Hebei Visit - Xi-Putin on Afghanistan - PAP Flag Anniversary - Ethnic Minority Policies - Xi Thought: Regional Development & Rural Revitalisation - Zhong Sheng on Afghanistan - COVID-19 Origins

Here are the stories and pieces from the People’s Daily’s August 26, 2021, edition that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: Just two stories on the page and they are both about Xi Jinping’s activities. First, a detailed report (English report) on Xi’s visit to Chengde in Hebei. The big themes that story focuses on are:

  • Environmental protection and ecological civilisation. The reference point here is Xi’s visit to the Saihanba mechanized forest farm. 

There he spoke about taking “bold steps to explore deepening the reform of state-owned forest farms, promoting green development and increasing their carbon-sink capacity.” He also talked about the Saihanba Spirit, which entails “staying true to the original aspiration, being hardworking and enterprising, and pursuing green development.”

  • Cultural confidence and Sinicization of religion. 

The cultural confidence comes in the context of Xi’s visit to Chengde Mountain Resort. The religion bit comes in the context of a visit to the ​​Puning Temple. On religion, the policy that Xi’s talking about is not just related to control and guidance, but there are outcomes that he wants. So it’s not just that  Xi wants to ensure that religious affairs are managed “according to laws and regulations” but he wants to “promote religions to better adapt to society, serve society and fulfill social responsibilities.” 依法依规管理宗教事务,促进宗教更好地适应社会、服务社会、履行社会责任.

  • Ethnic relations in China. This came in the context of the visit to the Chengde Museum. The place is home to sections that highlight ethnic relations under the Qing dynasty.  The PD story tells us that Xi spent time there learning about measures that were adopted during the Qing era “to maintain ethnic unity, border stability, and national unity.” He concluded that China is a “unified multi-ethnic country and has formed a pluralistic and integrated Chinese nation” over a long period of time. He then reaffirmed the Party’s policies, with the report emphasising the need to “adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party of China, adhere to the correct path of socialism with Chinese characteristics to solve ethnic issues, fully implement the Party's ethnic theory and ethnic policy, and constantly consolidate and develop socialist ethnic relations of equality, solidarity, mutual assistance and harmony.” 习近平指出,我国是统一的多民族国家,在漫漫历史长河中形成了多元一体的中华民族。经过全党全国各族人民持续奋斗,我们实现了第一个百年奋斗目标,在中华大地上全面建成了包括少数民族和民族地区在内的小康社会。实践充分证明,只有中国共产党才能实现中华民族的大团结,只有中国特色社会主义才能凝聚各民族、发展各民族、繁荣各民族。要坚持中国共产党领导,坚持走中国特色解决民族问题的正确道路,全面贯彻党的民族理论和民族政策,不断巩固和发展平等团结互助和谐的社会主义民族关系.

  • Rural revitalisation. This quote I think explains why he wants this prioritised: 

“To rejuvenate the nation, the countryside must be revitalized. Even if China's urbanization reaches a high level in the future, there will still be hundreds of millions of people working and living in rural areas.” 民族要复兴, 乡村必振兴. 即使未来我国城镇化达到很高水平,也还有几亿人在农村就业生活. As part of rural development, he spoke about supporting local industries and enhancing healthcare services.

  • Improving facilities and support systems for elderly care; effective pandemic control while coordinating development activities; and sticking to the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. 

Finally, who all accompanied Xi as part of the central leadership: Ding Xuexiang, Liu He, Chen Xi, and He Lifeng. At the local level, Hebei Provincial Party Secretary Wang Dongfeng and Governor Xu Qin are also mentioned in PD.

Next, we have a report on Xi’s call with Vladimir Putin. Xinhua tells us that Xi sees the signing of the China-Russia Treaty of Good-neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation as “a new starting point” in the relationship. He talked about “providing significant support for the development of both countries” and playing “a pivotal role in uniting the international community to overcome difficulties” as broad priorities for the relationship. Xi spoke about vaccines, and then had this comment related to the US:

He wants the two sides to “deepen cooperation against interference and firmly hold their respective national future in their own hands.”

On Afghanistan:

“Xi stressed that China respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and adheres to the policy of non-interference in its internal affairs, and has played a constructive role in resolving the Afghanistan issue via political means. Xi said that China stands ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Russia and the broader international community to encourage all factions in Afghanistan to build an open and inclusive political structure through consultation, implement moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, thoroughly dissociate from all terrorist groups, and maintain friendly relations with the rest of the world, especially neighboring countries.”

Xinhua reports that Putin wants the two sides to “intensify strategic coordination, firmly support each other, safeguard the victory of World War II and defend historical truth...Russia firmly adheres to the one-China policy, unswervingly supports China's legitimate positions of safeguarding its core interests on issues related to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea, and resolutely opposes any external force interfering in China's internal affairs.”

On Afghanistan, Xinhua’s reportage about Putin’s comments are: Putin said that the evolving situation in the country shows that the policy adopted by external forces to impose their political models upon others does not work, and will only bring destruction and disaster to the countries concerned. Noting that Russia and China share similar positions and common interests on the Afghanistan issue, the president said his country is willing to work with China to intensify communication and coordination, actively participate in relevant multilateral mechanisms, and push for a smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan. He also called for concerted efforts to fight against terrorism, cut off drug smuggling, prevent spillover of security risks arising from Afghanistan, resist intervention and disruption by external forces, and safeguard regional security and stability. The two sides agreed that given the complex and evolving international and regional situation, it is very important and necessary for China and Russia to maintain timely communication on major bilateral and multilateral issues.”

I looked at the Russian readout of the call. Here’s what it says about Afghanistan:

“The leaders had an in-depth discussion on the Afghanistan problem. They expressed readiness to step up efforts to counter the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking emanating from Afghanistan and emphasised the importance of achieving peace as soon as possible and preventing the spread of instability to neighbouring regions. In order to do this, the presidents intend to use the potential of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as much as possible, among other things. The two leaders also agreed to step up bilateral contacts and close cooperation, above all between the foreign ministries.”

As an aside, Putin also spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Imran Khan. The Russian readout of the call with Modi says:

“While exchanging opinions on Afghanistan, the parties noted the importance of concerted efforts, which would help establish peace and stability in the country and ensure security in the region in general. They expressed their determination to increase cooperation in opposing the spread of terrorist ideology and the drugs threat emanating from Afghan territory. They agreed to establish a two-way channel for permanent consultations on this issue.” -- So no SCO here.

The Russian readout of the call with Khan says:

“both sides stressed the importance of maintaining peace and security in the country, preventing violence and establishing an inter-Afghan dialogue that would facilitate the formation of an inclusive government that takes into account the interests of all segments of the population. It was agreed to coordinate approaches to the Afghan issue both in bilateral and multilateral formats. At the same time, it was noted that it would be appropriate to use the capabilities of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in ensuring regional stability and the fight against terrorism and the drug threat.

Page 2: There’s a piece on the first anniversary of Xi Jinping presenting the flag to the Chinese People’s Police. The headline is about loyalty casting the soul along the new journey. The piece is peppered with comments from members of the police force; in that sense, it’s a feature piece rather than a commentary with a directive. 

Anyway, it tells us that:

Over the past year, all members of the people’s police have devoted themselves to their work with deep affection for the party, and have turned their love of the party, patriotism and socialism into a powerful driving force to escort them on the new journey, thereby building a new era of meritorious service. They have fully demonstrated the glorious image of the party-led socialist national people’s police of self-restraint and selfless dedication. 坚决捍卫国家政治安全、确保社会大局持续稳定,一年来,全体人民警察怀着对党的深厚感情忘我工作,把强烈的爱党爱国爱社会主义热情转化为护航新征程、建功新时代的强大动力,充分展现了党领导的社会主义国家人民警察克己奉公、无私奉献的光辉形象.

Some of the messages reinforced are:

  • Listen to the Party and be loyal to its cause, inheriting the red gene

  • Having a people-centered approach and demonstrating affection for the people

What I found interesting in this context was firstly the focus on crimes like rescuing children who have been abducted, and then the emphasis on the Fengqiao experience. The example given for the latter is about two families in Chongqing quarrelling because the one in the flat above used to dry their clothes in the balcony, which led to water dripping into the flat below. So the cops got involved in this, getting both parties to the police station to resolve the issue. So it’s even such really small, personal stuff that law-enforcement can get engaged in as a matter of ensuring stability. 

We, of course, also have references to cracking down on crimes like fraud, theft, pornography, gambling, food and drug adulteration, telecom frauds, etc. And there’s talk about using technology to aid the police.

  • The next key message is about fairness in justice and regulating law enforcement

“We learn that as of June 2021, public security organs in 25 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) across the country have established a unified platform for law enforcement disclosure, and public security organs in 22 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) have realized online disclosure of administrative punishment decision documents, effectively guaranteeing the people's right to know, participate and supervise.” 截至今年6月,全国25个省(区、市)公安机关建立了统一的执法公开平台,22个省(区、市)公安机关实现了行政处罚决定文书网上公开,有效保障了人民群众的知情权、参与权和监督权.

  • The last key message is about developing a “pure” team. 

This talks about the education and rectification campaign that has been underway. This covers, efficiency, tackling corruption, improving “combat effectiveness and cohesion” through realistic training, reinforcing the examples of role models, etc. 

Page 3: A few pieces to note. First, a report about Nigeria approving the use of the Sinopharm vaccine. The country expects to receive 7.7 million doses, reports Reuters. Second, a report on the State Council’s weekly meeting. This one talked about promoting high-quality development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt and women and children’s development. Xinhua English has a report on this too. 

It tells us that the meeting “reviewed and adopted an outline for women’s development in China during the 2021-2030 period and an outline for children’s development in China during the 2021-2030 period.”

“The outlines set out objectives and measures in areas including health, education, social security and welfare, family, the environment and the law, and require implementing the fundamental national policy of gender equality. Women’s equal rights to education, employment, starting businesses, and participating in decision-making and management must be protected, the outlines said...More attention should go to protecting children in families, schools, society, and on the internet. Compulsory education will remain the top priority of education investment…”

Page 4: Much of the page is dedicated to a report on policies related to China’s ethnic minorities. Basically, this shows that the Party’s policies have benefited ethnic minority groups. It’s a really long piece so I am picking out a few data points that I think are relevant.

One by one, the great changes have converged into a set of staggering statistics: as per current standards, all those who were classified as poor in the rural areas across the eight ethnic minority provinces and regions have been lifted out of poverty; the cumulative poverty reduction in ethnic areas has exceeded 30 million people. All 420 poverty-stricken counties in national autonomous areas have been lifted out of poverty, and all 28 ethnic groups with small populations have been lifted out of poverty. The problems of absolute poverty and regional overall poverty that have historically plagued ethnic minorities and ethnic areas for thousands of years have been resolved. 一个个巨变,汇成了一组令人震撼的数字:现行标准下民族八省区农村贫困人口全部实现脱贫,民族地区累计减贫3000多万人,全国民族自治地方420个贫困县全部脱贫摘帽,28个人口较少民族全部实现整族脱贫。困扰少数民族和民族地区千百年来的绝对贫困和区域性整体贫困问题历史性地得到解决.

In 2020, the GDP of eight ethnic minority provinces and autonomous regions was 10.4 trillion yuan, accounting for 10.3% of the entire country. From 2016 to 2020, the per capita net income of poverty-stricken people in eight ethnic provinces and regions increased from 4,203 yuan to 10,770 yuan, an increase of 156%. In 2020, the per capita disposable income of rural residents in eight ethnic provinces and regions was 13,500 yuan, an increase of 3.2 times from 2010. 2020年,民族八省区生产总值10.4万亿元,占全国的10.3%。2016年至2020年,民族八省区建档立卡贫困人口人均纯收入从4203元增长到10770元,增长达156%。民族八省区2020年农村居民人均可支配收入1.35万元,比2010年增长了3.2倍.

“Culture is the soul of a nation, and cultural identity is the root of national unity. Cultural identity contains linguistic identity. Learning, mastering and using the national common language is an important prerequisite for building a common spiritual home for all ethnic groups and building a strong sense of community of the Chinese nation. In recent years, with the popularization of the national common language, people of all ethnic groups have improved their personal communication ability, broadened their access to modern knowledge and information, and it has greatly improved convenience in terms of work and life. According to statistics, in 2019, 463,000 teachers, 1.958 million young and middle-aged laborers and 213,000 grassroots cadres were trained in the national common language training across 12 provinces (cities and districts) in the central and western regions. 文化是一个民族的魂魄,文化认同是民族团结的根脉。文化认同包含着语言认同。全民学习、掌握和使用国家通用语言文字,是构筑各民族共有精神家园、铸牢中华民族共同体意识的重要前提。近年来,随着国家通用语言文字的推广普及,各地各族群众提高了个人交流交往能力,拓宽了获得现代知识和信息的渠道,生产生活便利程度大为提高。据统计,2019年中西部12个省(市、区)的国家通用语言培训共培训教师46.3万人次、青壮年劳动力195.8万人次、基层干部21.3万人次.

Another story on the page discusses the new regulation on the registration and administration of market entities. I am not going into the details here. For a brief look in English, you can read:

Page 5: Today we have the 29th piece in the Xi Thought Q&A series. The first question is about the regional development strategies that have been adopted. After a quick bit of history, we are told that since the 18th Party Congress,

“the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core has with foresight put forward new regional development strategies, such as the coordinated development of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, the construction of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta, the ecological protection and high-quality development of the Yellow River Basin, and the construction of the Shuangcheng Economic Circle in the Chengdu-Chongqing region. With the implementation of these regional development strategies, the total economic volume of each region in China has been rising continuously, the economic structure has been continuously optimized, and the regional coordinated development has achieved remarkable results.” 党的十八大以来,以习近平同志为核心的党中央高瞻远瞩、审时度势地提出了京津冀协同发展、长江经济带发展、粤港澳大湾区建设、长三角一体化发展、黄河流域生态保护和高质量发展、成渝地区双城经济圈建设等新的区域发展战略. 随着这些区域发展战略的实施,我国各区域经济总量不断攀升,经济结构持续优化,区域协调发展成效显著.

The next paragraph explains why this policy shift was needed. The argument is that growth and development are increasingly taking place in big cities and urban clusters, with the “national economic center of gravity” further shifting south. What this means is there is a greater “polarization of development power,” which, although the piece doesn’t say so, will entail political implications too. The piece says that there are specific challenges of development in northeast and northwest China; in addition, “some cities, especially resource-exhausted cities and traditional industrial and mining areas, lack vitality in development.”

Now in the new era, therefore, what’s needed is new thinking. Coordinated regional development will, the piece says, “adjust and improve the regional policy system in accordance with objective economic laws, give full play to the comparative advantages of each region, promote the reasonable flow and efficient concentration of various factors, enhance the power of innovation and development, accelerate the construction of the driving force for high-quality development, enhance the economic and population carrying capacity of central cities and urban clusters and other areas with economic development advantages, and enhance the functions of other regions in ensuring food security, ecological security and border security…” 新时代需要新思维,新形势呼唤新布局。做好区域协调发展大文章,总的思路是按照客观经济规律调整完善区域政策体系,发挥各地区比较优势,促进各类要素合理流动和高效集聚,增强创新发展动力,加快构建高质量发展的动力系统,增强中心城市和城市群等经济发展优势区域的经济和人口承载能力,增强其他地区在保障粮食安全、生态安全、边疆安全等方面的功能,形成主体功能明显、优势互补、高质量发展的区域经济布局。这一思路,适应了我国经济进入高质量发展阶段对区域协调发展提出的新要求。习近平总书记强调:“不能简单要求各地区在经济发展上达到同一水平,而是要根据各地区的条件,走合理分工、优化发展的路子。”要尊重客观规律、发挥比较优势、完善空间治理、保障民生底线,推动形成能够带动全国高质量发展的新动力源,促进区域协调发展.

Broadly for the different parts of China, the goal is this:

  • promote a new pattern of development in the West 

  • revitalise the northeast

  • accelerate the rise of the central region

  • encourage the eastern region to accelerate modernization


Also, support the accelerated development of old revolutionary base areas and ethnic minority areas and strengthen the development of border areas, and promote prosperity there.支持革命老区、民族地区加快发展,加强边疆地区建设,推进兴边富民、稳边固边.

The next question is about rural revitalisation. Once again, after a quick sweep of history, we are told that the “rural revitalization strategy is a major strategic deployment.”

“In this strategy, modernization of agriculture and rural areas is the general goal, adhering to the priority development of agriculture and rural areas is the general policy, ensuring prosperity of industry, ecological livability, a civilized countryside, effective governance and affluent lifestyles are the general requirements, and establishing a sound institutional mechanism and policy system for integrated development of urban and rural areas is the institutional guarantee.” 在这一战略中,农业农村现代化是总目标,坚持农业农村优先发展是总方针,产业兴旺、生态宜居、乡风文明、治理有效、生活富裕是总要求,建立健全城乡融合发展体制机制和政策体系是制度保障.

Here we get a number put to the rationale that Xi had given earlier in the paper on the front page: “Even if China’s urbanization rate reaches 70%, there will still be more than 400 million people in rural areas. If more than 400 million people are left behind in the process of modernization, China will find itself in a position wherein ‘on the one side, there is the bustling city; on the other side will be the languid countryside.’ This is not in line with the ruling purpose of our party and the essential requirements of socialism.” 即便我国城镇化率达到70%,农村仍将有4亿多人口. 如果在现代化进程中把农村4亿多人落下,到头来“一边是繁荣的城市、一边是凋敝的农村”,这不符合我们党的执政宗旨,也不符合社会主义的本质要求.

Page 9: The page today is dedicated to pieces around building and leveraging the “unity of the sons and daughters of China” as part of national rejuvenation. The lead piece is by Jin Xuefeng from the National Committee of the CPPCC. He talks first about upholding the leadership of the Communist Party of China as the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the key role of the CPPCC as a united front organization. 

Jin tells us that the “united front embodies the unity of consistency and diversity.” Consistency means having a “common ideological and political foundation, while diversity is the reflection of diverse interests and ideas.”一致性是共同思想政治基础的一致, 多样性是利益多元、思想多样的反映. So the aim is:

“We should seek consistency while respecting diversity, so as to promote consistency without imposing uniformity, respect differences without expanding differences, accommodate diversity without weakening leadership, consciously resist and oppose all words and deeds that violate, damage or weaken the common ideological and political foundation, and constantly consolidate existing consensus and build new consensus.”要在尊重多样性中寻求一致性,做到增进一致而不强求一律、尊重差异而不扩大分歧、包容多样而不弱化主导,自觉抵制和反对一切违背、损害、削弱共同思想政治基础的言行,不断巩固已有共识、凝聚新的共识. -- Oh, the contradictions.

In terms of the tasks of the CPPCC, Jin talks about:

  • strengthening the broadest united front and practicing people’s democracy throughout the process of governance 

  • strengthen the sense of political responsibility in terms of implementing the Central Committee’s deployments

  • consolidate political and ideological foundation; part of this is for the CPPCC to adhere to Xi Thought. 

  • strengthening the CPPCC system, given that a majority of its many members are not CCP members. So the piece calls for strengthening party building in the CPPCC, strengthening the political leadership, ideological leadership, mass organization power, and social appeal of the CPPCC party organization.

  • inject positive energy. This refers to building “a strong sense of the Chinese nation's community,” promoting “national unity and religious harmony,” engaging with non-Party talent pool, intellectuals and experts for consultation, focusing on one country two systems with the “full implementation of the principle of patriots ruling Hong Kong,” and improving mechanisms for inviting representatives of overseas Chinese to attend the CPPCC plenary meetings, etc.

The other two pieces are by Wan Lijun, the Party Secretary of the Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, and second, by He Husheng from Renmin University.

Page 17: The entire page today is dedicated to pieces related to the issue of the US’ policy with regard to COVID-19’s origins. I’ve never played basketball, but this seems like what one would call a full court press by China in anticipation of the US intelligence report.

So we have a story (English report) about the Chinese envoy to the UN Office at Geneva, Chen Xu, sending a letter to WHO DG Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterating China's position on the COVID-19 origins tracing and demanding a an investigation into Fort Detrick lab. The letter has been sent along with two documents titled “Doubtful Points about Fort Detrick (US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease)” and “Coronavirus Research Conducted by Dr. Ralph Baric's Team at University of North Carolina,” as well as a joint letter signed by more than 25 million Chinese netizens to the WHO demanding an investigation into the Fort Detrick lab.

Then there’s a report about comments about COVID and Fort Detrick from MoFA’s Fu Cong, who is the Director of the Arms Control Department of the ministry. Then there’s a report about the International Liaison Department meeting with leaders of 28 political parties and political organizations from 13 Arab countries to gather support on the COVID-19 origins issue and opposing politicisation and stigmatisation. 

Next, there’s a comment(English version) by MoFA’s Wang Wenbin on the issue, saying that “What the US is really up to is to shift the responsibility of its failure in pandemic response domestically and scapegoat China. Such a politicized report to plant evidence, naturally will not reach any scientific conclusion on origins tracing of COVID-19, but will only interfere in and undermine the global efforts of origins tracing and cooperation on pandemic response.”

Finally, a Zhong Sheng commentary, which takes a shot at the US but not around COVID. This is about Afghanistan, and seems to be the first in a series.

It talks about the “chaos caused by the hasty withdrawal of US troops” and says that the
“strategic failure of the U.S. policy towards Afghanistan fully shows that hegemonism and power politics are unpopular.” The criticism of the chaotic withdrawal will have wide resonance. It has been rather terribly managed.

The author says that the “new interventionism” of the US after September 11 has failed in every sense, also leading to disasters for the Afghan people. “In the past 20 years, the United States has paid a price of more than 2,400 soldiers and more than 2 trillion US dollars. Instead of completing the ‘anti-terrorism’ mission, it has led to more terrorism, with the number of terrorist organizations in Afghanistan increasing from single digits to more than 20.” This is a bit of bunkum to be honest; Of course, there have been tremendous failings in Afghanistan, and of course, these came at the cost of blood and treasure; wars do that. But this is not what’s the US’ real failing in the region: I recommend reading my colleague Nitin Pai’s piece in this regard.

Anyway, back to the commentary; it argues that “the 20-year war in Afghanistan has shown that the role of the United States is to destroy rather than build. Over the past 20 years, more than 100,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured under the guns of the US military and its allies, and more than 10 million have been displaced. The war in Afghanistan caused an average loss of $60 million every day, which has severely dragged down Afghanistan’s economic and social development.” 20年来,10多万阿富汗平民在美军及其盟军的枪炮之下伤亡,1000多万人流离失所. 阿富汗战争平均每天造成6000万美元损失, 严重拖累阿经济社会发展. -- Again, this argument seems to ignore history. It’s not like Afghanistan was a vibrant, developing economy marching towards prosperity in 2001. 

“The 20-year war in Afghanistan proved once again that trying to impose specific values on other peoples and civilizations is not sustainable, and that using military power to solve problems only leads to more problems. 20年阿富汗战争再次证明,试图将特定的价值观强加给其他民族和文明不可能长久,用强权及军事手段解决问题,只会使问题越来越多. -- This is an interesting point, which I guess will get repeated again and again, particularly as the Biden administration crafts a values-based foreign policy narrative. That narrative is on very shaky grounds, which I guess is not the worst thing in the world when I look at it from an Indian interests perspective.

“From the Vietnam War to the Afghanistan War, America seems to be repeating its own history. The United States should reflect deeply on its policy of frequent military intervention and military belligerence and stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and undermining peace and stability in other countries and regions under the guise of ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’.” 历史不会简单地重复,但又有其相似性。从越南战争到阿富汗战争,美国似乎在重复自己的历史。美国应该从一次次相似的溃败场景中,深刻反思其动辄军事干预、穷兵黩武的政策,停止打着“民主”“人权”的幌子肆意干涉他国内政,破坏他国和地区和平稳定.