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Here are the stories and pieces from the July 13, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.
Page 1: Let’s begin with a report on the new Opinions on Strengthening and Improving Ideological and Political Work in the New Era issued by the Central Committee and the State Council. The report says that “ideological and political work is the Party’s fine tradition, a distinctive feature and outstanding political advantage of the Party, and is the lifeline of all work.” It adds that “strengthening and improving ideological and political work is related to the future and destiny of the Party and the long-term stability of the country and national cohesion…” 《意见》指出，思想政治工作是党的优良传统、鲜明特色和突出政治优势，是一切工作的生命线。加强和改进思想政治工作，事关党的前途命运、国家长治久安、民族凝聚力和向心力.
The report says that since the 18th Party Congress, the “ideological unity of the entire party and society has been consolidated and the situation in China’s ideological field has undergone a global and fundamental transformation.” 《意见》指出，党的十八大以来，以习近平同志为核心的党中央高度重视思想政治工作，采取一系列重大举措切实加以推进，思想政治工作有效发挥了统一思想、凝聚共识、鼓舞斗志、团结奋斗的重要作用，全党全社会思想上的团结统一更加巩固，我国意识形态领域形势发生了全局性、根本性的转变.
It adds that the party must “adhere to the general tone of seeking progress while striving for stability, focus on the fundamental task of consolidating the guiding position of Marxism in the ideological field and consolidating the common ideological foundation of the whole party and the people of the whole country to unite and struggle, consciously undertake the duties and missions of raising the banner, gathering people’s hearts, educating newcomers, and invigorating culture. displaying the image, taking ideological and political work as an important way to govern the party and the country, focusing on strengthening the foundation, promoting the advantages, filling the shortcomings…Fully mobilize all positive factors, broadly unite all forces that can be united, serve the people, serve the Communist Party of China’s governance of the country, serve the consolidation and development of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and serve the reform, opening up and socialist modernization.” 《意见》明确，新时代加强和改进思想政治工作的指导思想是：以习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想为指导，全面贯彻党的十九大和十九届二中、三中、四中、五中全会精神，增强“四个意识”、坚定“四个自信”、做到“两个维护”，紧紧围绕统筹推进“五位一体”总体布局和协调推进“四个全面”战略布局，坚持稳中求进工作总基调，围绕巩固马克思主义在意识形态领域的指导地位、巩固全党全国人民团结奋斗的共同思想基础这一根本任务，自觉承担起举旗帜、聚民心、育新人、兴文化、展形象的职责使命，把思想政治工作作为治党治国的重要方式，着力固根基、扬优势、补短板、强弱项，提高科学化规范化制度化水平，充分调动一切积极因素，广泛团结一切可以团结的力量，为人民服务，为中国共产党治国理政服务，为巩固和发展中国特色社会主义制度服务，为改革开放和社会主义现代化建设服务.
Here are the “principles of strengthening and improving ideological and political work in the new era”:
upholding and strengthening the overall leadership of the party and integrating ideological and political work through all aspects of party building and state governance…
Adhere to the people as the center, practice the party’s mass line, take the people's longing for a better life as the goal…
fully implement the Party's basic theory, basic line and basic strategy, adhere to the system concept, combine ideological and political work with economic construction and all other work, and provide strong political and ideological support for the central work of the Party and the State.
It then says that “ideological and political work should be regarded as an important way to govern the party and the country.” It adds that Party committees at all levels must “establish a sound ideological and political work responsibility system, formulate a list of ideological and political work responsibilities, and clarify implementation measures…” 《意见》指出，要把思想政治工作作为治党治国的重要方式. 强化党委（党组）主体责任，各级党委（党组）要切实负起政治责任和领导责任，建立健全思想政治工作责任制, 制定思想政治工作责任清单，明确落实措施和推进步骤.
“Adhere to arming the whole party and educating the people with Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics in the New Era, improve the working system of arming the whole party and educating the people with the Party’s innovative theory, and enhance the political, ideological, theoretical and emotional identification with Xi Jinping Thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.” 坚持用习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想武装全党、教育人民，健全用党的创新理论武装全党、教育人民工作体系，增进对习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想的政治认同、思想认同、理论认同、情感认同.
It also calls for extensive publicity work, with the aim to “carry forward the national spirit and the spirit of the times, strengthen education on patriotism, collectivism and socialism, and strengthen education on Marxist materialism and atheism.” 弘扬民族精神和时代精神，加强爱国主义、集体主义、社会主义教育，加强马克思主义唯物主义、无神论教育.
Other key points mentioned in this context are:
“cultivate and practice socialist core values”;
strengthening Party history education in order to “guide party members, cadres, and the masses to oppose historical nihilism with a clear-cut stand;
“strengthen socialist education in the rule of law and in-depth study and publicity of Xi Jinping’s thought on the rule of law”;
“strengthen the awareness of danger, carry forward the spirit of struggle, extensively carry out publicity and education on prevention and resolution of major risks.”
The report specifically says that the “the quality and level of grassroots ideological and political work should be improved.” It adds: “We should strengthen ideological and political work in rural areas, strengthen spiritual civilization and ideological and moral construction in rural areas...resist the erosion of corrupt and backward culture, and cultivate new-age farmers with ideals, morals, culture and discipline.” 加强农村思想政治工作，加强农村精神文明和思想道德建设，开展弘扬时代新风和移风易俗行动，抵制腐朽落后文化侵蚀，培养有理想、有道德、有文化、有纪律的新时代农民.
The rest of the report talks about strengthening ideological and political work and then about publicity and propaganda. It calls to “integrate ideological and political work into theme propaganda, situation propaganda, policy propaganda, achievement propaganda and typical propaganda, and implement it in all kinds of media at all levels…” 巩固壮大主流思想舆论，坚持正确政治方向、舆论导向、价值取向，把思想政治工作融入到主题宣传、形势宣传、政策宣传、成就宣传、典型宣传中，落实到党报党刊、电台电视台、都市类报刊和新媒体等各级各类媒体，不断提高新闻舆论传播力、引导力、影响力、公信力.
There’s also much here about etiquette, morality, civilisation and behaviour - it’s fascinating because it tells us about the significance of moral construction as a Party’s governance objective. There is, in fact, a certain kind of behaviour that is seen as desirable for the new era. 深化拓展群众性主题实践，充分利用重要传统节日、重大节庆日纪念日，发挥礼仪制度的教化作用，丰富道德实践活动，推动形成适应新时代要求的思想观念、精神面貌、文明风尚、行为规范. One of the instruments to be deployed for this is the use of role models.
There’s also a commentary about ideological and political work on the page. It basically repeats some of the points mentioned about and talks about further strengthening ideological and political work.
I thought this was interesting:
“It is necessary to deeply study the ideological characteristics and behavioural habits of different social groups, such as enterprise workers, peasants and young students, improve innovative working mechanisms and methods, expand coverage and enhance affinity, and further stimulate the enthusiasm, initiative and creativity of cadres and the masses.” 要深入研究企业职工、农民群众、青年学生等不同社会群体的思想特点和行为习惯，改进创新工作机制和手段方法，扩大覆盖面、增强亲和力，进一步激发干部群众的积极性、主动性、创造性.
Next, we have a commentary drawing from Xi’s July 1 speech. This one talks about the “self-revolution and strict management of the party” being the “most distinctive character” of the Party. It repeats key points about “facing the wind,” “scraping the bones” and pursuing “self-revolution” as is the nature of Marxist parties.
Finally, a report (English version) about Li Zhanshu addressing the opening of the Eco Forum Global Annual Conference 2021 held in southwest China's Guizhou Province. He reiterated China’s carbon peak and neutrality targets. He added that China will “contribute to coping with global challenges concerning the climate and environment and safeguarding global ecological security.”
Page 2: Just one story on the page (English report), which talks about the recent State Council Opinions on Accelerating the Development of New Forms and Models of Foreign Trade. It then cites the Ministry of Commerce as saying that in 2020, cross-border e-commerce import and export volume reached 1.69 trillion yuan. Over the past five years, China's cross-border e-commerce has grown by nearly 10 times. Vice Minister Ren Hongbin said that according to “a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Commerce, about 40% of foreign trade enterprises' newly signed export orders increased year-on-year, external demand showed signs of improvement, and the competitiveness of enterprises has increased.” But he said that there are still challenges with regard to foreign trade in terms of external demand, shipping costs, fluctuations in RMB exchange rates, prices of raw materials, and availability of workers.
In addition to this, Xinhua reported today that China's total imports and exports expanded 27.1% year on year to 18.07 trillion yuan (about 2.79 trillion U.S. dollars) in H1 2021. This marks an increase of 22.8% from the pre-epidemic level in 2019, the General Administration of Customs said. Exports jumped 28.1 percent from a year earlier, while imports climbed 25.9 percent in yuan terms. In June alone, the country's imports and exports went up 22 percent year on year to stand at 3.29 trillion yuan, marking an increase for the 13th month in a row.
Page 3: First, around 110 million doses (English story from SCMP) of Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines will be provided via the COVAX scheme. GAVI said that 60 million doses from Sinopharm would be made available between this month and October and Sinovac would provide 50 million doses of its vaccines by the end of September.
Second, there’s a report about a session on “Promoting Human Rights through Development-Practice of Non-governmental Organizations” being sponsored by a Chinese institution at the UNHRC.
Third, a piece under the byline Zong Haiping on the South China Sea arbitration award anniversary. It says that:
“Facts have proved that the South China Sea arbitration case has been a political farce under the guise of the law from beginning to end. It is a political conspiracy by the United States and the West to contain and discredit China by using so-called ‘international rules’ and surrounding maritime issues.” 事实证明，南海仲裁案由始至终是一场披着法律外衣的政治闹剧，是美西方利用所谓“国际规则”和周边涉海问题对中国进行牵制遏制和抹黑施压的政治阴谋.
“Safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity is a major challenge that must be correctly addressed in the historical process of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and it is also an important responsibility shouldered by the Communist Party of China.” 维护国家主权和领土完整，是实现中华民族伟大复兴历史进程中必须正确应对的重大挑战，也是中国共产党肩负的重要责任.
The author writes that the Party “insisted on firmly holding the leading power of territorial and maritime jurisdiction in our own hands, established the basic position of dealing with arbitration cases in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, and made the decision of "not accepting, not participating in" arbitration cases and "not accepting, not recognizing" illegal awards, which effectively safeguarded the country's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests from infringement.” 在党中央坚强领导下，我们从维护国家主权、安全和发展利益出发，本着对国家和人民高度负责的态度，坚持把领土和海洋管辖权的主导权牢牢掌握在自己手里，依据国际法确立了应对南海仲裁案的基本立场，作出“不接受、不参与”仲裁案、“不接受、不承认”非法裁决的决定，有力维护了国家领土主权和海洋权益不受侵犯.
It adds that through this effort, China has “won strategic initiative and moral high ground...China’s policy stance on the South China Sea arbitration case has won wide understanding and recognition from the international community. More than 120 countries and organizations and 240 different political parties have expressed their understanding and support for China, thus thwarting the attempt of the United States and the West to suppress and isolate China through arbitration.” 中国应对南海仲裁案的政策立场赢得国际社会广泛理解与认可, 120多个国家和组织以及240多个不同国家的政党表示理解支持我，挫败了美西方妄图借仲裁打压孤立中国的图谋.
The author then criticises the arbitration and says that continuous effort with regard to territorial integrity and safeguarding sovereignty is necessary and this needs everyone to continue to “closely unite” around the Central Committee with Xi as the core.
Page 4: If you are interested, there’s a presser from different officials on the grassroots governance document that I’d covered yesterday.
Page 9: A bunch of pieces talking about history on the Theory page today. First, former Central Party School Vice President Li Junru drawing from Xi’s July 1 speech and Party history. The focus is basically on keeping in mind the “original aspiration” and mission. The next point that he makes is about being vigorous, pursuing self-revolution and doing this while continuing to Sinicize Marxism. The important bit here is the comment about adhering to “the ideological line of seeking truth from facts” and being ‘highly vigilant against dogmatism.”
My view: The question is how feasible this is when the focus has been on centralising authority and emphasising top-level design. This is a contradiction that exists at the heart of Xi’s new era.
I think this is best evident in two bits that Li writes. He wants cadres to maintain the “correct organisational line;” in the same breath, he wants “outstanding leaders” and “a team of cadres who can take on important responsibilities.” Li also warns at one point that “the biggest risk our party faces is internal deterioration,” and therefore, he wants strict Party governance, not hiding problems, not pursuing special interests… the key for him is whether cadres correctly manage the power they command. In this, he reiterates Mao’s Two Musts, i.e., the Party must remain modest, prudent and free from arrogance and rashness in its style of work and must be taught to preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle.
Let’s try and do something a little different given all the above and what we’ve learned over the months and years about the emphasis on political responsibility and integrity as the main line for cadres at all levels and political construction being a key objective of Party building. Now take all of this and the message that Li is giving above and think of it from the perspective of a grassroots-level official.
What’s more important - adhering to the center and the organizational line or innovating because it might get you better results, even if it deviates from what may be expected? What’s the cost-benefit assessment for that person? Deviation, if successful, might get you noticed and ahead; but it could also come at the cost of your career. So what’s the rational choice that you are likely to make more often than not?
Anyway, I didn’t find any of the other pieces particularly interesting. There’s a lot of repetition of similar themes. So that’s it for today.