Li on Flood Control - Services Negative List - US-China Talks - China's Two Lists for US - Zhong Sheng Commentary: America is Back = America First - Four Self-Confidences - Marxist Party Building

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

Page 1: Let’s begin with Xi Jinping sending a congratulatory message (English report) to Nguyen Xuan Phuc on his re-election as Vietnam's president. The report says that in the letter, Xi said that China and Vietnam are “socialist neighbors linked by mountains and rivers, and enjoy profound traditional friendship and extensive common interests.” Also in the report, we get a mention of Li Keqiang sending a message to Pham Minh Chinh, congratulating him on re-election as Vietnamese prime minister.

Next, we actually have something about the floods and storms hitting large parts of China. Of course, if it is on the front page, then it has to be about control primarily. So we have a report about Li Keqiang chairing a video conference at the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters in Beijing. There’s an English report with all the details too, but the difference is that the English version does not mention Xi; the PD one has Li mentioning Xi Thought and Xi’s leadership twice.

Anyway, he listened to reports from officials from disaster-affected regions, the Ministry of Emergency Management, the China Meteorological Administration, the Ministry of Water Resources, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the Ministry of Transport. 

Li’s instructions were to undertake “all-out efforts to ramp up flood control and disaster relief, putting the safety of people's lives and property first.” He also said that the government would allocate billions of yuan from the central financial reserve in advance to support severely affected areas. 

Third, we have Wang Yang speaking (English report) at the CPPCC National Committee. He talked about grasping “the importance of grasping the demographic trend and the law of population aging to promote long-term balanced population growth.” The story says “the committee members believe that China’s population development is facing the dual pressure of aging and declining birth rates, and the impact of this will be comprehensive, profound, and lasting. Therefore, the response to this must be timely, comprehensive, and scientific.” The two-pronged response that’s mentioned in the report is about enhancing elderly care services and support policies, while also implementing the three-child policy and maternal and child-care policies.

Page 2: Two stories to note. First, there was an event in Shanghai on studying Xi’s thoughts on the “whole process of people’s democracy.” Useful to note that Wang Chen and Li Qiang (62-year-old Party Secretary of Shanghai) were in attendance and spoke at the event. 

Second, we have a report about the Ministry of Commerce releasing a negative list for cross-border trade in services in Hainan. This is the first negative list for services trade in the country. China Daily tells us that “a negative list specifies the prohibited economic activities, thereby implying that activities not listed are deemed to be allowed. The Hainan FTP negative list specifies 70 special administrative measures for 11 sectors, including shipping, retail, logistics, finance and education...”

An official statement said that for areas not included in the list, domestic and overseas services providers shall have a level playing field and enjoy equal market access in Hainan free trade port.

China Daily tells us that “in addition to removing the restrictions on foreign individuals participating in the qualification examinations for engineers in many fields in the Hainan FTP, the negative list allows representative offices of overseas law firms in Hainan to engage in part of Hainan-related commercial non-litigation legal affairs.”

Also note: “the services sector accounts for more than 60 percent of the province’s GDP. Recent data showed the development of the services sector has paid rich dividends. The sector contributed 95.8 percent to Hainan's economic growth last year, data from the ministry showed.”

The PD report has comments from Vice-Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen, Ni Qiang, Vice Governor and Secretary General of the Hainan Provincial Government, Chen Xi, Director of the Hainan Provincial Department of Commerce, and Tang Wenhong, Director of the Free Trade Zone Port Department of the Ministry of Commerce. Wang said that the negative list system in itself was a reformist measure. He emphasised that the degree of openness in services under the list “exceeds China’s WTO commitments.”

Page 3: First, let’s cover Wang Yi’s meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. PD has a long report, with the same details as Xinhua English. It tells us that Wang told Sherman that the US had to “make correct choices as to whether the bilateral ties will head to confrontation or improvement.”

Wang said that the Biden administration “has in general continued its predecessor’s extreme and erroneous China policy, constantly challenged China's bottom line, and stepped up containment and suppression on China.” PD’s report tells us that Wang said the problem lay with US perception of China as “its main opponent” or even as an “adversary.” He said that “China is firmly opposed to such U.S. practices” adding that these were attempts to “impede and disrupt China’s modernization drive.” Of course, he said that “such an attempt is doomed to fail for now, and is even more so in the future.”

Wang also defended the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. He then put forward “three basic demands as bottom lines that China firmly upholds”:

  • The US must not challenge, slander or even attempt to subvert the path and system of socialism with Chinese characteristics - this is a core interest.

  • The US must not attempt to obstruct or interrupt China’s development process; this entails removing “all unilateral sanctions, high tariffs, long-arm jurisdiction and technology blockade it has imposed on China.”

  • USmust not infringe upon China’s state sovereignty, or even damage China's territorial integrity. This covers issues of Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Wang added: “If ‘Taiwan independence’ forces dare to provoke, China has the right to take any necessary measure to stop it.”

He then said that China and the US are the largest developing and developed countries in the world; “neither side can replace or defeat the other.” So “it is hoped that the U.S. side will have an objective and correct understanding of China, abandon arrogance and prejudice, stop acting as a preacher, and return to a rational and pragmatic China policy.”

Xinhua has Sherman saying that the US has no intention of restricting China's development, nor does it want to contain China, but would like to see China's development. The two sides can engage in healthy competition, cooperate on climate change, drug control and international and regional hotspot issues, strengthen crisis management capacity, and avoid conflicts. Sherman reiterated that the United States adheres to the one-China policy and does not support ‘Taiwan independence’. The two sides also exchanged views on international and regional issues of common concern.

Although PD doesn’t carry this, an earlier Xinhua report about Sherman’s meeting with Vice FM Xie Feng tells us that the Chinese side presented her with two lists. The first one talked about “correcting wrong US policies.”

These include that the US should “unconditionally”

  • lift visa restrictions on CCP members and their families

  • lift sanctions on Chinese leaders, officials, and government departments

  • lift visa restrictions on Chinese students 

  • stop suppressing Chinese enterprises 

  • stop harassing Chinese students

  • stop suppressing Confucius Institutes

  • cancel the registration of Chinese media as “foreign agents” or “foreign missions”, 

  • withdraw extradition request for Meng Wanzhou

The second list was about areas of concern for China. These included

  • denial of visa to Chinese students

  • cases where Chinese citizens have faced unfair treatment in the US 

  • harassment and attacks on Chinese embassy and consulate in the US

  • anti-Asian and anti-China sentiment in the US, 

  • attacks on Chinese citizens

The readout from the State Department regarding Sherman’s visit said that they had “a frank and open discussion about a range of issues, demonstrating the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between our two countries. They discussed ways to set terms for responsible management of the U.S-China relationship.” It adds that the US “welcomes the stiff competition between our countries—and that we intend to continue to strengthen our own competitive hand—but that we do not seek conflict with the PRC.” The readout mentions Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang; it also talks about policies in cyberspace, and South and East China seas.

“The Deputy Secretary also raised the cases of American and Canadian citizens detained in the PRC or under exit bans and reminded PRC officials that people are not bargaining chips. The Deputy Secretary reiterated concerns about the PRC’s unwillingness to cooperate with the World Health Organization and allow a second phase investigation in the PRC into COVID-19’s origins. At the same time, the Deputy Secretary affirmed the importance of cooperation in areas of global interest, such as the climate crisis, counternarcotics, nonproliferation, and regional concerns including DPRK, Iran, Afghanistan, and Burma.”

Sherman also spoke to AP after the talks and I thought this part of her quote is important to note. While talking about friction over human rights, she said that “there are some things that rise above specific differences that are the global responsibility of great powers.” I guess part of this should make Beijing happy in that the US is acknowledging it as a “great power” equal. She added: “We do expect ... them to understand that human rights are not just an internal matter, they are a global commitment which they have signed up for” under the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Anyway, back to PD, we have two more US-linked pieces. First, a Zhong Sheng commentary, which basically says that the US uses some sort of “pseudo-multilateralism” in an attempt to establish itself as a spokesperson for the international community while concealing its unilateral actions. For instance, at one point, it says that “the essence of American multilateralism is to form cliques, engage in ‘small circles’ and group politics, and impose its own hegemonic will on others.”

There’s a direct shot at Joe Biden in this piece when it says that:

“Facts show that American politicians who shout ‘America is back’ still have ‘America First’ in their hearts, and they only have self-interest in their minds.”

The piece criticises the US’ handling of the pandemic and then talks about the US needing to open up to an international investigation on origin tracing, specifically mentioning the Fort Detrick facility. It’s fascinating how these commentaries went from rubbishing the idea of a laboratory origin to COVID-19 to falling in line with MoFA’s rhetoric.

Second, we have a report (English comments) about MoFA’s comments on the origins probe. Zhao Lijian began by talking about “the voice of reason...growing in the international community” with regard to “the US politicization of origins tracing and calling for a probe into the Fort Detrick lab.” He mentioned Sergei Latyshev, a Russian journalist and historian, Abbey Makoe, former political editor at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, and Hamdhan Shakeel, senior editor of Maldives News Network, as examples of calls in the international press critical of US politicisation. Zhao mentions other names too to make his point that the US must open up to a probe.

I am not claiming here that there’s a financial link with any of the others; but the case of MNN was clear in yesterday’s edition. In that sense, it appears to be part of strategy to invest in/financial support media abroad and then echo it back by saying this is “international opinion.” 

Finally, we also have a report based on Anthony Fauci’s recent interview with CNN on the spike in COVID-19 cases in the US among the unvaccinated. 

Next, we have a report (English report) on the page about Defense Minister Wei Fenghe meeting with his Mongolian counterpart in Ulaanbaatar. He said that “the two sides should continue to firmly support each other on issues concerning each other's core interests and major concerns, remain highly vigilant against interference by outside forces in regional affairs, and jointly safeguard regional security and stability.” Interesting timing for this visit, given that it immediately follows Wendy Sherman’s visit to Mongolia.

Page 4: Huang Kunming spoke at the 10th National Congress of the Chinese Folk Artists Association. He said that everyone must implement the ideas from Xi’s July 1 speech and his views on literary works. He said:

“I hope that the vast number of folk literature and art workers will examine folk literature and art from the perspective of the evolution of civilization and rejuvenation of a powerful country, enhance their self-confidence in Chinese culture, respond to the needs of the people and the call of the times…” 希望广大民间文艺工作者从文明演进和强国复兴的大视野中审视民间文艺,增强对中华文化的自觉自信,回应人民需求和时代呼唤,创作出更多接地气、传得开、留得下的优秀作品.

We also have a report with someone from the Propaganda Department taking questions on the new guidelines for political and ideological work. The official places the guidelines within the context of the “major changes unprecedented in a century” that are taking place in the world and China being in a “critical period” on the way to national rejuvenation. 

The official then emphasises the three persistences - 三个坚持 - in the context of the document.

  • The first is to persist with the ideological guidance of Xi Thought.

  • Second, ensure that Party Committees lead ideological and political work and ensure that ideological and political education is carried out in depth.

  • Third, get innovative with ideological and political work.

So what are the objectives?

  • First, arming the whole party and educating the people with Xi Jinping Thought

  • Second, promote the normalization and institutionalization of education on ideals and beliefs, i.e., “extensively carry out publicity and education on socialism with Chinese characteristics and the Chinese dream, strengthen patriotism, collectivism, and socialist education, carry forward the great spirit of the party and the people in various historical periods…”

  • Third, cultivate and practice the core values ​​of socialism.

  • Fourth, strengthen education in the history of the Party…”systematically study the ‘four histories’.”

  • Fifth, strengthen socialist legal education.

  • Sixth, enhance the sense of hardship and carry forward the spirit of struggle. (This repeated emphasis on hardship, challenges and struggle is something to think about; given what we are seeing with the private sector, particularly technology sector, in China, is this the central leadership forewarning that more upheavals can be expected across the board as Xi fashions a new normal to drive China ahead in the era of becoming strong?)

The next part of the interview is about the youth. The official calls for accelerating “the construction of ideological and political work systems in schools” with the aim being to ensure “moral, intellectual, physical and aesthetic development of socialist builders and successors.”

Next, we have a couple of reports on the flood situation on the page, and one of those is about a positive narrative around an act of extraordinary courage to save someone trapped in the flood. These are standard tales of heroism amid tragedy leveraged to shape the narrative. It’s the kind of thing that the Party uses to shape the narrative, and it’s not alone in doing so. This happens everywhere. So the story talks about 45-year-old Wang Xichao from Dongzhao Village who responded to a call for help and saved a woman and two of her children from drowning. 

Page 5: The page carries the seventh piece in the series on Xi Thought today. The first question today is about the four self-confidences. These are, of course, having confidence in path, theory, system and culture. Interestingly, in responding to this, when it comes to talking about having confidence in the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, the piece makes a comparison between China and India.

“In 1978, China and India were comparable in terms of economic strength and comprehensive national power, and China's per capita GDP was less than 4/5th of India’s; in 2020, China’s per capita GDP exceeded $10,000, nearly five times that of India’s, and it is already significantly ahead of India in areas such as science and technology, transportation, education, healthcare, and living environment.” 1978年,中国与印度在经济实力、综合国力等方面相差无几,中国人均国内生产总值不到印度的4/5;2020年,中国人均国内生产总值超过1万美元,是印度的近5倍,在科技、交通、教育、医疗卫生、人居环境等领域已大幅领先印度. 

Ergo, socialism with Chinese characteristics works for China. In fact, it is “only this road and no other roads can lead China’s progress, enhance the well-being of the people, and realize national rejuvenation,” the piece says.

In terms of theoretical confidence, the piece talks about the evolution of theory as per leaders’ thoughts and answers the key questions of the times, because “this theoretical system is scientific, it embodies the fundamental position of Marxism, is based on the methodology of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, and has unparalleled power of truth.” 这一理论体系是科学的,它体现了马克思主义的根本立场,贯穿了辩证唯物主义和历史唯物主义的世界观方法论,具有无可比拟的真理力量.

On system and institutional confidence, the key argument is that the system has proved efficient and effective. And on cultural confidence, the piece says that this comes from “historical inheritance, from revolutionary struggle, from reform and innovation.”

The next question is about the Chinese governance system. The response says that:

“What kind of state system and national governance system a country chooses is determined by its history and culture, social nature, and level of economic development. In the course of thousands of years of history, the Chinese people accumulated a wealth of ideas about the state system and state governance, and gradually formed a whole set of state system and state governance system, including the imperial court system, county system, land system, taxation system, imperial examination system, supervision system, military system and other aspects of the system, which was studied and imitated by neighboring countries and nations.” 一个国家选择什么样的国家制度和国家治理体系,是由这个国家的历史文化、社会性质、经济发展水平决定的. 在几千年的历史演进中,中华民族积累了关于国家制度和国家治理的丰富思想,逐步形成了一整套包括朝廷制度、郡县制度、土地制度、税赋制度、科举制度、监察制度、军事制度等各方面制度在内的国家制度和国家治理体系,为周边国家和民族所学习和模仿.

We then fast-forward to modern times when after the fall of the Qing, there was a search for a system, which ended in the founding of New China. This recap is used to make the point: “The national system of our country not only embodies the basic principles of scientific socialism, but also has distinct Chinese characteristics, national characteristics and characteristics of the times.” 使我国国家制度既体现了科学社会主义基本原则,又具有鲜明的中国特色、民族特色、时代特色.

Of course, the CCP’s leadership is the “greatest advantage of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and the ‘core code’ of China’s national system and national governance system.” Another key attribute, the piece tells us, is to “always represent the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people.”

Think about this; it sounds like a juxtaposition to the idea of individual liberty being at the heart of governance and rule of law. Or am I just overthinking this stuff?

Page 6: We have a piece on the “Red Company,” a brigade of the 83rd Army. The idea is that there is an inheritance of the revolutionary times and spirit, along with the spirit of being loyal to the Party.

Page 9: On the theory page, the lead piece is by Yu Yunyao, former president of the National Party Building Research Association. Yu basically argues that the fundamental reason or “code” for the Party’s and China’s success lies in “using the Sinicized Marxist party building theory system to guide party building, and always insisting on the party’s strong leadership.”

He then identifies the key attributes of the “Chinese Marxist party building theoretical system.” These are:

  • Being scientific, i.e., being based on the Marxist scientific worldview and methodology.

  • Being practical

  • Being people-oriented

  • Being innovative

“In its long-term practice, the Communist Party of China has gained a deeper understanding and more scientific grasp of the laws of party construction, leadership and governance. It is precisely because we always insist on understanding the law, grasping the law, following the law and working according to the law that our Party has been able to always be at the forefront of the times in the historical process of profound changes in the world situation, always become the backbone of the people of the whole country in the historical process of coping with various risks and challenges at home and abroad, and always become a strong leadership core in the historical process of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics.” 中国共产党在长期实践中,对党的建设规律、党的领导规律和党的执政规律有了更深刻的认识和更科学的把握. 正是因为始终坚持认识规律、把握规律、遵循规律、按规律办事,我们党才能在世界形势深刻变化的历史进程中始终走在时代前列,在应对国内外各种风险挑战的历史进程中始终成为全国人民的主心骨,在坚持和发展中国特色社会主义的历史进程中始终成为坚强领导核心. 

Yu then says:

  • “the party's construction should be carried out closely around the party's political line, and the great cause led by the party should be promoted by the great project of party building.”

  • “party building should be guided by the latest achievements of the Sinicization of Marxism, and the whole party should be armed with scientific theory.”

  • “put political construction in the first place, and use the party's political construction to guide other aspects of construction.”

  • “combine ideological party building with institutional and regulatory governance, strengthen our ideals and beliefs, and manage affairs and personnel with systems and rules.”

  • “combine inheriting fine traditions with continuous reform and innovation, and strictly manage the party with the spirit of self-revolution.”

The next paragraph talks about strengthening Party leadership. This, Yu says, requires understanding that:

  • Party leadership is the choice of the people.

  • Party leadership must be comprehensive, across all domains.

  • Party leadership “is the fundamental guarantee for the people to be the masters of the country and governing the country by law.”

  • “Party’s leadership should not only be maintained and strengthened, but also improved and perfected.”

  • Party’s overall leadership should be realized through the party's organizational system