Li Promises Fiscal Support, PD's Rectification Report, Historical Narrative, Yunnan's Security Perspective

Here are the stories and pieces from the April 22, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: Let’s begin with a commentary that draws on Xi Jinping’s speech at the Bo’ao Forum. Xi, of course, had mentioned BRI, and this commentary talks about BRI as China’s plan “for promoting the development and prosperity of Asia and the world.” There are some useful details to note.

“Since President Xi Jinping put forward this major initiative in 2013, China has signed 205 co-construction cooperation agreements with 171 countries and international organizations, and jointly launched more than 2,000 projects, promoting the co-construction of the BRI to advance along the direction of high-quality development.”

The piece then talks about health cooperation, green development cooperation and picks up on Xi’s comments about hard and soft connectivity. These include commitments to work on new investment channels, e-commerce, green infrastructure, green energy, and green finance. There is specific emphasis on poverty reduction, a thread that Xi had initiated in his speech.

Next, the State Council’s weekly meeting ended with a decision to continue  implementing the direct allocation of fiscal funds on a regular basis in order to amplify the role of public money in benefiting businesses and the public. The English report has more details. Last year, the central government directly channeled 1.7 trillion yuan of much-needed fiscal funds to prefecture and county-level governments, to support their tax and fee cuts. 

The report further informs that this allocation will now be expanded and the central government’s subsidies for public well-being will all be included in the mechanism. 

  • The total amount of funds under the mechanism will reach 2.8 trillion yuan. 

  • So far, the central government has directly transferred a total of 2.6 trillion yuan to local governments.

  • Of this more than 2.2 trillion yuan has been allocated to the fund users.

The report adds that the funds should be used for: 

  • offsetting the impact of phasing out some provisional support policies

  • support employment, people’s basic needs and market entities

  • help ensure salary payment and normal functioning of primary-level governments

And there’s a warning:

  • Stringent oversight will be enforced over the directly-funneled funds.

  • Local authorities and officials in charge will be admonished. 

  • Any irregularity such as fraudulent claims, withholding funds or diverting funds for non-designated purposes, will be seriously dealt with. 

Third, a short report (English version) telling us that China’s fiscal revenue surged 24.2% to 5.71 trillion yuan (about 878.07 billion U.S. dollars) in Q1 this year. More importantly, the figure represents a 6.4-percent increase from 2019. Meanwhile, fiscal spending went up 6.2 percent year on year to 5.87 trillion yuan. Xinhua says that spending in science and technology, education, and debt interest payments saw substantial increases.

Finally, as part of diplomacy between legislatures, Li Zhanshu exchanged views with Hanafy Ali El Gebali, speaker of Egypt’s House of Representatives. Li’s agenda was that the two sides should:

  • maintain momentum of high-level exchanges and strengthen counterpart exchanges between special committees and friendly groups

  • promote youth exchanges and cultivate a new generation of friendly forces between the two countries; 

  • ensure timely approval, revision and promulgation of legal documents conducive to the development of bilateral relations to provide legal support for pragmatic cooperation in various fields; 

  • promote the exchange of experience in governing the country according to law and developing the economy, and 

  • closely coordinate and cooperate in multilateral occasions and affairs.

Page 2: First, China’s domestic vaccination drive has hit the 200 million doses mark. Officials said that five domestically-produced vaccines have been approved for usage. A couple of other vaccine related stories that are not in PD, but worth noting. First, China’s CanSino Biologics says that it will start clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine administered through inhalation next week. This is being developed along with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology. Second, Reuters reports that the Chinese embassy in the US has started to accept vaccination records from people seeking to enter China who have been inoculated in the United States with COVID-19 shots made by US drug makers. Third, WSJ reports that Chinese officials have been scrutinizing clinical-trial data for the coronavirus vaccine made by Germany’s BioNTech SE and are expected to green light domestic distribution of the shot within the next 10 weeks.

Moving on, a report (more detailed account here) following Guo Shengkun’s visit to Guizhou to investigate the promotion of party history learning and education efforts across the political and legal system. The report says that Guo traveled to the site of the Zunyi Conference for this. In addition, he visited the “Zunyi City Intermediate People’s Court, Bijie City People’s Procuratorate, Qianxi City Judicial Bureau, Guiyang City Public Security Bureau Yunyan Branch and other grassroots political and legal units to conduct field investigations and presided over the convening of some Provincial and district municipal law team education and rectification work symposium.”

Some of the key points that he made:

  • “By reviewing the history of the party, we have a deeper understanding that the core of leadership of a country and a party is very important.”

  • ‘It is necessary to carry out in-depth study and education of party history and education and rectification of political and legal teams, so that the majority of political and legal police officers can draw strength from the great course of the Party, constantly improve their political judgment, political understanding and political execution, and enhance their ideological, political and action consciousness of strengthening four consciousnesses, strengthening four self-confidences and achieving the two maintenance.

  • These campaigns are necessary according to Guo to address the “outstanding problems of political ecology, stubborn chronic diseases and urgent worries of the masses, so as to achieve tangible practical, institutional and theoretical results in education rectification.”

  • He wants conflicts and disputes to be resolved at the grassroots level, adhering to and drawing from the “Maple Bridge Experience.”

  • “It is necessary to firmly establish ideological preparations for a long-term struggle with the underworld and evil forces...”

The report says that in Huawu Village, Xinren Township, Qianxi City, Guo mingled with the masses talking about poverty alleviation. It adds that “the local people are grateful for General Secretary Xi Jinping and for the good policies of the party. Guo Shengkun encouraged everyone to turn gratitude into motivation and continue to work hard to build a better village.”

Finally this: “Guo Shengkun emphasized that 2021 is the ‘implementation year’ for comprehensively governing the country according to law. All work should be planned and promoted around the main line of studying, propagating and implementing Xi Jinping's thought of rule of law and the spirit of the central conference on comprehensively governing the country according to law.”

Page 3: A report with attendees at the Bo’ao Forum praising Xi’s speech. Second, a short report about Wang Yi speaking to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Wang said that China and Germany should “follow the important principle and valuable experience of mutual respect, stick to the theme of dialogue and cooperation, and release positive signals of openness, cooperation, mutual benefit and win-win results. The two sides should jointly reject the setback of the so-called ‘decouple’ and be defenders of multilateralism and contributors to global development.” Ahead of the talks, Reuters quoted Mass saying the following:

“In the EU, we have been describing China as a partner, competitor and systemic rival at the same time. In all these three dimensions we need strong, sustainable communication channels with Beijing. De-coupling is the wrong way to go.”

Page 4: More reports about the fifth round inspection and rectification underway involving 35 central and state organs and party organisations. New reports for different entities have been published yesterday (accessible here). PD carries a brief report about its own rectification effort. The detailed report on PD’s rectification is here. The process covered six areas. But here’s a glimpse into what they did:

“On October 22, 2020, a special democratic life meeting was held for inspection and rectification. Members of the editorial committee earnestly carried out criticism and self-criticism. They not only recognized the problems, analyzed the roots of their ideas, but also clarified their responsibilities and proposed rectification measures to ensure that the inspection and rectification tasks were fully implemented.”

“Adhere to conveying and studying General Secretary Xi Jinping's important speeches, the spirit of important instructions and the decision-making arrangements of the CPC Central Committee as the first topic of the editorial board meeting...earnestly implement the spirit of General Secretary's important speeches and important instructions into work and actions.”

There are then details of how many articles of what kind were published to publicize and emphasise Xi Jinping’s thought in different domains. For instance:

“During the period of epidemic prevention and control, 106 commentators' articles including ‘Strengthening Confidence and Resolutely Winning the Fight against Epidemic Prevention and Control’ were published continuously…” Some specific types of pieces are highlighted, i.e., “The General Secretary has been to our home,” “The General Secretary encourages me to fight on the front line-listening to the story of poverty alleviation by the first secretary,” and “The 13th Five-Year Plan, these things the general secretary cares about...” 

There are also other details about pieces published during the last year. “During the period of epidemic prevention and control, timely reports on China's cooperation with the international community to fight the epidemic, and the People's Daily alone published more than 1,000 relevant reports, fully demonstrating China's responsibility as a major country.”

There’s a lot more in the report, but let’s get to the future direction bit. Going ahead, PD commits to:

  • “consistently report on General Secretary Xi Jinping and publicize and interpret Xi Jinping’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era…”

  • “consistently implement the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important instructions for the work of the People’s Daily and the Party Central Committee’s decision-making and deployment, continuously enhance the four consciousnesses, strengthen the four self-confidences, and achieve the two maintenance, and further improve political judgment, political comprehension, and political execution...”

  • “consistently adhere to the principle of politicians running newspapers and party spirit...adhere to the correct political direction, public opinion orientation and value orientation...”

  • implement the party’s organisational line

  • use the rectification results to ensure effective supervision going ahead and pursue improvement of innovative propaganda and reporting

Page 9: A piece on party history by the Beijing Xi Jinping Research Center for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. The author talks about the Party’s two primary goals in the early days being the “liberation” of China and then development and modernisation. He quotes Mao’s comments at the 1954 NPC on modernisation. There;s also a 1964 quote from Zhou Enlai on this. What’s fascinating is that everything ideological that took place at this time and the policy failures of this modernisation driver are not covered at all. The narrative that’s built is that modernisation of agriculture, industry, defense and science and technology were the driving goals even in these early years, and there was steady progress in this direction.

All of this neatly transitions to the Fifth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Party, where Deng Xiaoping is quoted: “The political line of our party at this stage, in a nutshell, is to single-mindedly carry out the four modernizations.”

The piece then talks about phased development with targets shifting over time. So for instance, the author says that, in the 1980 shiftings the party proposed a ‘three-step’ strategy for economic construction and development. This entailed: solving food and clothing problems, improving standards, and achieving basic modernisation and relative prosperity for people. After the 15th Party Congress, this was reviewed to look at increasing prosperity through the first decade of the 21st century and building a relatively complete socialist market economic system.

The timeline then comes toward the 18th Party Congress; since then, “the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has united and led the entire party and the people of all ethnic groups across the country, undertaking great struggles, great projects, great undertakings, and great dreams, and making strategic arrangements for the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.”

The piece talks about “The Third Plenary Session of the Eighteenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China put forward the general goal of comprehensively deepening the reform, that is, perfecting and developing the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and promoting the modernization of the national governance system and governance capacity. This is a great theoretical innovation of our party.” 

The author also highlights the two-stage goal of socialist modernisation, i.e., from 2020 to 2035, “basically realize socialist modernization”; from 2035 to the middle of this century, “build a prosperous, democratic, civilized, harmonious and beautiful society.” He also highlights Xi’s comments from the 5th Plenary of the 19th Central Committee about taking “advantage of the momentum to embark on a new journey of building a socialist modern country in an all-round way and move towards the second centenary” in order to achieve socialist modernisation.

Next, a piece by Zhang Jucheng from Yunnan University. Zhang writes that: 

“To study the party history, we should adhere to the two resolutions of our party on historical issues and the relevant spirit of the CPC Central Committee, and establish a comprehensive, historical and dialectical position and method. It is necessary to treat the party history as a system as a whole and also as a dynamic process; it is necessary to grasp the objective inevitability of the development of party history and the subjective initiative of the party and the people in the historical process. Historical phenomena, events and figures should be viewed, analyzed and evaluated in a realistic way, neither avoiding mistakes and twists and turns because of achievements, nor denying achievements because of mistakes and twists and turns in exploration. Deeply understand history and the inevitability of people's choice of Marxism, the Communist Party of China, the socialist road and reform and opening up, and further enhance their historical consciousness and mission to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

This paragraph is something to behold. Zhang’s left me confused whether he is criticising historical whitewashing or saying that it is inevitable; or perhaps, he is saying both. Anyway, I guess he addresses part of this confusion towards the end where he talks about historical nihilism.

He writes: “We should have a deep understanding of the causes, manifestations and harmful effects of some vague and one-sided understandings, consciously use historical materialism to analyze and criticize them, improve political acumen and discrimination, keep awake and determined in the face of major rights and wrongs, constantly enhance the self-consciousness and self-confidence of unswervingly following the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics under the leadership of the Party, and strive to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

Page 11: A couple of reports from the page that are useful to note. First, Yunnan Party Secretary Ruan Chengfa has a long piece on the page. He writes about the overall national security concept encompassing political security, economic security, national interests and people’s security. This, of course, also covers sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

He then talks about how Yunnan is an “important gateway and strategic channel” to the southwest of China, and the work that the provincial committee has done in this regard. He writes that:

  • “We will comprehensively strengthen anti-infiltration, anti-subversion, anti-terrorism, and anti-separatism struggles, strictly prevent and accurately combat infiltration and sabotage activities by foreign hostile forces, and resolutely safeguard regime security and institutional security.” He also emphasises ideological and political education and warning work.

  • Next he talks about pandemic containment work under the broad framework of people’s security.

  • In economic security, he talks about the six stabilities and six ensures, financial threats like the hidden debt risks of local governments and non-performing loans, ecological security, and digital development.

  • He then talks about social and cultural safety. He writes that “guided by the construction of ‘Safe Yunnan’, we will resolutely maintain social security, explore new ways for safe construction in frontier ethnic regions in the new era, consolidate and deepen the achievements of the special struggle of ‘sweeping criminals and evils,’” pursue modernisation of urban governance, and promote the practice of ‘Fengqiao Experience.’

  • Finally, he talks about BRI within the context of international security.

Next a report on the quarter’s discipline inspection work. “In the first quarter of 2021, the national discipline inspection and supervision organs received 837,000 letters and visits, filed 135,000 cases, and punished 116,000 people, including 5 provincial-level cadres and 715 department-level cadres.”

Third, a report about Liu Baohua, a former deputy head of the National Energy Administration being expelled from the Communist Party and removed from public office for alleged corruption and bribery, the country’s top anti-graft watchdog said Wednesday. He was placed under investigation in October. The PD report says that Liu “lost his ideals and beliefs, abandoned his original mission, and resisted the organization's review. He ignored the spirit of the eight regulations of the central government, accepted gifts...failed to truthfully report personal matters, illegally intervened in market economic activities, and collected money” and used his position to seek benefits receiving “huge amounts of property.”

Page 17: A primary report is about negotiations on the Iranian nuclear issue. It broadly argues that “the parties are still negotiating, and the differences between the parties on the restoration of full compliance are narrowing.” Wang Qun, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations in Vienna, is attending the meeting. He is quoted as saying that negotiations in the last few days have been beneficial, and the current negotiations have entered a new stage.

Next, there is a report calling on Japan to withdraw its decision on discharging the Fukushima wastewater in the ocean. Finally a report on the verdict in the George Floyd case in the US. The piece says that less than half an hour before the verdict convicting Derek Chauvin, the police shot and killed an African-American girl in Columbus, Ohio. The argument is that, as Biden said, racism is a “stain on the soul” of the United States, and despite this verdict, this stain isn’t going to be washed away anytime soon.