, open and compassionate. But they are also vanguards and role models in daily life, work, and public activities. They are the first to step forward in case of challenges and dangers, fearless and ready to give their all for the country and the people. They emerge from the people and lead them to go forward. They are Communists – citizens of China both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time...The CPC has made great sacrifices for the people. From the founding of the CPC in 1921 to the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, more than 3.7 million identified members of organizations under Party leadership gave their lives to liberate the country. Of the six family members of Mao Zedong who died for the revolution, five were Party members. In peaceful times, too, during disaster relief efforts after earthquakes, floods and other emergencies, Party members have rushed to the scene and risked their own lives to save the lives of others. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, close to 400 Party members and officials have lost their lives in the line of duty. More than 1,800 Party members and officials also gave their lives in the battle against absolute poverty. Among all those who have died were rank and file Party members, senior officials, and family members of top Party leaders.”

  • The next section talks about ideals, beginning with upholding Marxism. “Marxism is the single guiding ideology, the very soul of the CPC, and the banner under which it strives...Using Marxism as a powerful ideological weapon to seek the truth, understand the world and its laws, and transform it, rather than applying rigid dogma.” This bit talks about triumph amid adversity, about working hard but still maintaining a spirit of innovation and experimentation, seeking truth from facts and grasping the “objective laws of development.” I want to dwell on this business of “laws” for a bit. I find this bit fascinating across Party literature. It seems that there is a certain argument about there being some innate laws, like sort of the laws of physics, that govern history and development, and the call is to understand, follow and adapt according to these, with Marxist thought being a guide.

Anyway, another quote in the section worth noting is:

“One of the basic reasons for the Party's success is its adherence to the principles of independence and self-reliance. It follows its own path in managing China's affairs in accordance with the country's own realities and characteristics. The Chinese people have the courage, confidence, and ability to manage their own affairs well.”

Also I thought this was useful:

“In developing socialism, the Party has constantly asked and answered a series of key questions, such as:

  • What is socialism?

  • How should we build socialism?

  • What kind of a political party should the CPC be?

  • How should we build the CPC?

  • What kind of development should we pursue?

  • How should we pursue this development?

  • What is socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era?

  • How should we uphold and develop this socialism?

It has given a series of new answers that have enriched and developed scientific socialism, and gained a much deeper understanding of the essence and nature of socialism, such as: 

  • Poverty is not socialism. Development that is too slow is not socialism, either.

  • The nature of socialism is to release and develop the productive forces, eliminate exploitation and polarization, and achieve common prosperity.

  • Achieving common prosperity is the essential requirement of socialism.” 

Section 3 is about Party leadership. It says:

“The central leadership has emphasized that: 

  1. The Party exercises leadership over all areas of endeavor across the country and is the highest force for political leadership; 

  2. Upholding overall Party leadership means first and foremost upholding the authority of the Central Committee and its centralized leadership, which is the highest principle of the Party's leadership and the fundamental political discipline and rule; 

  3. It is important to strengthen the consciousness of the need to maintain political commitment, think in terms of the broader picture, follow the core leadership of the CPC Central Committee, and act in accordance with its requirements; to enhance confidence in the path, theory, system and culture of Chinese socialism; and to resolutely uphold General Secretary Xi Jinping's core position in the CPC Central Committee and in the Party as a whole.”

The next bit tells us that central leadership authority must be implemented via concrete actions. To this effect, the Central Committee has issued a series of regulations to:

  • “ensuring Party organizations and initiatives cover all areas

  • improving the system by which the Central Committee exercises leadership over major tasks

  • strengthening the roles and functions of relevant Central Committee offices in decision-making, deliberation and coordination, and improving the mechanism by which the Central Committee's major decisions are implemented

  • strictly enforcing the system by which all important issues are promptly reported

  • developing practical measures and making institutional arrangements to implement the principle of upholding the Central Committee's authority and its centralized leadership.”

This above bit is useful to note because it recognises goals and limitations; for instance, reporting of important issues - think of the COVID example or debt-related issues.

This is then noteworthy regarding the issue of a personality cult and upholding the core:

To uphold the Central Committee’s authority and its centralized leadership, a robust leadership core is the top priority. During the New Democratic Revolution, it was at the Zunyi Conference in 1935 that Mao Zedong was confirmed as the de facto leader of the Party Central Committee and the Red Army, and the Party’s first central collective leadership with Mao Zedong at the core took shape. This move circumvented a serious threat to China's revolution and resulted in positive progress. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, with Xi Jinping at the core of the Central Committee, the Party, the country, the people, the military, and the whole Chinese nation have made unprecedented headway. Over the past hundred years since its founding in 1921, the CPC has been able to build consensus among its members on the way forward and take concerted actions; the fundamental reason for this is its robust leadership core, which has played a unique and irreplaceable role in leading the Party to grow stronger despite all the difficulties it has encountered. Both history and reality have shown to us that only with a firm and effective leadership core can the Central Committee exert authority and the Party remain strong. Upholding the leadership core of the CPC in no way involves the creation of any kind of personality cult – something the CPC has resolutely opposed ever since it was first founded. The Party’s Constitution explicitly stipulates that ‘The Party proscribes all forms of personality cult.’ The Party leadership core never wields unlimited power or engages in decision-making at will; instead, it takes on heavy responsibilities in steering the Party and the country. The CPC is organized on the basis of democratic centralism, so its leadership core functions by that principle, observes the system of collective leadership, and acts within the scope of the country's Constitution and the law. The Party leadership core does not emerge through entitlement; it is not self-proclaimed. It comes into being through long-term experience under sound leadership and as a common choice of the whole Party and the whole country. China’s history, which dates back thousands of years, and its revolution, reconstruction and reform have fully demonstrated that only with a robust centralized authority to maintain unity of the whole country and rally the people can the nation achieve long-term peace, stability, and prosperity, and the people work and live in contentment. Centralized leadership by the Party serves the best interests of the Chinese people, suits China's national conditions, and conforms to traditional Chinese culture. —

My quick thought: One needs to just read the People’s Daily regularly to realise that democratic centralism is less about consultative decision-making but more about interpretation and implementation of the core’s thought.

  • Section 4 talks about maintaining vigour and vitality of the Party. This entails talking about inner-party democracy. So this is about the rights of Party members and processes within the Party with regard to policies, participation and progression. It also talks about being able to correct mistakes. The next bit warns about maintaining the health of the Party. 

This is a useful excerpt:

“All kinds of temptations from the outside world, lax management of the party and bad changes in party members' thoughts and behaviors will cause harm to the party's body. The Party resolutely fights against all kinds of phenomena that affect the Party's advanced nature and weaken its purity, constantly cures diseases, resolutely eradicates malignant tumours and keeps the body healthy.” 外部世界的各种诱惑,管党治党的松懈松弛,党员思想行为的不良变化,都会对党的肌体造成侵害. 党坚决同影响党的先进性、弱化党的纯洁性的各种现象作斗争,不断医治病症,坚决铲除毒瘤,保持肌体健康.

And so is this:

“Since the 18th Party Congress, the Party has taken strengthening restrictions on and supervision of power as an important part of strictly administering the party in an all-round way, focusing on ‘putting power into the cage of the system’, highlighting the ‘key few’ of the ‘top leaders’ and the leading group, focusing on inspection work regulations and inner-party supervision regulations, improving the system of Party supervision regulations, forging the sword of inspection and organizing large-scale inspections, realizing the full deployment of discipline inspection agencies within Party and state organs at the central level, deepening the reform of the state supervision system, linking the Party’s internal supervision with the supervision of state organs, democratic supervision, judicial supervision, mass supervision and public opinion supervision, and allowing power to flow under the sun.” 党的十八大以来,党把加强对权力的制约和监督作为全面从严治党重要内容,围绕“把权力关进制度的笼子里”,突出“一把手”和领导班子这个“关键少数”,以巡视工作条例、党内监督条例等为重点健全党内监督法规体系,锻造巡视利剑并组织开展大规模巡视,实现向中央一级党和国家机关全面派驻纪检机构,深化国家监察体制改革,把党内监督同国家机关监督、民主监督、司法监督、群众监督、舆论监督贯通起来,让权力在阳光下运行.

This also talks about corruption and “preventing the formation of a privileged class in the party.” 坚决防止在党内形成特权阶层. This entails corruption, austerity, extravagance, etc. The final point, and this is useful, is the reiteration of the Party as a “learning party” (学习型政党). Again this is the post-reform era notion about not having certainty and not being dogmatic in policies. So the reference here is about study sessions at all levels and learning from experience.

  • Section 5 talks about contribution to the world. So this talks about the five principles of peaceful coexistence, engagement at the UN, peacekeeping operations, opposing unilateralism, promoting democratisation of international relations, BRI, community of common destiny etc. This is all the bit that I am least interested in exploring; so I am going to leave it at this. 

Page 4: Two stories worth noting on the page. First, July data from the discipline inspection organs shows that 8152 cases of violations of the eight central regulations were investigated and dealt with. 11,685 people (including 3 provincial-level cadres, 51 prefecture-level cadres and 739 county-level cadres) were criticized and educated, and 7,844 people were handed disciplinary sanctions.

Second, Guo Shengkun speaking about the importance of maintaining political and social stability at the Seventh Innovation Exchange Conference on Political and Legal Work in the New Era 第七届新时代政法工作创新交流大会. 

Page 5: The 30th piece in the Xi Thought series today. The first question is about dual circulation. We are told that this is an important decision made by the party taking into account “the changes in China’s development stage, environment and conditions, especially based on the changes in China's comparative advantages, which makes clear the choice of path for China's economic modernization, and has great and far-reaching significance for promoting China's high-quality development and promoting global economic prosperity.” 这是我们党根据我国发展阶段、环境、条件变化,特别是基于我国比较优势变化,审时度势作出的重大决策,明确了我国经济现代化的路径选择,对于推动我国高质量发展、促进世界经济繁荣,具有重大而深远的意义.

We get a quick wrap of history, i.e., pre-reform, China’s economy was domestically oriented; post-reform, the focus was on the international market. This focus expanded significantly after China joined the WTO; and then after the 2008 financial crisis, the Party began focussing on expanding domestic demand. Since then, “the role of domestic circulation in the economy began to rise significantly,” the piece says. 

Now the focus for some time has been on supply-side structural reforms and high-quality growth, and the strategic approach is that development is driven by domestic demand, especially consumer demand, the piece says. That last bit is useful, because one could technically classify the extensive infrastructure investment after 2008 also as demand expansion. But now the argument is that this must be consumer driven. Makes sense? 

The piece also reiterates that externally, the environment has changed over the past decade, with globalisation under pressure and protectionism on the rise. In addition, China’s dependence on foreign trade dropped from 64.2% at the peak in 2006 to 31.8% in 2019. Also, the domestic market is huge, with a middle class of 400 million. And amid all this, the focus is now on domestic demand. 

“From the supply point of view, China’s strong production capacity based on the formation of a large domestic market, can promote the integration and innovation of global factor resources, so that the scale effect and agglomeration effect are maximized.” 从供给看,我国基于国内大市场形成的强大生产能力,能够促进全球要素资源整合创新,使规模效应和集聚效应最大化发挥.

And then the piece goes on to address some key questions/doubts about dual circulation. 

“Some people have asked whether the new development pattern is a helpless and passive move of China forced by the external situation. Does it mean that China's opening-up policy will change? Does it mean that all localities should engage in self-circulation? The answer to all these is no.” 比如,有人提出,新发展格局是否是中国迫于外部形势的无奈之举、被动之举?是否意味着中国扩大开放政策将发生改变?是否意味着各地都应该搞自我小循环?

The piece says that the decision on dual circulation was about grasping the initiative on development to ensure sustainability and not a matter of expediency. In saying so, however, the author does accept that the instability of the international environment has a significant role to play in this decision. On opening up, the answer is that dual circulation does not imply closing. 

Rather, “by giving full play to the potential of domestic demand, the domestic market and the international market can be better connected, global resources can be attracted by the domestic circulation, the domestic and international markets and resources can be better utilized, the ability to allocate resources globally can be improved, and one can more effectively strive for strategic initiative in open development.” 以国内大循环为主体,绝不是关起门来封闭运行,而是通过发挥内需潜力,使国内市场和国际市场更好联通,以国内大循环吸引全球资源要素,更好利用国内国际两个市场、两种资源,提高在全球配置资源的能力,更好争取开放发展中的战略主动.

The logic is to build a more competitive economic model by leveraging the international cycle with the aim being to “improve the quality and allocation level of China’s production factors, and promote China’s industrial transformation and upgrading.” 要科学认识国内大循环和国内国际双循环的关系,建设更高水平开放型经济新体制,实施更大范围、更宽领域、更深层次的对外开放,塑造我国参与国际合作和竞争新优势,重视以国际循环提升国内大循环效率和水平,改善我国生产要素质量和配置水平,推动我国产业转型升级. -- I don’t understand how this is happening through the policies currently being implemented.

The next paragraph criticises internal protectionism in favour of nurturing a big domestic market. This is something that doesn’t get much attention. But it requires a massive change in the political economy of the Chinese system. The regional development strategies covered earlier in the week are part of this. If you are aware of any interesting research/papers covering this domain, please do share them with me.

The next question is about why is it that one should not think of moving to the “飞行峰” Fēixíng fēng - soaring heights of political systems when following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The answer is that when one thinks about political systems, “it is necessary to proceed from the national conditions and reality.” So one must keep in mind history, accumulated experience, political principles, practical issues and conditions, etc. 

Summarising a bit below: 

“When it comes to political systems, when one sees something that other countries have that we do not, one shouldn’t simply view it as a deficiency; likewise, when we have something that others do not, it shouldn’t be viewed as a redundancy. This is simplistic and incorrect thinking. 在政治制度上,看到别的国家有而我们没有就简单认为有欠缺,要搬过来;或者,看到我们有而别的国家没有就简单认为是多余的,要去除掉。这两种观点都是简单化的、片面的,因而都是不正确的.

We then get a bit of history to make the point that socialism with Chinese characteristics was a historical choice. In two paragraphs, we are told that the CCP’s system inherited and improved on the goals of the self-strengthening movement and it is a “combination of the basic principles of Marxism and China's specific reality.” 

“The political system of a country is determined by the economic and social foundation of the country, and at the same time reacts to the economic and social foundation of the country. The political system is used to regulate political relations, establish political order, promote national development and maintain national stability, and cannot be abstractly judged in isolation from specific socio-political conditions...Different countries have different national conditions, and each country's political system is unique, which is the result of long-term development, gradual improvement and endogenous evolution on the basis of its historical inheritance, cultural tradition and economic and social development.”一个国家的政治制度决定于这个国家的经济社会基础,同时又反作用于这个国家的经济社会基础. 政治制度是用来调节政治关系、建立政治秩序、推动国家发展、维护国家稳定的,不可能脱离特定社会政治条件来抽象评判...各国国情不同,每个国家的政治制度都是独特的,都是在这个国家历史传承、文化传统、经济社会发展的基础上长期发展、渐进改进、内生性演化的结果.

And socialism with Chinese characteristics is viable and feasible because it has roots within China. 

“Evaluating whether a country's political system is democratic and effective primarily depends on whether orderly transfer of power can take place according to law, whether the people as a whole can manage state and social affairs, economic and cultural undertakings according to law, whether the people can express their interests freely, whether all sectors of society can effectively participate in the political life of the country, whether state decision-making can be scientific and democratic, whether talents from all sectors can enter the leadership and management system of the country through fair competition, whether the ruling party can lead the country's affairs according to the constitution, and whether the use of power can be effectively restrained and supervised.” 评价一个国家政治制度是不是民主的、有效的,主要看国家领导层能否依法有序更替,全体人民能否依法管理国家事务和社会事务、管理经济和文化事业,人民群众能否畅通表达利益要求,社会各方面能否有效参与国家政治生活,国家决策能否实现科学化、民主化,各方面人才能否通过公平竞争进入国家领导和管理体系,执政党能否依照宪法法律规定实现对国家事务的领导,权力运用能否得到有效制约和监督.

And then the author gives a glowing review to the CCP-led system on all of this: “After long-term efforts, we have made decisive progress in solving these key issues.” The author also subsequently tells us that the leadership of the CCP is the fundamental guarantee of the system, adding:

“Any ideas and practices that separate, oppose or replace the leadership of the Party, the people being the masters of the country and governing the country according to law do not conform to the fundamental nature, core concepts and practical requirements of socialist democratic politics.” 任何把党的领导、人民当家作主、依法治国割裂开来、对立起来或者相互取代的主张和做法,都不符合社会主义民主政治的根本性质、核心理念和实践要求.

In addition, the author also says that the socialist democratic system is still new and evolving, so political reform is to be expected. In this, “it is necessary to continue to promote the institutionalization, standardization, and proceduralization of socialist democratic politics.” And while this is being done, “we need to learn from the useful achievements of foreign political civilizations, but we must never abandon the fundamentals of China's political system.”

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“The United States tried to transplant American democracy in Afghanistan, but what it built was a mirage lacking a basis in reality. In terms of political structure, the United States was trying to create a ‘third world version of Washington’, completely ignoring that this political arrangement was totally inconsistent with Afghanistan's history, culture and national conditions. In terms of social governance, according to U.S. media reports, U.S. military advisors ‘learned how to police in Afghanistan by watching television programs’ and civil affairs teams ‘were assembled on a large scale through slide presentations,’ with no regard for local conditions when implementing projects.  In terms of economic policies, US officials admit that economic policies that could help Afghanistan gradually emerge from poverty, such as appropriate price controls and government subsidies, had never been considered because they were incompatible with capitalism. The ABC report hit the nail on the head when it said that, in essence, the US government has been trying to force Afghanistan into a box that it cannot fit into.” 美国试图在阿富汗移植美式民主,但其自始至终搭建的是毫无现实根基的海市蜃楼。在政治架构方面,美国妄图打造一个“第三世界版的华盛顿”,完全无视这种政治安排与阿富汗历史文化和国情毫不相符。在社会治理方面,据美国媒体报道,美军顾问“通过观看电视节目来学习如何在阿富汗开展警务工作”,民政团队“通过幻灯片演示文稿被大规模组建出来”,在落实项目时完全不顾当地情况。在经济政策方面,美国官员承认,能够帮助阿富汗逐步摆脱贫困的经济政策,如适当的价格管控和政府补贴等,从来没有被他们考虑在内,因为这些措施与资本主义不相容。美国广播公司的报道一针见血地指出,从本质上讲,美国政府一直试图将阿富汗强行塞进一个它无法适合的盒子里.

The piece ends by saying that there is no one democratic model and one shouldn’t carry preconceived notions, and that the US should really learn from the failure of forcing “democratic transformation” abroad.

  • Finally, although this is not in PD today, I think it’s interesting to underscore that it’s getting challenging to translate the theoretical line on common prosperity into practice. The fact that Han Wenxiu, an official with the Central Committee for Financial and Economic Affairs, had to come out to say that Common Prosperity “means affluence shared by everyone, both in material and cultural terms, but not egalitarianism,” and specifically say this: “We allow some people to become well-off first, who then inspire and help the latecomers. We will not opt for a robbing-the-rich-for-the-poor approach,” means that interpretation and implementation are causing serious pains.

Here’s a recent Xinhua piece

“The term ‘common prosperity,’ though not brand new, is more and more frequently used by Chinese policymakers. For people who seek to understand the Chinese-style modernization, interpret Chinese policies and find new investment opportunities, a correct view of the new catchphrase is important. At a recent high-level meeting on financial and economic affairs, China's top leaders have offered a clear definition and policy guidance on promoting common prosperity amid high-quality development. Common prosperity is an essential requirement of socialism and a key feature of Chinese-style modernization. It reflects China's commitment to a people-centered development philosophy. Common prosperity is not egalitarianism. It is by no means robbing the rich to help the poor as misinterpreted by some Western media. Protecting legitimate private property has been written into China’s Constitution. Moreover, common prosperity refers to affluence shared by everyone both in material and cultural terms. It is not just an economic issue and far from simply redistributing wealth. That is why the meeting last week has stressed the importance of creating more inclusive and fair conditions for people to get a better education and improve their development capabilities. In the process of achieving common prosperity, strengthening anti-monopoly efforts, cracking down on illegal gains, and encouraging charitable donations are all internationally accepted means of regulation and adjustment. Those moves do not mean that capital or private companies, in general, are a target in the pursuit of common prosperity, but serve as a warning against unfair business practices.