Manufacturing's Digital Transformation - New Measures to Support R&D - Wang Meets Taliban - SCO Defense Ministers' Meeting - Xi Thought Series: Expect More Ideological and Political Tests

Here are the stories and pieces that I found noteworthy from the July 29, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily.

Page 1: The series on the Chinese economy today talks about the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry. The piece tells us that this is an important objective. Interesting timing of this given all the tech sector regulatory upheaval.

It tells us that the 14 FYP and 2035 long-term plan envisions the use of the “advantages of massive data” and applications to promote the deep integration of digital technology and the real economy, empower the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries, giving rise to new industries, new business models and new engines of economic development. 十四五”规划和2035年远景目标纲要提出,充分发挥海量数据和丰富应用场景优势,促进数字技术与实体经济深度融合,赋能传统产业转型升级,催生新产业新业态新模式,壮大经济发展新引擎. 

The piece tells us that industrial software products revenue this year was 110.7 billion yuan, a 20% increase year on year. And the total number of industrial equipment connected to the industrial Internet platform exceeded 70 million units. 

Wang Zhiqin, vice president of China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, said that at present, nearly 1,600 5G+ industrial Internet projects have been built nationwide, covering more than 20 important sectors. These include sectors like aviation, steel, mining, and ports, etc. 中国信息通信研究院副院长王志勤介绍说,目前全国建成5G+工业互联网项目接近1600个,覆盖20余个国民经济重要行业,在此基础上,5G+工业互联网正从航空、钢铁、矿业、港口等先导行业向制造业全行业扩展.

Next, we have a commentary on promoting the Long March spirit, keeping in mind what is now a new long march. This quotes Xi as having said that “the spirit of the Great Long March is to regard the fundamental interests of the people of the whole country and the Chinese nation above all else, strengthen the ideals and beliefs of the revolution, and firmly believe in the spirit of the inevitable victory of the just cause...” 伟大长征的精神就是把全国人民和中华民族的根本利益放在第一位,坚定革命的理想信念,坚信正义事业必然胜利的精神...

It adds that the Long March spirit is “an important part of the red gene and spiritual genealogy of the Chinese Communists, has been deeply integrated into the blood and soul of the Chinese nation, becoming a rich nourishment for the core values of socialism and a powerful spiritual motivation” to overcome difficulties. 伟大长征精神,作为中国共产党人红色基因和精神谱系的重要组成部分,已经深深融入中华民族的血脉和灵魂,成为社会主义核心价值观的丰富滋养,成为鼓舞和激励中国人民不断攻坚克难、从胜利走向胜利的强大精神动力.

The aim of the piece is to to tell cadres that they must not be afraid of difficulties and sacrifices; they must believe in the lofty ideals of communism; they must be prepared for struggle in the new era; they must strengthen the four-self confidences; they must keep in mind the overall situation; they must seek truth from facts; they must work to build a military that is commensurate with China’s international status, national security and developmental interests needs.

Third, top topics were reportedly discussed in the weekly State Council meeting. First, improving the management of central fiscal research expenditure to give researchers more say in fund use. Second measures to keep hog production capacity stable to ensure the safe supply of pork and stabilize the prices. This English report provides clarity on what’s being done with regard to research funding.

The measures include:

  • Cutting the nine-plus items subject to budget accounting to three. 

  • The power over budget reassignment regarding equipment costs and others will all be delegated to institutes undertaking research projects. 

  • Surplus funds after a project related to basic research and talent-related programs can be retained by institutes.

  • Funds should be channeled to project undertakers within 30 days upon the signing of project contracts. 

  • After a project is complete, project undertakers may keep the surplus project funding for direct research expenditures.

  • Social insurance subsidies and housing provident funds paid by research institutes for personnel hired in research projects will be included in labor service expenses. Cash rewards for the commercialization of research outcomes will not be limited by the total amount of performance-based salary in the institute concerned.

  • Lead scientists will be given the discretion to decide what to study, how to build teams and how to use funds in line with the priorities and scopes on the country’s agenda.

  • Except for special provisions, research outcomes and intellectual property generated with budgetary funding support will be obtained by new-type R&D institutes in accordance with law.

  • Financial assistants can be hired to ease the burden of researchers so that they can focus on their work.

Next, we have a report on profits of major industrial companies. Xinhua English has a detailed story on the NBS data too.

  • Industrial firms with an annual business turnover of at least 20 million yuan (about 3.09 million U.S. dollars) raked in combined profits of 4.22 trillion yuan during the period, up 66.9 percent year on year. Compared with the 2019 level, profits of major industrial firms rose by 45.5 percent in the first half. 

  • The expansion put the average first-half growth for 2020 and 2021 at 20.6 percent. 

  • In the second quarter, industrial profits rose 36 percent year on year, up 42.5 percent from the 2019 level. 

  • While the business performance of industrial firms improved, uneven recovery remained, with profits of private and small-sized companies growing relatively slower, said senior NBS statistician Zhu Hong.

Finally, Wang Yang spoke at the CPPCC National Committee meeting, underlining to members the importance of studying and implementing Xi’s July 1 speech. PD says that “the members believe that General Secretary Xi Jinping’s important speech succinctly summarized the 100-year success code of the Communist Party of China and issued a great call to march towards the second centenary goal.”

Page 2: Foreign policy-related news is on the page today. First, Li Keqiang sent a congratulatory message to Sher Bahadur Deuba on his assuming office as Nepal’s prime minister. Li mentioned COVID-19 cooperation and BRI. 

Second, a report from the SCO Defense Ministers’ meeting in Dushanbe. Wei Fenghe attended the meeting. He said that “China is committed to maintaining world prosperity and stability, and its development will benefit mankind and the world at large.” He added, “China has never bullied others and will never allow others to bully itself.” Wei said that the country had “entered an irreversible historical process of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” 

“On issues concerning Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet and the South China Sea, China will never compromise or make concessions, Wei stressed, adding that the country has the ambition, backbone and confidence to withstand all external pressure, overcome all risks and challenges, and firmly safeguard its core national interests.”

Xinhua also tells us that “Wei noted that the world is far from peaceful as the once-in-a-century pandemic and profound transformations rarely seen in a century are intertwined. In times of crisis, he said the international community should unite closely and support each other, jointly oppose hegemonism, unilateralism and interventionism, uphold and practice true multilateralism, and jointly shoulder responsibilities, meet challenges and overcome difficulties. As the situation in Afghanistan is undergoing major changes and regional security risks are rising, the SCO member countries need to step up coordination and cooperation to jointly prevent and combat the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and cement regional security barriers.

India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh was also in Dushanbe for the meeting. But there was no bilateral. Xinhua tells us that Wei had bilaterals with counterparts from Pakistan, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

While on the issue of regional security, PD also has a report about Wang Yi meeting the Taliban delegation in Tianjin. The report tells us that Wang met Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of the Afghan Taliban. Xinhua English has the story in detail.

Wang said that the Afghan Taliban, as a critical military and political force in the country, is expected to play an important role in the peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process of Afghanistan. He wants them to put their national interests first and foremost, hold high the banner of peace talks, establish the goal of peace, create a positive image and adopt an inclusive policy. The sudden withdrawal of forces by the United States and NATO from Afghanistan marks the failure of the United States' Afghanistan policy, and Afghan people now face an important opportunity to stabilize and develop their own country, he said. Wang wants the Taliban to work with other forces to independently establish an inclusive political structure in line with Afghanistan's own national conditions. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) poses direct threats to China's national security and territorial integrity. Wang wants the Afghan Taliban to draw a clear line from ETIM and other terrorist groups, and resolutely and effectively crack down on them, so as to remove obstacles and create favorable conditions for regional peace, stability and development.

Xinhua tells us that Baradar said the Afghan Taliban would absolutely not allow any forces to do anything harmful to China in Afghanistan’s territory. He also wants China to be more involved in Afghanistan’s peace and reconstruction process, and play a bigger role in the country's future reconstruction and economic development.

My Take: This is as clear as it gets. Beijing is engaging the Taliban directly. It has offered this public recognition as a major concession to the Taliban, hedging its bets that the Taliban will be the key political force to reckon with in the country. There’s also a clear set of demands that China is giving the Taliban, while it may be saying that it doesn’t want to interfere. And these demands are limited to China’s immediate interests. While Baradar may have spoken about protecting “human rights as well as the rights and interests of women and children,” Beijing’s not going to take coercive actions in this regard. Of course, we’ll see how well all of this plays out for China. For the Taliban, the bargain is clear too. Beijing is an important key source of political stability, funds and international legitimacy.

Next, we have a Zhong Sheng commentary, once again hitting out at the US on the issue of the origin of COVID-19, but interestingly, this is done via criticism of the WHO’s proposed plan for the next stage of origin tracing. 

The piece says that the second-stage traceability work plan proposed by the WHO is “not based on scientific and objective principles and lacks the spirit of cooperation.” Ergo, China cannot accept it.The piece argues that “the next stage of traceability work should be carried out in many countries around the world, especially the United States...” It says that the WHO’s research plan for the second stage specifically talks about the hypothesis that “China’s breach of laboratory protocols caused the virus to leak” as one possibility, “deliberately ignoring important research directions such as early global cases and cold chain transmission of viruses...” This, for the author, is evidence that there has been political interference rather than a scientific approach. The article says that the “work plan lacks transparency and is a product of political manipulation.” 

Finally, a report with Chinese analysts talking up the potential for China-Russia cooperation.

Page 4: Two pieces on the floods in China. One of these is about the measures taken. It tells us that since July 16th, floods in Henan Province have impacted 13.6643 million people in 16 cities and 150 counties. 73 people have been killed, and a total of 1.4708 million people have been urgently resettled. Then the piece basically tells us about the steps that different government departments have taken to deal with the situation.

The other story has a narrative of positivity to it, essentially conveying the message that things have been very difficult but it is the Party cadres that have been on the frontline.

Page 5: We have the 9th instalment in the series on Xi Thought. This one talks first about why it is important to keep the original intention in mind. The answer is that the original aspiration and mission are “the concentrated embodiment of the party's nature, purpose, ideals, beliefs and goals.” There’s talk about representing the people and their interests and then the warning that if the Party loses its original aspiration and mission then it will “change its nature and color, and lose the people and its future.” Keeping the mission and aspiration in mind are akin to inheriting the “red gene” and “carrying forward the revolutionary spirit.” 

The other aspect of the original aspiration and mission is to keep in mind that it informs party building. The Party “is the strong leadership core of the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” And over time, with parties that are in power for a long time, lots of problems can set in, such as “such as impurities in ideology,  impurities in politics,  impurities in organization and  impurities in style.” And these problems in the CCP have yet not all been fundamentally resolved. 在党内存在的思想不纯、政治不纯、组织不纯、作风不纯等突出问题尚未得到根本解决. Therefore, Xi wants cadres at all levels to return to their roots and keep in mind the original mission, the piece tells us. 

It adds that this is also important as the Party moves to achieve the objective of national rejuvenation. China’s situation and the international environment are changing; and the tasks of development and security remain arduous. There are many contradictions and risks, which have brought unprecedented challenges to the Party’s governance. Therefore, it’s all the more important to keep in mind the original aspiration and mission while enhancing the sense of hardship and challenges ahead, always being vigilant and toughening the spirit. 当今世界正经历百年未有之大变局,我国正处于实现中华民族伟大复兴关键时期,我们党正带领人民进行具有许多新的历史特点的伟大斗争,形势环境变化之快、改革发展稳定任务之重、矛盾风险挑战之多、对我们党治国理政考验之大前所未有...我们要增强忧患意识,时刻保持警醒,以初心砥砺前行的精神,以使命鼓舞奋发的斗志,不断夺取伟大斗争新胜利.

A nation that forgets the road it has traveled is a nation that does not have a way forward, and a political party that forgets its original mission and intention is a political party without a future. 一个忘记来路的民族必定是没有出路的民族,一个忘记初心的政党必定是没有未来的政党.

The next chunk talks about why keeping in mind this original intention is not a momentary thing, but rather a lifelong pursuit. 

The author calls on Party members and cadres to “first of all take the study and implementation of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era as the top priority to arm themselves with theory, make great efforts to learn and understand and do practical work, and nourish the original aspiration and lead the mission with the Party’s innovative theory.”党员干部首先要把学习贯彻习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想作为理论武装的重中之重,在学懂弄通做实上下苦功夫,以党的创新理论滋养初心、引领使命. 

The is that keeping in mind the original aspiration is an active and continuous task. This is not a passive thing. This isn’t something that will maintain its “quality and freshness” naturally. If you don't pay attention to it, it will likely get dusty and fade. If you don't nourish it for a long time, it will dry up and wither…consequently, it is easy to lose one’s way if one does not pay attention. Then it says: the reason why those corrupt elements who have been investigated fell into the trap of violating discipline and law is because they have discarded their original intention and mission. 初心不会自然保质保鲜,稍不注意就可能蒙尘褪色,久不滋养就会干涸枯萎,很容易走着走着就忘记了为什么要出发、要到哪里去,很容易走散了、走丢了. 被查处的那些腐败分子,之所以跌入违纪违法的陷阱,从根本上讲就是把初心和使命抛到九霄云外去了.

The piece calls for “regular ideological and political tests.” This is really interesting. Perhaps, there’s a much tougher crackdown in the offing. This part uses some strange analogy of physical medical examinations. It say that cadres should be benchmarked based on the requirements of the CPC Central Committee; scanned using the party constitution and rules; assessed from the prism of new expectations of the people; and contrasted against Party’s forefathers, martyrs, and role models, constantly removing impurities, removing viruses and preventing pollution… 经常进行思想政治体检,同党中央要求“对标”,拿党章党规“扫描”,用人民群众新期待“透视”,同先辈先烈、先进典型“对照”,不断去杂质、除病毒、防污染,始终做到初心如磐、使命在肩。

Also note this:

“Irrespective of where they are and when it is, party members and cadres should always remember that their first identity is that they are a member of the Communist Party; their first duty is to work for the party; the first goal is to work for the benefit of the people; always put the party and the people in the first place.” This is an “eternal” and “lifelong” thing. 初心使命与党员干部一生相随,无论何时何地,党员干部都要始终牢记第一身份是共产党员、第一职责是为党工作、第一目标是为民谋利,始终把党和人民放在首位,在“永恒”和“终身”上下大气力、下足功夫. This is an interesting message; I wonder how this sort of messaging is perceived outside when it comes to Chinese officials occupying key positions in international agencies and institutions?

Page 7: This page carries the second part of the Xiaokang timeline.

Page 13: The lead piece is by Li Guoying, Minister of Water Resources, who writes about the importance of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project. This is not an area of my interest, but do give it a read if this is something that you are studying.

Page 17: The lead piece is about the resurgence of COVID-19 in the US. Of course, this is covered, but PD has done nothing to cover the outbreak in Nanjing.