Origin-Tracing Propaganda - Taiwan Arms Sales - Reform and Opening Up - Pandemic Containment - Vaccine Diplomacy - H1 Economic Situation - Preparing for Struggles

Here are the stories and pieces from the August 6, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: Two noteworthy pieces on the front page today. First, Xi Jinping’s written message (English report) to the first meeting of the international forum on COVID-19 vaccine cooperation. Xi promised to provide 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world throughout this year and offer $100 million to COVAX. The money will primarily be spent towards the distribution of vaccines to developing countries, he said.

Second, we have the next in the series of commentaries that began yesterday on the US, Covid and geopolitics. Again there’s really nothing new in this in terms of the arguments or talking points. 

This one basically says that while COVID-19 cases are rebounding in the US, American politicians are only interested in blaming others, shifting the blame, political manipulation and stigmatisation. The piece talks about US media outlets like The Palm Beach Post and the Miami Herald reporting that on May 4, 2020, the Department of Health website’s had removed data showing that 171 patients had coronavirus symptoms or positive test results in January and February 2020. The data was later restored. This is not a new talking point for Beijing. You can see it here in a recent MoFA’s press briefing

This is followed by criticism of the US’ approach to the WHO and multilateralism and its policies with regard to origins tracing. We then get some talk about how the US has not been open about the origins issue. There’s talk of a Vanity Fair piece from June, which apparently said that US government officials had warned internally not to investigate the origin of the novel coronavirus, fearing that it would “open a can of worms.” There’s also this bit about the Fort Detrick biological lab being temporarily closed in July 2019, at a time when there was an outbreak of the e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung illness in Wisconsin. And then the piece says why can the WHO not investigate Fort Detrick, if it can go to China for a probe? The piece ends with this:

“We advise American politicians to find their conscience and rationality as soon as possible and stop blaming others as soon as possible. After all, hegemonic thinking cannot stop the virus, and logic of power cannot control the epidemic.” 我们建议美国政客尽快找回自己的良知和理性,尽快停止指责他人。毕竟霸权思维阻挡不了病毒,权力逻辑控制不了疫情.

Page 2: Just one piece that I found noteworthy. This was from the press briefing around the COVID-19 outbreak in China. NHC’s Mi Feng and He Qinghua are quoted, along with other officials. Xinhua English also has a detailed report on this.

We learn that 15 provincial-level regions out of 31 in the mainland have reported cases. He said that “As long as local authorities strictly implement various prevention and control measures, I think the epidemic will be largely under control within two to three incubation periods.” He also backed the vaccines showing good preventive and protective effects against the new COVID variant. Mi Feng said that the State Council inter-agency task force for COVID-19 response has sent 20 working groups to key port cities across the country to aid anti-virus efforts.

Lin Wei, Director of the Department of Health and Quarantine of the General Administration of Customs, spoke about the steps being taken at ports to monitor the prevalence of infection. Yu Changguo from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said that the ministry has urged all travel agencies and online platforms to avoid high and medium-risk areas in their offers, pay close attention to the COVID-19 situation in tourist destinations, and adjust or cancel ongoing tours accordingly. 

As of Wednesday, 1,152 tourist attractions with A ratings, the country's highest rating for scenic spots, had been temporarily closed to visitors as requested...Tourist spots and cultural venues were also asked to fully implement epidemic-prevention measures, including limiting tourist numbers, adopting staggered visiting hours, taking visitors' temperature before allowing them in, and sterilizing public facilities regularly.

Page 3: There are two Zhong Sheng commentaries on the page. The first is about the US and COVID and the other one’s about US arms sales to Taiwan. 

So the one COVID basically talks about the origins tracing issue. It says that the Chinese proposal on this is based on the work done by scientists, who had concluded that a lab-leak was “extremely unlikely”, and this is the ideal pathway forward. On the other hand, the US proposal for the next stage of the WHO’s investigation is based on political calculations rather than scientific ones. This is being put forward because:

  • US has failed to contain the pandemic

  • US seeks hegemony

  • US’ own political self-interest

  • US lies and misinformation

  • Diverting attention from Fort Detrick

The piece also says that 70 countries have written to the WHO supporting the Chinese perspective.

Next, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced on August 4 that the US State Department had approved the sale of 40 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer artillery systems to Taiwan in a deal valued at $750 million. This led to a response (English report) from the Chinese foreign ministry. It said that Beijing had “lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side” and warned of “legitimate and necessary counter-measures.”

The ministry said that the US was interfering in China's internal affairs and undermining China's sovereignty and security interests. It added that the “move runs counter to international law and the basic principles of international relations, and violates the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-U.S. joint communiques, particularly the August 17 Communique.”

PD also carried a statement from the Taiwan Affairs Office, which also talked about the move violating the one-China principle. Then we had the Zhong Sheng commentary. It says that the Taiwan issue is the “most important and sensitive issue in Sino-US relations. The one-China principle is the political foundation and fundamental prerequisite of Sino-US relations.” It says that the decision to sell arms sends the wrong signals to the “separatist forces” that seek “Taiwan’s independence.” It “aggravates the tension and complexity” across the Taiwan Strait and creates more uncertainty in Sino-US ties. The piece repeats that threat of countermeasures.

“The US side must understand that the Chinese government has no room for compromise or concession on the Taiwan issue. The Chinese military has firm will, full confidence and sufficient ability to defeat any form of interference by external forces and separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ firmly defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and firmly safeguard peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The plot of ‘using Taiwan to control China’ has not been realized in the past, and it is impossible to realize it now, even less in the future.” 美方必须明白,中国政府在台湾问题上没有任何妥协余地和退让空间。中国军队有坚定的意志、充分的信心、足够的能力挫败任何形式的外部势力干涉和“台独”分裂行径,坚定捍卫国家主权统一和领土完整,坚定维护台海地区和平稳定。“以台制华”的图谋过去没有实现,现在不可能实现,将来更不可能实现.

The piece warns the DPP and then says that when Wendy Sherman visited recently, she said that “the United States adheres to the one-China policy and does not support Taiwan’s independence….We urge the US to keep its promises...” 

Next, we have a report (English report) about Wang Yi’s comments at the East Asia Summit. Wang spoke about three things, as per the report. First, he talked about COVID-19 vaccines and origins tracing. Second, he talked about promoting green development and joining hands to address climate change. Third, he called for strengthening ASEAN’s central position for strengthening the central position of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and safeguarding international fairness and justice. He said China is willing to work with all parties to safeguard the international system with the United Nations as the core and the international order based on international laws.

There’s also a report about Wang presiding over the first meeting of the international forum on COVID-19 vaccine cooperation to which Xi had sent his message, which was on the first page. Then the page carries the full joint statement from the meeting; here’s the statement in English. Here is the list of the participating countries:

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Serbia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.

The statement talks about “the importance of COVID-19 vaccination as a global public good, and call upon all parties to step up efforts to make vaccines more accessible and affordable in developing countries.” 

It adds:

“We underline the importance of vaccine multilateralism and call upon countries to enhance international cooperation mechanisms and collaboration, reject vaccine nationalism, lift export restrictions on relevant vaccines and raw materials, support enhanced cooperation on vaccine research and development, production, equitable distribution and ensure cross-border flows of vaccines.”

This too:

“We call upon countries to encourage the ongoing consideration on possible waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization, stressing the need for flexibility, pragmatism and a sense of urgency. We encourage countries to further strengthen international cooperation on vaccine production capacity by conducting joint research and development, authorized production and technology transfers, and continue to adopt concrete measures to raise the vaccine production capacity of developing countries.”

And this:

“We emphasize the scientific nature and importance of World Health Organization Emergency Use List, and call on governments, while conducting study on easing national entry regulations for the vaccinated, to follow the principle of fairness, equity, science and non-discrimination, respect the suggestions proposed by the WHO based on this principle, and strengthen communication and coordination on vaccine certification and regulation policies.”

Page 5: Today we have the 15th piece in the series on Xi Thought. The first question today talks about the third plenaries of the 11th and 18th Central Committee and why these were important. On the third plenary of the 11th Central Committee, the piece says that it ushered in a new era of reform and opening up, particularly after the period of the Cultural Revolution.

China's economy was on the verge of collapse due to the ten-year civil unrest of the ‘Cultural Revolution’; there were doubts even about basics such as food and clothing; there was much to be done for national development. 我国由于“文化大革命”十年内乱, 经济濒临崩溃的边缘, 人民温饱都成问题, 国家建设百业待兴. 

The piece says that at this juncture, Deng Xiaoping supported by older revolutionaries, “broke through the shackles of long-term ‘left mistakes’.” Deng, the piece says:

“decisively ended ‘taking class struggle as the key link’, re-established the ideological line, political line and organizational line of Marxism, and made a historic decision to shift the central work of the Party and the state to economic development and implemented reform and opening up, thereby realizing a great turning point with far-reaching significance in the history of the Party since the founding of New China.” 在党和国家面临何去何从的重大历史关头,邓小平同志振聋发聩地指出:“如果现在再不实行改革,我们的现代化事业和社会主义事业就会被葬送。”在邓小平同志领导下和老一辈革命家支持下,党的十一届三中全会冲破长期“左”的错误的严重束缚,果断结束“以阶级斗争为纲”,重新确立马克思主义的思想路线、政治路线、组织路线,作出把党和国家工作中心转移到经济建设上来、实行改革开放的历史性决策,实现了新中国成立以来党的历史上具有深远意义的伟大转折.

We then get data about China’s economic development after reform and opening up began. We then come to the third plenary of the 18th Central Committee.

“For the first time, the plenary session put forward the overall goal of comprehensively deepening reform, improving and developing the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and promoting the modernization of the national governance system and governance capacity...The plenary session also decided to establish a central leading group on comprehensively deepening reforms to build a leadership mechanism for comprehensively deepening reforms. The Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China made the most systematic and comprehensive top-level design for reform since the reform and opening up.”

The piece also informs that “by the end of 2020, General Secretary Xi Jinping personally presided over 40 meetings of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform and 17 meetings of the Central Comprehensively Deepening Reform Committee, reviewed and approved more than 500 important reform documents, and introduced more than 2,000 reform plans.” So what are all these reform areas that are covered? Here’s a list that I’ve pulled up from the piece.

  • Reform of economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological civilization system and the party-building system

  • Party and the state institutional reform, 

  • Administrative management system reform

  • Rule of law system reform

  • Judicial system reform

  • Reform of the foreign affairs system

  • Reform of the social governance system

  • Reform of the national security system,

  • Reform of the national defense and the army

  • Reform of the discipline inspection and supervision system

It then adds that: “Reform and opening up are the key to determining the destiny of contemporary China, as well as the key to achieving the two centenary goals and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”

The next question is about the goal and purpose of comprehensively deepening reforms. Basically, the idea is that the reform process had reached a critical period and minor adjustments and fixes or a piecemeal approach would just not work anymore. Therefore, what was needed was a re-look at the overall design and a comprehensive approach. It was important to “coordinate and promote reforms in various fields” and look at the overall outcomes that were needed.

The piece references Deng’s 1992 southern tour and then says that the first part of establishing a basic socialist system has been achieved; and now the “main historical task is to improve and develop the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and build a more complete, stable and effective institutional system.” 后半程我们的主要历史任务是完善和发展中国特色社会主义制度,建成一整套更完备、更稳定、更管用的制度体系.

This is an “ambitious project” and requires the “interlinking of reform and improvements in various different areas.” In essence, all of this “will form and achieve the overall effect in terms of the modernization of the national governance system and governance capacity.” So this then neatly links to the fourth plenary of the 19th Central Committee, which focused on the modernization of the national governance system and governance capabilities.

“From the history of socialism, from its birth to the present, how to govern a brand new society like socialist society has not been solved. Marx and Engels did not experience the practice of fully governing a socialist state, and many of their visions of future societies were predictive. The Soviet Union explored this issue and achieved some success, but it also made serious mistakes and failed to entirely address the problems that arose. This resulted in the collapse of the country and the government. Our Party had been constantly thinking about what kind of national governance system to establish in the future as early as the revolutionary period. After the founding of New China, our Party considered and explored how to build socialism and how to govern China, and although serious twists and turns occurred, we accumulated rich experience and made significant achievements in the national governance system and governance capacity. Since the reform and opening up, our Party has thought about and explored the issue of national governance system and governance capacity from a new perspective, achieving political stability, economic development, social harmony and national unity. It is important to see that our national governance system and governance capacity are generally good and adapted to our national conditions and development requirements. At the same time, in the context of the requirements of China's economic and social development, in the context of the expectations of the people, in the context of the increasingly fierce international competition in today’s world, in the context of achievement long-term national security, we still have many shortcomings in the national governance system and governance capacity. We must make up for the shortcomings, plug the loopholes, strengthen where we have weaknesses, and accelerate the formation of a complete system that is scientific, standardized and effective.” 提出全面深化改革总目标是纵观世界社会主义历史发展得出的深刻结论。从社会主义诞生到现在的历史来看,如何治理社会主义社会这样全新的社会,在以往的世界社会主义实践中没有解决得很好。马克思恩格斯没有经历全面治理一个社会主义国家的实践,他们关于未来社会的设想很多是预测性的。苏联在这个问题上进行了探索,取得了一些成功经验,但也犯下了严重错误,没有解决好这个问题,最后的结局是国亡政息。我们党早在革命时期就不断思考未来建立什么样的国家治理体系问题。新中国成立后,我们党深入思考和探索怎样建设社会主义、怎样治理中国的问题,虽然也发生了严重曲折,但在国家治理体系和治理能力上积累了丰富经验、取得了重大成果。改革开放以来,我们党以全新的角度思考和探索国家治理体系和治理能力问题,实现了政治稳定、经济发展、社会和谐、民族团结。要看到,我们的国家治理体系和治理能力总体上是好的,是适应我国国情和发展要求的。同时,相比我国经济社会发展要求,相比人民群众期待,相比当今世界日趋激烈的国际竞争,相比实现国家长治久安,我们在国家治理体系和治理能力方面还有许多不足。必须抓紧补短板、堵漏洞、强弱项,加快形成系统完备、科学规范、运行有效的制度体系,把制度优势更好转化为治理效能.

Page 9: We have a piece by the NDRC’s Ning Jizhe on the economic situation. The piece basically lists out a bunch of H1 data to say that things are progressing in the desired direction. He says the economy is generally stable -- growth is steady; employment is stable; consumer price increases are modest; incomes have generally recovered; BoP situation is improving (forex is at $3.2 trillion). 

He then talks about high-quality development. This covers the Mars probe, the space station docking and then a whole host of data points, some of which I am highlighting below:

“In the first half of the year, the added value of high-tech manufacturing above designated size increased by 22.6% year-on-year, faster than that of all industries above designated size by 6.7 percentage points; the added value of information transmission, software and information technology services increased by 20.3%, faster than the overall economic growth by 7.6 percentage points; online sales of physical goods accounted for 23.7% of the total retail sales of social consumer goods.” 上半年,规模以上高技术制造业增加值同比增长22.6%,快于全部规模以上工业6.7个百分点;信息传输、软件和信息技术服务业增加值增长20.3%,快于整体经济增长7.6个百分点;实物商品网上零售额占社会消费品零售总额比重达23.7%. 

Some other data points he mentions:

  • In the first half of the year, the growth of final consumption expenditure contributed 61.7% to economic growth, an increase of 8.2 percentage points from the first quarter

  • In the first half of the year, the added value of the manufacturing industry accounted for 27.9% of GDP, an increase of 1.3 percentage points from the same period last year

  • The added value of the service industry accounted for 55.7% of GDP, and the contribution rate of service industry growth to economic growth reached 53.0%.

  • In the first half of the year, the ratio of per capita disposable income of urban and rural residents was 2.61, a decrease of 0.07 year-on-year; fixed asset investment in the central, western, and northeastern regions increased by 22.3%, 11.4%, and 11.8%, respectively, faster than the eastern region.

  • According to preliminary calculations, in the first half of the year, energy consumption per unit of GDP fell by 2.0% year-on-year, and the proportion of clean energy consumption increased by 0.4%

  • In the first half of the year, the average PM2.5 concentration in 339 prefecture-level and above cities across the country fell by 2.9% year-on-year

  • China’s actual use of foreign capital was 607.8 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 28.7%

  • In H1, imports and exports to countries along the Belt and Road increased by 27.5% year-on-year, 0.4 percentage points higher than the overall growth rate of foreign trade

  • In the first half of the year, the average salary of employees in enterprises above designated size increased by 11.8% year-on-year

  • In the second quarter of the year, the average monthly income of migrant rural laborers increased by 17.6% year-on-year

  • In the second quarter, the national industrial capacity utilization rate was 78.4%, which was at a relatively high level in recent years. The debt-to-asset ratio of enterprises has fallen. At the end of May, the asset-liability ratio of industrial enterprises above designated size was 56.3%, a decrease of 0.6 percentage points from the same period last year.

  • In the first half of the year, investment in the social sector, ecological protection and environmental management industries increased by 16.4% and 16.9% year-on-year respectively.

  • In the first half of the year, investment in high-tech industries increased by 23.5% year-on-year, and the two-year average growth rate was 14.6%, which was significantly faster than all investment. Among them, the investment in the aerospace vehicle and equipment manufacturing industry, computer and office equipment manufacturing industry, and electronics and communication equipment manufacturing industry increased by 56.4%, 47.5%, and 29.9% respectively year-on-year

  • In the first half of the year, the total retail sales of consumer goods and investment in fixed assets increased by 23.0% and 12.6% year-on-year, respectively, with an average increase of 4.4% and 4.4% in the two years, which were 0.2 and 1.5 percentage points faster than the first quarter; the contribution rate of domestic demand growth to economic growth is 80.9%.

Page 12: We have a piece highlighting the set of guiding cases issued by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission. These are typical cases that violate the eight-point decision on improving Party and government conduct. These include the practice of formalities for formalities’ sake, holding lavish weddings or funerals, and embezzling public funds for banquets. So this acts as a reference point for cadres of the things that they must not do, or at least not get caught doing.

Also on the page, there’s a long piece by the NDRC’s theory center. It talks about how a new struggle must be waged after correctly understanding “the new characteristics and requirements brought about by the changes in the main contradictions in Chinese society.” It says that “we have many favorable conditions to embark on a new journey and achieve new goals.” Such as:

  • Unified leadership with Xi as the core, Xi Thought as “scientific guidance” and the significant advantages of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics

  • Solid material foundation, i.e., China being the world’s second largest economy, largest industrial country, largest trader in goods, and having the largest foreign exchange reserves. In addition, China has quality infrastructure, a complete industrial system, and abundant human resources, along with high innovation ability and large market size.

  • Cultural self-confidence and people-centered development philosophy

Alas, there are other changes and challenges too:

  • the world today is undergoing major changes unseen in a century; reform of the global governance system and the international order is accelerating; emerging markets and developing countries have risen rapidly; China has been the largest contributor to global growth for 15 years; new technological development is creating new opportunities

  • Amid all this, the “international environment has become increasingly complex, instability and uncertainty have increased significantly, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been extensive and far-reaching, economic globalization has encountered countercurrents, and the world has entered a period of turbulent change.”

“This requires us not only to strengthen our confidence in development, but also to be prepared to deal with more complex and severe risks and challenges. We should persist in focusing on ourselves, observe the general trend, have a long-term vision and make good operational plans, concentrate on doing our own things well, and seize the initiative and win the future in the new round of global competition and cooperation.” 这就要求我们既要坚定发展信心,也要做好应对更为复杂严峻风险挑战的准备,坚持以我为主,观大势、谋长远、善运筹,集中力量办好自己的事,在新一轮全球竞争合作中把握主动、赢得未来.

And in doing all of this, it is important to learn from the Party’s history of struggles and the successes achieved.