Party's Approach to Overall National Security, Inner Mongolia's Autonomy & Fukushima Wastewater Controversy

Here are the stories and pieces from the People’s Daily’s April 15, 2021, edition that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: Today is National Security Education Day and the front page of the People’s Daily is carrying a long piece to mark this. The piece basically comprises statements from Xi Jinping over the years about managing and mitigating risks.

These comments about risks are also divided into different categories. We’ve got the external situation, political and ideological security, technological development, financial security, social and political stability, the pandemic, and so on. I am not going to list out the different comments; but there are some observations that I had.

  1. This is about Xi Jinping more than the actual content of what he is saying. This is about telling cadres that the “ship” that is China has been guided by someone with “profound insight” who has done so “courageously.”

  2. The description of the external situation goes from “changing” in 2012-13 to “unprecedented” in 2016-17 to eventually becoming “profound” in terms of the adjustment of the global balance of power by around 2019. 

  3. Very early on, the leadership understood that counterbalancing was underway and believed that there’s little it could do to prevent this. For instance, this quote from 2013: “During the National Two Sessions in 2013, General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized: The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation can never be achieved easily and smoothly. The more we develop and grow, the greater the resistance and pressure we will encounter and the external risks we face. There will be more. This is an unavoidable challenge in the development of our country from large to strong, and it is a threshold that cannot be bypassed in achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’.” 

  4. There is a constant underlying and then overt call for struggle in Xi’s messages. There are repeated warnings to cadres about the challenges that lie ahead. This becomes even more intense as the years go and external challenges intensify. Tells us something about the mentality that leads to securitisation of all governance domains.

Second, Xi Jinping met with 29 foreign ambassadors to China, receiving their credentials. He then delivered a speech to them, saying “China stands ready to work with other countries to firmly support multilateralism, safeguard the international system with the United Nations as the core and the international order based on international laws, staunchly safeguard the multilateral trade system, firmly advance the construction of the global governance system, and promote the construction of a community with a shared future for mankind.” I also think it’s interesting that Xi describes the getting the UNSC seat in 1971 as “the restoration of the lawful seat” of the PRC.

Next, the State Council’s executive meeting this week cleared the draft Regulation on Market Entity Registration and Administration. This, Xinhua says, aims to provide legal safeguards for cultivating and strengthening market entities. The report adds that “the draft integrates the already promulgated administrative regulations on market entity registration, and sets out unified provisions on the registration and administration of enterprises of all types, self-employed individuals and specialized farmers’ cooperatives that engage in for-profit business activities in China.”

The regulation does the following:

  • It calls for making business registration easier through one-stop online services. It recognises electronic business licenses on the same level as paper ones. It says that for cases where registration cannot be approved on-site, competent departments should complete the registration within three workdays.

  • Simplification of the documentation requirement for registration.

  • De-registration is being made easier for businesses and if for some reason it is required, an entity can declare itself dormant and save operational costs.

  • Real-name registration of market entities will be implemented

Next, we have a report on PSC member Wang Yang visiting Inner Mongolia. He called for “creating a strong sense of community for the Chinese nation, upholding an accurate understanding of country, history, ethnicity, culture and religion, and maintaining ethnic unity, social stability and tranquility in the border areas.” He added:

“Forging a strong sense of the community of the Chinese nation is the fundamental strategic project for achieving national rejuvenation. It is necessary to deepen the understanding of the structure of the pluralistic integration of the Chinese nation, strengthen the study of the history of the Chinese nation community, and educate and guide the cadres and masses of all ethnic groups to always keep in mind that our vast territory is jointly developed by all ethnic groups, and the long history is written by all ethnic groups and a splendid culture.”

Also this: “It is necessary to accelerate the popularization and popularization of the national common spoken and written language, and do a solid job in the promotion and use of nationally compiled teaching materials, so that people of all ethnic groups can better accept scientific and cultural knowledge, improve their employability, and integrate into modern society.” 

And then this about the understanding of autonomy: “All ethnic autonomous areas are areas under the leadership of the party, and they are all areas jointly owned by the people of all ethnic groups throughout the country. The exercise of autonomy in autonomous areas must be based on ensuring the implementation of the national constitution, laws and government decrees, and maintaining the unity of the socialist legal system.”

Finally, there’s a commentary about the Party history campaign. It says: “Adhering to the leadership of the party, first of all, is to uphold the authority of the Party Central Committee and centralized and unified leadership. This is the supreme principle of the party’s leadership. There must be no ambiguity or wavering under any circumstances at any time.” Some of the events recalled to emphasise this are the Zunyi Conference, the Yan’an Rectification movement and the 3rd Plenary of the 11th Party Congress.

The piece talks about the central leadership since the 18th Party Congress having taken steps to carry forward reform by breaking “through the shackles of ideological concepts, break(ing) through the barriers of vested interests, resolutely eliminat(ing) the drawbacks of various systems and mechanisms, and actively respond(ing) to the risks and challenges brought about by changes in the external environment...”

There’s a line in there about having the courage to take the blade to deal with stubborn and chronic diseases that hinder the Party’s governance. The author then says that the fundamental reason for the Party having achieved so much since the 18th Congress is the establishment of Xi’s position as the core. “With General Secretary Xi Jinping as the core of the Party Central Committee and the core of the whole party at the helm, and with the whole party and the people of all ethnic groups united in a tenacious struggle, we will surely be able to overcome the various difficulties and obstacles that appear on the road ahead, and we will surely be able to in the new era.”

Here’s more: “The world today is undergoing major changes unseen in a century, and our country is in a critical period for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The risk test we face on the way forward will only become more and more complicated, and we will even encounter unimaginable stormy waves. The closer to the goal, the more complicated the situation and the more arduous the task. The more important it is to give play to the central and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee.”

Page 3: A few pieces to note. First, the Party’s International Liaison Department along with the Zhejiang Provincial Committee held an event titled “The Story of the Communist Party of China-The Practice of Xi Jinping’s Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in Zhejiang in the New Era.” PD says that “nearly 400 representatives of political parties from more than 70 countries participated in the presentation meeting via video connection, and some envoys in China attended the meeting.” 

The countries mentioned are Moldova, Russia, Angola, Egypt, and France. PD says that “they spoke highly of the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership in achieving major achievements in epidemic prevention and control and poverty alleviation. They believed that the Chinese Communist Party has a long-term strategic vision and formulated a series of medium-term strategies.” It also adds that “the political parties of the participating countries stated that the new development pattern proposed by the Communist Party of China is not only conducive to China's new and greater development, but also provides important development opportunities for all countries in the world.”

My note: Don’t think of this only from the point of view of domestic legitimacy; this is an example of Chinese diplomacy with the aim of sharing “Chinese solutions” and “wisdom” when it comes to governance issues.

A short bit about John Kerry visiting China - ergo, no commentaries attacking to US for the moment. Finally, a report about China-ROK maritime dialogue, which focussed on the Fukushima wastewater issue. PD says that “both sides expressed their strong dissatisfaction with Japan’s unilateral decision to discharge the nuclear waste water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident to the sea, despite the opposition of the international community, especially China and South Korea, two important neighbors. The two sides urge the Japanese side to prudently handle the Fukushima nuclear waste water issue after full consultation with international agencies and neighboring countries, and on the basis of the substantial participation of relevant countries and international agencies.”

Page 4: A commentary about the National Security Education day. It says that the theme of this year is “Practice the overall national security concept, coordinate development and security, coordinate traditional security and non-traditional security, and create a good atmosphere for celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the party.” 

The piece talks about the work on national security since the 18th Party Congress. It says that with Xi at the core, the party “has strengthened its centralized and unified leadership over national security work, has incorporated the adherence to the overall national security concept into the basic strategy of upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics, and has addressed national security from an overall and strategic perspective...For the first time, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China incorporated integrated development and security into the guiding ideology of my country’s economic and social development during the ‘14th Five-Year Plan’ period.”

The next bit is about engaging people in national security work. “We must adhere to the equal emphasis on development and security, and realize the interaction between high-quality development and high-level security, which not only enhances national security strength through development, but also promotes the innovation of national security ideas, systems, and methods, and creates a safe environment conducive to economic and social development.” The goal is to “build a national security great steel wall.”

Page 9: In continuation with the above, the Party Committee of the Ministry of State Security has a piece on the page. It outlines a view on national security. Here are some excerpts:

“To follow the path of national security with Chinese characteristics, we must implement the overall national security concept, adhere to the organic unity of political security, people’s security, and the supremacy of national interests, take people’s security as the purpose, political security as the foundation, and economic security as the foundation to defend national sovereignty and territory.”

“The Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core scientifically studied the times and trends, dialectically grasped crises and opportunities, won tough battles one after another, resolved one risk after another, and vigorously defended national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and safeguarded political security, social stability, and people’s peace. Practice has fully proved that the key to running China's affairs lies in the party. The party's absolute leadership is the fundamental principle of national security work and the fundamental guarantee for safeguarding national security and social stability.” The piece then calls for people to continue rallying around the Party because as China grows, “the risks and tests facing our country will only become more and more complicated, and (China will) even encounter unimaginable stormy waves.”

Here’s a warning to cadres and an identification of threats: “It must be clearly seen that various hostile forces have never stopped implementing strategies for westernization and differentiation of our country, have never stopped subverting and sabotaging the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and my country's socialist system, and have always attempted to plan ‘color revolutions’ in our country. National security organs...must take a clear-cut stand against all words and deeds that weaken, distort, and deny the party’s leadership and my country’s socialist system, resolutely oppose all acts that split the motherland, undermine national unity and social harmony and stability, and resolutely defend the party.”

The piece then says that “people's security is the cornerstone of national security.” This focuses on management of the pandemic and addressing livelihood issues. Thereafter, the authors call adhering to “overall planning for development and security,” which they argue is a learning from the PRC’s experience and a “profound summary of the experience of the rise and fall of great powers in history. It is a profound understanding and grasp of the dialectical and unified relationship between development and security...Without development, security cannot be guaranteed; without security, development will not be sustainable, and the results already achieved will be lost.” 

In terms of foreign policy, the piece calls for maintaining the strategic initiative and “guid(ing) the international community to jointly shape a more just and reasonable new international order,” although sustaining the UN-led architecture is seen as key to this too. The next bit is about keeping in mind “non-traditional security fields such as biosecurity, extreme weather, cyber attacks, terrorism, and public health.” 

Going forward, the primary goal is to adhere to maintaining “political security” i.e., “regime security” and “system security” as the “foundation of national security.” This requires maintaining “bottom line thinking,” i.e., making sure that one is prepared for the worst. It also requires addressing issues early and taking initiative to anticipate and defuse risks early.

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Page 17: The key piece on the page is about MoFA’s statement on the Fukushima wastewater issue. You can read the full English version here. But this is how Zhao Lijian ended: 

“The oceans are not Japan's trash can; and the Pacific Ocean is not Japan's sewer. Japan should not expect the world to pay the bill for its treatment of wastewater. As for the individual Japanese official's remarks that the water is okay to drink, why doesn't he take a sip first? The lesson from Japan's Minamata disease is not far behind us. Many local victims have yet to walk out of the pain. Japan should not forget this tragedy, still less should it pretend to be ignorant. We strongly urge Japan to face up to its responsibility, follow the science, fulfill its international obligations and duly respond to the serious concerns of the international community, neighboring countries and its own people. It should reevaluate the issue and refrain from wantonly discharging the wastewater before reaching consensus with all stakeholders and the IAEA through full consultations. China reserves the right to make further reactions.”