Human Rights White Paper - Xi-Vucic Talks - CPPCC's Propaganda Work - CMC on Party History - China-Russia Friendship 'Unbreakable' - Wang Xiaohong on 'Invisible Risks' & 'Political Security'

Here are the stories and pieces from the People’s Daily’s June 25, 2021, edition that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: There’ve been two White Papers published this week, ahead of the centenary. Today’s PD covers the one about human rights (English version). There’s a brief report on the front page, followed by the full text shared inside. 

I’ve done a quick scan of the document rather than a thorough read and I am doing a summary here based on that. Do go through this paper if for nothing else than to understand how the CCP defines the concept of human rights. Essentially, human rights are something that the Party gives/provides rather than being inherent. This is about the Party rather than the people - a fact underscored by how the conclusion begins:

“From a small boat on the Nanhu Lake by southeastern China’s Jiaxing City, to a giant flagship leading China’s national rejuvenation, the CPC has a glorious century. Unruffled by constant change, it has remained committed to building a bright future for the Chinese nation. From revolution, economic development and reform into the new era, it has never forgotten its original aspiration and founding mission. It has achieved numerous successes throughout the land in the process of bringing happiness to the Chinese people and national rejuvenation to the Chinese nation. Its pursuit of world peace and progress, and a global community of shared future, opens a new chapter for human civilization.”

Anyway, here’s the summary.

  • The document begins with the familiar theme of foreign aggression, starting from the first Opium War “shackled the Chinese people, trampling on their dignity and putting their very lives in jeopardy.”

  • “The average life expectancy in old China was only 35 years. When the PRC was founded in 1949, 80 percent of the 540 million population were illiterate, less than 20 percent of school-age children were in elementary schools, and there were only 117,000 students receiving higher education.”

  • This is followed by the familiar story that we’ve read in PD so many times over the past few months about the CCP’s formation and the objective of national rejuvenation.

  • There’s a page about CCP work on human rights in the pre-PRC period. The history is slanted, but it’s fascinating to read how human rights are being defined and what’s being claimed. For instance, “universal suffrage was implemented in the CPC-led Central Soviet Area and the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region, and the long-oppressed people finally had the right to participate in politics.” Or this: “Chinese Soviet Republic formed an epidemic prevention and control committee at the central level, and health departments (offices) were set up at the district, county and provincial levels.”

  • The next section talks about three stages of the history of the PRC. Stage 1 is Mao’s tenure and we have no mention of any upheavals, economic or political. Stage 2 emphasizes development and human rights in that context. Stage 3 is Xi’s tenure, which includes poverty alleviation, BRI, high quality development focus, etc.

  • Next, we have a little bit about how the 10th NPC, held in March 2004, added the line “The state respects and safeguards human rights” into the Constitution, which has made it a “basic principle of the system of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics.” This, the paper tells us, means that “no laws, regulations, rules and normative documents can be in conflict with the principle.” Of course, it’s another matter if these laws, rules and regulations that are enacted can get challenged in court and get a fair hearing about their constitutionality; also do note where the Constitution places the CCP.

  • Following this, the paper emphasizes that the Party’s approach to development essentially protects human rights. “This approach to development embodies the principle of respecting and protecting human rights. Protecting people’s economic, social and cultural rights, especially their rights to employment, basic living, social security, health, education, culture, environment, property and other services, is essential to the rights of all to life and development.”

  • This is followed by an argument that the People’s Congress system, the political party system, which “represents great ingenuity” and “possesses enormous strengths,” the ethnic autonomy system, and the “institutions of grassroots democracy” protect human rights. This about the role of the NPC is really something: “To ensure that state power is truly in the hands of the people, deputies must represent the interests and will of the people when performing their duties. Deputies are entitled to submit, examine and vote on bills and proposals. The statements and votes of deputies at meetings of people’s congresses are protected by the law.”

  • The next bit talks about “comprehensive” human rights, i.e., right to Subsistence, Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights, Civil and Political Rights and Rights of special groups. The political rights section talks about the right to vote and stand for elections, but ignores to tell us that the process is not transparent. It talks about public consultation during drafting of laws. Also make of this what you will: “Freedom of religious belief is guaranteed. Based on the realities of the country and the conditions applying to its religions, China follows the policies of separation of government from religion and of freedom of religious belief, maintains religious harmony, builds active and healthy religious relations, and respects and protects the citizens’ right to follow or not to follow any religion.”

  • The next section talks about improving rights protection through law. Here are some examples: the “Law on Promotion of Basic Medical and Health Care, the Food Safety Law, the Law on Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases and the Law on Physical Culture and Sports include provisions to protect citizens’ rights to life and health.” It further states that “administrative power is constrained within the perimeter of the law. China has established a principle under which administrative bodies must not take any action that is not mandated by law.” Another aspect of this is the effort to build “a service-oriented government.” The last part of this section talks about judicial efficiency and judicial transparency. 

  • The final few sections deal with China’s global engagement on the issue of human rights. This ranges from peacekeeping, security cooperation, poverty alleviation, pandemic cooperation, BRI, climate change-related cooperation, etc.

  • Section 7 begins thus, and essentially emphasises the CCP primacy in China and development as the key metric for human rights.

“For China, there are no ready models to copy in respecting, protecting and developing human rights. China must proceed from its prevailing realities and go its own way. Applying the principle of universality of human rights to China’s national conditions, the CPC has opened a new path of human rights protection, and added diversity to the concept of human rights with its own practices.”

The front page also has a commentary based on the human rights white paper. It repeats that “Over the past 100 years, the Communist Party of China has insisted on the supremacy of the people and the integration of the universal principle of human rights with China’s reality. The right to survival and development are the primary basic human rights, the happy life of the people is the greatest human right, and the promotion of the all-round development of people.” Of course, the commentator gives Xi a lot of credit for achieving “historic progress” in human rights under his rule.

Again, like I said earlier, this is about the Party than the people: “China firmly upholds world peace, insists on promoting development through cooperation and human rights through development, actively participates in international human rights affairs, contributes Chinese wisdom and provides Chinese solutions to global human rights governance, promotes the development of the cause of human rights in the world, and works together with other countries in the world to build a community of human destiny. Facts fully prove that the CPC is a peace-loving and progressive party, a party dedicated to the cause of human justice, and a party that promotes the continuous development of the cause of human rights in the world.” 中国坚定维护世界和平,坚持以合作促发展、以发展促人权,积极参与国际人权事务,为全球人权治理贡献中国智慧、提供中国方案,推动世界人权事业发展,与世界各国一道,共同构建人类命运共同体. 事实充分证明,中国共产党是一个爱好和平与进步的政党,是一个献身人类正义事业的政党,是一个推动世界人权事业不断发展的政党.

Next, a couple of reports about Xi Jinping’s conversations with world leaders. First, Xi’s chat with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Xinhua English tells us that “Xi said the iron-clad China-Serbia friendship is most valuable and deserves to be firmly upheld and carried forward from generation to generation. Xi stressed that the two countries should firmly support each other while making respective efforts to safeguard their national sovereignty and security.”

Xi talked about BRI, Covid-19, climate change and China-CEEC cooperation. He added that:

“China and Serbia should also strengthen coordination in multilateral affairs, firmly uphold the international system with the United Nations at its core, defend international law and the basic norms governing international relations, and practice true multilateralism.”

Vucic said that the CCP was “an important force in promoting world peace and development” and that China-Serbia ties “are at their best in history.” He pledged to work together on BRI and thanked China for its pandemic-related support.

Next, speaking (English report) to Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, Xi said China will set up a China-Pacific Island Countries reserve of emergency supplies, and help Fiji and other island countries improve their ability to cope with major public health incidents and natural disasters. The report also mentions Xi talking about BRI and cooperation in trade and investment, infrastructure, transportation and communication, tourism, etc. Bainimarama said that “with Xi's foresight and sagacity and under his strong leadership, China has scored great achievements in development and played an important leading role in the world.” He added: “Fiji firmly adheres to the one-China policy, takes an objective and fair stand on issues involving Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, and will not do things that harm China's interests.”

Li Zhanshu spoke to the Speaker (English report) of Kiribati’s House of Assembly Tangariki Reete. He said that “China appreciates Kiribati’s firm support on issues involving China's core interests and major concerns, and the Taiwan question concerns China's core interests and the feelings of the Chinese people...expressing hopes that Kiribati would firmly abide by the one-China principle.” He also spoke about BRI and “practical cooperation in various areas including economic and trade investment and infrastructure and marine fishery; expand exchanges in culture, education, youth, sports and health; continue working together to fight against the epidemic, and promote the building of a community of health between the two countries.”

Finally, we have a report about Wang Yang speaking to the CPPCC National Committee on Propaganda and Ideological Work or as Xinhua English puts it “public communication.” So Wang basically said that:

“In the new era, the propaganda and ideological work of the CPPCC is facing a more complicated situation and the task is even more arduous. It is necessary to further improve the political position and enhance the sense of responsibility and mission of doing a good job in the propaganda and ideological work of the CPPCC in the new era. It is necessary to strengthen the Party's leadership over the propaganda and ideological work of the CPPCC, take studying and propagating Xi Jinping's socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era as the primary political task, and firmly grasp the leadership of the ideological work of the CPPCC. We should base ourselves on the characteristics and advantages of the CPPCC as a United Front organization and a specialized consultative body, focus on the cohesion of ideological and political consensus, seek consistency and expand the degree of consensus in equal consultation. It is necessary to...guide members to strengthen self-education and self-improvement, improve the working pattern of CPPCC members guiding the masses in different sectors, and encourage and support members to strive to be the party's policy propagandists, ideological and political leaders and caring people in different sectors.汪洋强调,新时代政协宣传思想工作面临的形势更加复杂,任务更加艰巨。要进一步提高政治站位,增强做好新时代政协宣传思想工作的责任感、使命感。要加强党对政协宣传思想工作的领导,把学习宣传贯彻习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想作为首要政治任务,牢牢掌握政协意识形态工作的领导权。要立足政协作为统一战线组织、专门协商机构的特点优势,把凝聚思想政治共识作为着力点,在平等协商中寻求一致性,扩大共识度。要突出委员主体作用,引导委员加强自我教育自我提高,完善政协组织委员、委员引导界别群众的工作格局,鼓励支持委员努力争做党的政策宣传员、思想政治引领者、界别群众贴心人。要持续创新政协宣传思想工作手段载体,研究把握运用网络信息技术传播共识、凝聚人心的特点规律,切实加强政协新闻舆论阵地建设,讲好中国共产党治国理政故事,讲好政协履职故事,把政协新闻媒体打造成为宣传贯彻党中央决策部署和对政协工作要求的重要阵地.

Also on the front page is a PD is a report about the “enthusiastic reaction” to Xi’s chat with the Shenzhou-12 astronauts.

Page 3: Two reports talking about Wang Yi’s work. First, a report about the BRI conference, where he first read out Xi’s speech and then delivered his own speech. Here’s the full English translation of Wang’s speech. He said:

  • Trade between China and BRI partners has exceeded 9.2 trillion US dollars. Direct investment by Chinese companies in countries along the Belt and Road has surpassed 130 billion US dollars. Last year, trade in goods between China and BRI partners registered a record 1.35 trillion US dollars.

  • China and BRI partners have held over 100 meetings to share experience on COVID prevention and control. By mid-June, China has provided more than 290 billion masks, 3.5 billion protective suits and 4.5 billion testing kits to the world, and helped many countries build testing labs. China is engaged in extensive vaccine cooperation with many countries, and has donated and exported more than 400 million doses of finished and bulk vaccines to more than 90 countries, most of which are BRI partners.

  • He then put forth four proposals: a) BRI vaccine initiative; b) need for transport infrastructure, economic corridors, and economic and trade and industrial cooperation zones, along with digital connectivity; c) green development; d) promise to keep “global industrial and supply chains open, secure and stable” and “share China's market dividends with all.”

The other report is about Wang inviting foreign envoys to China and representatives of international organizations in China to an exhibition marking the CCP’s centenary. I guess this is at the new CPC Museum. The report says that more than 100 foreign envoys in China and representatives of international organizations in China visited the exhibition. If you’d like a sneak peek, do check out this thread by FT’s Christian Shepherd.

Third, we have a short report (English version) telling us that the Chinese government has included four COVID-19 vaccines that have been granted conditional market approval domestically in a list of vaccine products available for export. The four vaccines are manufactured by:

  • Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co., Ltd.,

  • Sinovac Life Sciences Co., Ltd., 

  • CanSino Biologics Inc.

  • Wuhan Institute of Biological Products Co., Ltd.

Finally, a piece on the page by China’s ambassador to Russia, Zhang Hanhui. It’s fascinating that most of the article is about Xi’s concept of community of common destiny, which he had first spoken about in 2013 in Russia. What I mean by this is that most of the piece by China’s ambassador to Russia has nothing to do with the bilateral relationship. The relationship specifically gets a mention in the third to last paragraph. Perhaps, this also indicates that the geopolitical component of the relationship is the dominant driver of ties from China’s perspective today. 

Anyway Zhang sets the context by arguing:

“At present, more than ever before, the international community needs to strengthen unity and cooperation, defend the international system with the United Nations as the core and the international order based on international law, reform and improve the global governance system, oppose power politics and illegal unilateral sanctions, and oppose interference in other countries' internal affairs through human rights issues. People of all countries should cast aside the practice of engaging in group politics based on small circles and suppressing different development models with ideological lines.” 当前,国际社会比以往任何时候更需要加强团结合作,捍卫以联合国为核心的国际体系和以国际法为基础的国际秩序,改革和完善全球治理体系,反对强权政治和非法单边制裁,反对借人权问题干涉别国内政. 基于小圈子搞集团政治、以意识形态划线打压不同发展模式的行径必将遭到各国人民唾弃.

He then says that under Xi and Putin, China-Russia ties have reached “unprecedented” heights. 

This new type of state-to-state relationship that is non-aligned, non-confrontational, and non-targeted between China and Russia, completely abandons ideology and geopolitical fetters (this made me chuckle), and can be called a model of contemporary relations between major powers and neighboring countries. China and Russia uphold the consensus of the ‘four mutual resolute supports’ (四个相互坚定支持), jointly safeguard the core interests of the two countries, and actively promote the multi-polarization of the world and the democratization of international relations. 中俄不结盟、不对抗、不针对第三方的新型国家关系,彻底摒弃了意识形态和地缘政治羁绊,堪称当代大国关系和邻国关系的典范. 中俄秉持“四个相互坚定支持”共识,共同维护两国的核心利益,积极推动世界多极化和国际关系民主化.

As an aside: The four mutual resolute supports are:

  • support each other's efforts to safeguard their country’s sovereignty, security, territorial integrity and other core interests, 

  • support each other’s development path in line with their own national conditions, 

  • support each other’s development and revitalization,

  • support each other in running their own affairs well

Anyway, Zhang ends by arguing that “China and Russia are united like a mountain, and the friendship is unbreakable.”

Page 4: First, a report about the Central Military Commission organising a special study session on party history on Thursday, reviewing the outstanding achievements and historical experience of the party’s establishment and leadership of the PLA. 

The meeting pointed out that the “brightest lessons of the CPC’s leadership in building a powerful people’s army are the people’s army’s party building...the party’s absolute leadership over the army, the army’s absolute obedience to the party’s command, and maintaining innovation with the times.” It further underscored the “political character and fine work style of the people’s army.” 会议指出,中国共产党领导建设强大人民军队的经验启示,最内在、最鲜亮的在于人民军队党缔造、人民军队为人民,在于党对军队绝对领导、军队绝对听党指挥,在于与时俱进创新军事指导理论和战略指导,在于军队建设发展始终与国家富强、民族复兴融为一体,在于保持人民军队的政治本色和优良作风.

The meeting also emphasised the need for “leading cadres” to take the lead in completing the study of Party history as a political priority and setting strict standards through their actions.

“It is necessary to make great efforts to comprehend the great power of thought, deepen the understanding of the origin and development of thought, deepen the understanding of China's own "theory", and deepen the efforts to solve the problems of the times, so as to truly understand Xi Jinping's thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, especially Xi Jinping's thought of strengthening the army.” 要在感悟思想伟力上下功夫,往弄清思想源流根脉上深,往悟透中国自己的“理”上深,往聚力破解时代课题上深,真正把习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想特别是习近平强军思想学懂弄通做实. 

Another noteworthy report is this one about a speech by Ding Xuexiang. Ding’s a 58-year-old Politburo member, who is also a key Xi aide. His speech came at an event commending 349 outstanding party members, 262 outstanding party workers, and 309 advanced grassroots party organizations from the central and state agencies. The speech is nothing to write home about, but yeah, he’s someone to watch out for.

Page 13: On the Theory page today, we have a piece by Wang Xiaohong, deputy secretary of the Party Committee of the Ministry of Public Security. This is messaging for the Party hierarchy and public security officials across China. He basically talks about learning from the Party’s history. He wants cadres to go through original texts, and “understand the core essence, spiritual essence, rich connotation and practical requirements of Xi Jinping's socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and strive to master the Marxist standpoint, viewpoint, method, theory and philosophy…” 要坚持学有深度,读原著、学原文、悟原理,准确理解习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想的核心要义、精神实质、丰富内涵、实践要求,努力掌握蕴含其中的马克思主义立场观点方法、道理学理哲理,做到知其言更知其义、知其然更知其所以然,全面系统把握这一科学理论.

He says that history has taught the Party that:

“only by the unity and centralization of the party can the creativity, cohesion, and combat effectiveness of the party be enhanced. To consolidate the unity and centralization of the party, the Party Central Committee and the entire party must have a core. The great practice since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has fully proved that resolutely maintaining the core position of General Secretary Xi Jinping's Party Central Committee and the core position of the entire party, and resolutely maintaining the authority and centralized leadership of the Party Central Committee are our fundamental magic weapon to overcome all difficulties and obstacles. As the ‘knife’ in the hands of the party and the people, the public security organs must always regard the ‘two safeguards’ as the highest political principle and fundamental political rule, and strive to be at the forefront of politics with a clear-cut stand.” 巩固党的团结和集中统一,党中央、全党必须有一个核心. 党的十八大以来的伟大实践充分证明,坚决维护习近平总书记党中央的核心、全党的核心地位,坚决维护党中央权威和集中统一领导,是我们战胜一切艰难险阻的根本法宝. 公安机关作为党和人民手中的“刀把子”,必须始终将“两个维护”作为最高政治原则和根本政治规矩,努力在旗帜鲜明讲政治上走前列.

He wants public security officials to pay attention to the masses “hate” and what brings them “pain.” In essence, he wants tough action on crime and efficient handling of engagement with the people. He adds:

“The overall strategy for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the major changes in the world unseen in a century are the basic starting point for planning public security work.” He wants officials to keep the “two overall situations” and “matters of great interest to the state” in mind. He calls on officials to:

“firmly establish the concept of ‘invisible risk is the greatest risk,’ pay close attention to the infiltration and destructive trends of hostile forces at home and abroad, pay close attention to the dynamic changes in social risks and contradictions, strengthen strategic, forward-looking research, good at identifying the essence of the phenomenon based on early tendencies…” 增强工作预见性,牢固树立“看不见风险就是最大风险”的理念,密切关注境内外敌对势力渗透破坏动向,密切关注社会风险矛盾动态变化,加强战略性、前瞻性研究,善于从倾向性、苗头性问题中识别现象本质、把握趋势特点,下好先手棋、打好主动仗,精准施策、有的放矢,努力做到防患于未然. 

Here’s more:

“Resolutely defending political security, fully safeguarding social stability, and earnestly safeguarding people’s peace are the missions and tasks assigned to public security organs by the party and people in the new era. (Do note the priorities in terms of the order of listing.) China today has become one of the most secure countries in the world. The public security organs must always adhere to the center and serve the overall situation, always adhere to the overall national security concept, bravely assume their missions, perform their duties loyally, and resolutely create a safe and stable political and social environment for the realization of the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” 坚决捍卫政治安全、全力维护社会安定、切实保障人民安宁,是新时代党和人民赋予公安机关的使命任务. 今天的中国,已成为世界上最有安全感的国家之一. 公安机关要始终坚持围绕中心、服务大局,始终坚持总体国家安全观,勇担使命、忠诚履职,坚决为实现中华民族伟大复兴的中国梦创造安全稳定的政治社会环境. 

In terms of political security then, he talks about “anti-infiltration, anti-subversion, anti-secession, and the anti-terrorist struggle.” He also warns about being mindful of colour revolutions. Social security entails resolution of conflicts and disputes and the special work of solving outstanding public security complaints, and addressing problems at grassroots level. The public security bit to the best of my understanding refers to dealing with crimes and enhancing surveillance, but this was confusing for me to be honest.

Next, Party Secretary and Chairman of China National Petroleum Corporation, Dai Houliang, writes about how “scientific and technological innovation has become the main battlefield of international strategic games. Competition around the commanding heights of science and technology is unprecedentedly fierce.” In this context, he discusses clean fossil energy and the importance of self-reliance in this regard, given energy is critical to national development and security. He says that PetroChina is working with this as its priority, following the “Daqing spirit.” He says:

“In recent years, a series of landmark achievements have been made in the fields of exploration and development, refining and chemical industry, oil and gas services and natural gas, forming a set of theoretical methods and process technologies original to China for oilfield development, which keep the old oilfields vigorous and vital. “近年来,在勘探开发、炼油化工、油气服务与天然气领域取得一系列标志性成果,形成一整套我国独创的油田开发理论方法和工艺技术,使老油田保持旺盛生机活力.

He adds that China’s energy situation has significantly improved. “At the same time, we should also see that we are faced with challenges such as huge pressure on energy demand, more constraints on energy supply, serious damage to ecological environment caused by energy production and consumption, and overall backward energy technology level.” 同时也应看到,我们还面临能源需求压力巨大、能源供给制约较多、能源生产和消费对生态环境损害严重、能源技术水平总体落后等挑战. 

Of course, he offers no policy solutions to deal with any of these, other than the “Daqing spirit” and patriotism and pursuing self-reliance, etc.