Optimising Business Environment - Bribery Crackdown - Warning Gaming & Streaming Cos - Xi Thought: Fengqiao Experience - Yangtze River Sand Mining Crackdown - Afghanistan Neighbours Meeting

Here are the stories and pieces from the September 9, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: We have two Xi Jinping-related stories on the front page today. First, we learn that Xi will be attending the BRICS summit today; second, we have a new textbook on Xi Thought on rule of law that’s been published. 

Next, we have a report based on the State Council’s weekly meeting. The Xinhua English story covers the key points reported in PD. So it was decided to “roll out pilot programs on the business environment in several selected cities in support of local reform effort in better benefitting firms and individuals.” 

The selected cities are Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. “The goal,” the report says “is to better meet the needs of market entities and the public and align with advanced international standards, by deepening the reform of government functions.”

There six broad points that are outlined in the report:

  • First, greater efforts to break regional compartmentalization and local protectionism. The aim is “the development of a unified, open, and orderly competitive market system” by removing “unreasonable restrictions” on enterprises’ operating across regions.

  • Second, making market entry and exit more convenient. This refers to reducing and streamlining licenses and permits and putting things online. Procedures for opening bank accounts will be simplified and the time needed cut. Annual reports for market regulation, social security and tax will be integrated into one.

  • Third, enhancing the convenience of investment and construction. “package assessment covering geological disasters and soil and water conservation before approving land use as part of their fulfilling due responsibilities. Enterprises may start construction right away once obtaining the land-use permit, without the need for duplicate assessments.” They also promise integrated online processing for water, electricity, gas and heating, etc.

  • Fourth, more digitisation of trade-related documents and streamlined business registration procedures for HK and Macao investors.

  • Fifth, “in areas concerning people's life and health such as food, medicine, vaccine and safety, a punitive compensation system will be implemented. Long-term mechanisms against arbitrary charge, fine and apportion will be established. Intermediary monopoly and compulsory services will be rectified, and differential treatment of enterprises in the acquisition of qualifications, tendering and bidding, protection of rights and other areas overhauled, to ensure fair competition.”

  • Sixth, data sharing between departments and localities will be expanded, and a compensation and relief mechanism for any damage to “the lawful rights and interests of enterprises” due to policy change and planning adjustment will be established. This is such a broad statement. I wonder what this will entail.

Next, we have a report (English report) about Wang Yang meeting with President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee Do Van Chien. The story really doesn’t tell us anything.

Then, we have a report about a document jointly by the CCDI, the National Supervision Commission, the Communist Party’s Organisation Department, the United Front Work Department, the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, providing a guideline on intensifying probes into offering and taking bribes. - Useful reports on this from SCMP, Global Times, and Xinhua English.

We are told that it is important to “grasp the political harm of bribery, take multiple measures to improve the precision and effectiveness of combating bribery, and promote the realization of addressing both the symptoms and root causes of corruption.” The document promises “zero tolerance.”  

It specifies that “the investigation will focus on those committing multiple bribery, huge bribery or bribery to many people; party members and state employees offering bribes; bribery in key areas and fields; and major commercial bribery.” Xinhua’s report adds that the “focus should also be put on bribe-offering involving CPC members or state employees, major projects, food and medicine, among others.” 

Some of the other key areas for bribery mentioned are “organization and personnel, discipline enforcement and justice, ecological and environmental protection, finance, production safety, food and drug, disaster relief, pension and social security, education and medical care…”

In addition, the document says that:

“[We] must be conscientiously aware that a major reason corruption has continued to happen is because bribers have resorted to whatever means to ‘entrap’ our party members and cadres.” In addition, the document calls to “carry out research on market access and qualification restrictions for those found to be offering bribes, and explore the implementation of a ‘blacklist’ for them.” This blacklist mechanism will require coordination among different agencies, of course. 

Moving on, we have a report about the expansion of high-tech manufacturing in Tianjin. The piece tells us that: “From January to July, Tianjin’s manufacturing industry expanded by 17.8% year-on-year. In particular, investment in high-tech manufacturing expanded by 45.9% year-on-year. In terms of industries above designated size, the expansion of the high-tech manufacturing industry increased by 19.9% year-on-year.”

Finally, we have a commentary on the spirit of fighting SARS

Page 2: We have some data from the Ministry of Finance, which tells us that in 2020, the national government procurement scale was nearly 3.7 trillion yuan. This was up by 390.36 billion yuan year on year, an increase of 11.8%. This accounted for 10.2% of national fiscal expenditure and 3.6% of GDP. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises signed contracts worth 2.8 trillion yuan in government purchase last year, accounting for 75.5 percent of the total purchase value, the data showed. Also, government procurement by central and local budget units totaled 285.30 billion yuan and 3.4 trillion yuan, respectively, accounting for 7.7 percent and 92.3 percent of the national total.

Page 3: The big report on the page is about Wang Yi meeting with foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries (English report). The meeting was chaired by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Others who attended were foreign ministers from  Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Deputy FM of Turkmenistan. 

Wang said that Afghanistan “is still facing severe challenges, such as humanitarian issues, people’s livelihoods and the COVID-19 pandemic. Some international forces may also use political, economic and financial means to create new troubles for Afghanistan.” He wants the neighbours to “guide and urge the Afghan Taliban to unite with all ethnic groups and factions, build a broad and inclusive political structure, pursue moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, draw a clear line with terrorist forces, and establish and develop friendly relations with other countries, especially neighboring countries.”

While welcoming Taliban’s “positive statements,” Wang said, “the key is to transform them into concrete action.”

Wang also took shots at the US. 

“The common view of the international community is that the end of military intervention by the United States and its allies should be the beginning of them assuming their responsibilities...They are more obligated than any other country to provide economic, livelihood and humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, and help Afghanistan maintain stability, prevent chaos and move toward sound development on the premise of respecting the sovereignty and independence of Afghanistan.”

Specifically, Wang spoke about six aspects for coordination and cooperation at the current stage:

  • COVID-19 control in Afghanistan

  • keeping port gates open

  • strengthening management of refugees and emigrants

  • providing humanitarian assistance

  • deepening anti-terrorism cooperation 

  • carrying out anti-drug cooperation. 

He announced China’s 200 million yuan ($30.96 million) worth of grain, winter supplies, vaccines and medicines to Afghanistan, and a donation of 3 million vaccine doses. He added that China is also ready to provide more anti-epidemic and emergency materials to Afghanistan under the China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve.

Xinhua also says that the participants “agreed to institutionalize the meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan's neighboring countries.”

Although it’s not in PD, the Chinese Foreign Ministry was asked about the new interim Taliban government in Afghanistan. Here’s what Wang Wenbin said: 

China attaches importance to the Afghan Taliban’s announcement of the formation of an interim government and some key roles. This has put an end to the anarchy in Afghanistan that lasted for over three weeks, and is a necessary step for Afghanistan to restore domestic order and pursue post-war reconstruction. We noticed that the Afghan Taliban said that the interim government is formed to restore social and economic order as soon as possible. China’s position on the Afghan issue is consistent and clear. We always respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, adhere to non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, and support the Afghan people in independently choosing a development path suited to the country’s conditions. We hope Afghanistan will establish a broadly based and inclusive political structure, follow moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, resolutely combat all types of terrorist forces, and live on friendly terms with other countries, especially its neighbors.

Another question that was asked was this by PTI:

On the Taliban's formation of the interim government, the criticism is that it is not an inclusive government. ‘An open and inclusive government’ is what China has been asking for. So will China be recognizing this government? 

The response was:

The Chinese Embassy in Afghanistan is operating normally. We stand ready to maintain communication with the new Afghan government and leaders. We hope the new Afghan administration in the capacity of interim government will broadly solicit the opinions of all ethnic groups and factions, and live up to the expectation of the Afghan people and aspiration of the international community. We noted that the Afghan Taliban stressed that all people will benefit from the new administration.

Also note on Afghanistan that Antony Blinken had a Ministerial meeting with Allies and Partners on Afghanistan. No Russia, China and Iran in this list. But India and Pakistan did feature. Here’s the good Evan Feigenbaum’s take on this:

Moving on, a report about the International Liaison Department taking envoys from Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, East Timor, Bangladesh, Maldives, Philippines, Cambodia, Pakistan, and other countries to visit Guilin in Guangxi to travel to a poverty alleviation demonstration village. 

Next, MoFA’s comments defending the recent regulatory upheaval with regard to the tech, education and other sectors. Wang Wenbin said that the government’s policies “will fundamentally promote fair, orderly and sustainable growth and development of the Chinese economy, and will be good for the world economy in the long run. Chinese and foreign investors, business operators and consumers will eventually benefit from it.”

Finally, there was an event (English report) held to mark the 50th anniversary of Beijing’s assumption of China’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Wang said that the world is at a “crossroads.” He then made some points:

  • First, defend multilateralism and maintain world peace and stability. In this, he added that countries must oppose using multilateralism as a pretext to impose rules by a few countries on the whole international community.

  • Pandemic cooperation and “honoring the spirit of science.” 

  • Third, prioritize development and promote common prosperity, i.e., “countries should provide support to developing countries in terms of financing, technology and capacity building, and foster global development partnerships that are more equal and balanced.”

  • Fourth, adhere to openness and inclusiveness...all parties need to safeguard the multilateral trading system with the WTO as its cornerstone and ensure the stable and smooth operation of global industrial and supply chains.

  • Fifth, improve climate governance.

SCMP’s report on this tells us that Wang said that BRI now covers 141 countries and 32 international organisations.

Page 4: One report on the page to note. This tells us that several major gaming companies, game account rental platforms and video game live streaming platforms were summoned for a meeting held by the Propaganda Department and the National Press and Publication Administration. Officials from the Cyberspace Administration of China and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism also attended.

The PD report says that all these enterprises “should improve their political standing, strengthen their sense of responsibility, deeply understand the importance and urgency of strict management and prevention of addiction among minors, resolutely implement relevant requirements, and effectively protect the physical and mental health of minors.” 各网络游戏企业、游戏账号租售平台、游戏直播平台要提高政治站位、强化责任担当,深刻认识严格管理、防止未成年人沉迷网络游戏的重要性紧迫性,坚决将有关要求落到实处,切实保护未成年人身心健康.

SCMP has a detailed report on the statement, which PD is carrying. In addition, the meeting called on all gaming companies “to strictly enforce the orders of the notice and thoroughly implement the play-time restrictions on minors when they are providing online games to them, and must not provide any online game account rental and transaction services to minors in any shape or form.”

The report also tells us that games with a “wrong set of values.” This covers pornographic and obscene content, blood and gore, money worship, “sissy” 娘炮 (niáng pào) content and “gay love” 耽美 (dānměi). The report also talks about curbing monopolies, restricting “traffic” motive efforts, and strict regulation and restrictions on celebrities endorsing games. The authorities also promise “special inspections” and have warned that they will “seriously deal with violations.”

Page 5: We have the 39th piece in the Xi Thought Q&A series. The first question is about strengthening and innovating social governance. The answer begins by telling us about the Fengqiao Experience of the 1960s. It says that this refers to the experiment in Fengqiao Township, which is part of Zhuji in Zhejiang, to “rely on the masses to resolve contradictions on the spot.” Mao had then seen this as an example worth emulating. The piece tells us that Xi Jinping views this experience as the “金字招牌” - gold standard I guess - of grassroots social governance. To him, it provides an important model, the piece says. With this said, it’s important to reiterate what Fengqiao Experience entailed and implies under Xi:

Here’s an excerpt from China Media Project’s detailed piece on this:

“In understanding the so-called ‘Fengqiao experience’, there are two key points of background that must first be understood. The first is that in 1962, during the Tenth Plenary Session of the 8th CCP Central Committee, Mao Zedong again raised the prospect of ‘class struggle’ (阶级斗争). It was at that meeting, in fact, that Xi Zhongxun (习仲勋), the father of General Secretary Xi Jinping, was purged after being falsely charged with leading an anti-Party clique. The second point is that it was in 1963 that Mao Zedong launched his Socialist Education Movement (社会主义教育运动), also known as the Four Cleanups Movement (四清运动). This was essentially a ploy to root out elements within the Party that Mao regarded as ‘reactionary’....Until recently, no top Chinese leader since Mao Zedong had ever been quoted publicly in the People’s Daily or other state media making remarks on the “Fengqiao experience.” Not Deng Xiaoping. Not Jiang Zemin. Not Hu Jintao. But in 2013, marking the 50th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s written instructions, Xi Jinping broke this pattern by issuing “important instructions on the development of the ‘Fengqiao experience’.

Ever since the 2013 anniversary, China’s Party-state media have emphasized that ‘the vitality of the Fengqiao experience lies in its following of the mass line’. The concept was only ever about class struggle, and never about, as Party-state media have reported, ‘employing legal thinking and legal methods to resolve problems and tensions concerning the vital interests of the masses.’ And Mao Zedong’s mass line was always about organizing the masses to control evildoers, about the exercise of a “dictatorship of the masses” (群众专政). These ideas are poles apart from modern ideas of rule of law. So why is Xi so interested in renewing them and showcasing them? Why is there talk of a ‘Fengqiao experience for the New Era’ (新时代”枫桥经验”)?...Much of the CCP’s language about public security and social management in the Xi era now emphasizes the ‘mass line,’ propagating the idea, essentially, that the masses, or the public, must be involved in the process of being governed by the Party. This is not about involving the public in governance, an idea that is anathema to a ruling Party that spurns a robust civil society or more independent media. Rather, it is about mobilizing the public – including through new digital tools – in order to better achieve the Party’s governance objectives, including public security.”

Anyway, back to the piece in PD. The next paragraph says that after food and clothing what people need the most is peace, and the Party’s effort under Xi has been to “reduce the problems affecting social harmony and stability at the source, thereby increasing the sense of security and satisfaction of the broad masses of the people.” Some of the efforts highlighted are the “fight against black and evil,” the anti-corruption crackdown targeting “tigers and flies,” and the targeting of “protection umbrellas.” The piece also tells us that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, grassroots governance has undergone a centralised review.

The piece says that social governance is an important part of national governance and the party’s approach has moved from social management to social governance. The piece quotes Xi as having said that “contradictions among the people should be handled through the rule of law, democracy and consultation.” In addition, the piece says: “In a socialist system, the people are the masters of the country, and problems at the community level (i.e., grassroots contradictions) must be solved through democracy at the community level (i.e., grassroots democracy).” In this context, the piece talks about “paying more attention to social collaborative governance.” -- Refer back to CMP’s explanation above at this point.

The next bit tells us that “safeguarding rights is the foundation of maintaining stability. As for safeguarding stability, we must first address the reasonable and legitimate interests of the people. Maintaining stability without addressing the issue of interests would put the cart before the horse, and it would be difficult to achieve stability in the end.” In order to do all this, it is important to innovate the mechanism for organising and mobilising the masses. It is important that people feel that their interests and rights have been safeguarded with fairness. And in this context, Xi believes that the Fengqiao Experience is useful, the piece informs.

The piece informs that:

“The COVID-19 prevention and control experience has demonstrated the important role of rule of law and science and technology in social governance at the grassroots level. We need to make social governance more socialized, law-based, intelligent, and professional. We need to make full use of advanced technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence, foster law-based thinking, and give play to the rule of virtue. We need to enhance the predictability, accuracy and efficiency of grassroots social governance.” 这次新冠肺炎疫情防控,更让我们看到法治、科技等手段在基层社会治理中的重要作用。要着力提高社会治理社会化、法治化、智能化、专业化水平,充分运用大数据、人工智能等先进技术,树立法治思维、发挥德治作用,切实增强基层社会治理的预见性、精准性、高效性.

The next question is about the importance of environmental protection. So this taps into Chinese history and tradition to make the point that “ecological prosperity leads to prosperity of civilization; ecological decline leads to the decline of civilization.” 生态兴则文明兴,生态衰则文明衰. “The decline of ancient Egypt and Babylon were directly related to the decline of the ecological environment, especially the serious issue of desertification.” 古代埃及、古代巴比伦的衰落与生态环境衰退特别是严重的土地荒漠化直接相关.

The piece says that the industrial revolution not only expanded people’s material wealth but also led to “accelerated the grabbing of natural resources,” damaging the balance that existed in the earth’s ecosystem and causing tensions in the relationship between man and nature. “Since the 1930s, some Western countries have experienced the ‘eight major environmental pollution incidents’...these shocked the world, triggering profound reflection about the capitalist development model.” 人类进入工业文明时代以来,传统工业化迅猛发展,在创造巨大物质财富的同时也加速了对自然资源的攫取,打破了地球生态系统原有的循环和平衡,造成人与自然关系紧张。从20世纪30年代开始,一些西方国家相继发生了“八大环境公害事件”,很多人患病、死亡,损失巨大,震惊世界,引发了人们对资本主义发展模式的深刻反思. 

What’s, therefore, needed is to respect, adapt to and protect nature. We are then told that “China's ecological civilization construction is in a critical period.” It is important to follow Xi Thought in this regard. This entails adhering to the basic state policy of resource conservation and environmental protection, adhering to the policy of giving priority to saving, protecting and restoring nature, firmly following the path of civilized development of production and forming a modern development pattern of harmonious coexistence of man and nature.

Other Stories:

  • In January, the Ministry of Public Security organized a one-year special operation against illegal sand mining in the Yangtze River. “Up to now, 251 criminal cases involving sand mining have been detected, 914 suspects have been arrested, 88 criminal gangs have been busted, and 275 ships carrying sand illegally have been seized, involving a total amount of 123 million yuan...​​the entire chain of illegal sand mining, transportation and trafficking has been effectively cut off, and illegal sand mining activities in the Yangtze River have been curbed.”