Party's Political Construction - Xi Thought Series Emphasises Party's Revolutionary Nature - Lei Feng Spirit - Yasukuni Shrine Controversy - US & COVID

Here are the stories and pieces from the August 16, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: Let’s begin with the 16th edition of Qiushi, which PD tells us carries an article by Xi about the Party’s political construction. Like these pieces have been in the past, this one’s also a collection of Xi’s quotes. PD tells us that since the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has emphasised the political construction of the party. “Building the party politically is an important guarantee for our party to grow and develop continuously and move from victory to victory.” 党的十九大明确把党的政治建设放在首位,强调要以党的政治建设为统领。政治建党是我们党不断发展壮大、从胜利走向胜利的重要保证. 

“The article points out that the primary task of the party’s political construction is to ensure that the whole party obeys the central government and adheres to the authority and centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee. There must be no ambiguity and vacillation; this effort must be constant and unremitting. It is necessary to educate and guide the whole party to draw positive and negative lessons from the history of the Party, unswervingly align with the CPC Central Committee, earnestly enhance the ‘four consciousnesses’, strengthen the ‘four self-confidences’, and achieve the ‘two maintenance’, consciously keep a high degree of consistency with the CPC Central Committee in ideological and political actions, and ensure that the whole party is united as strands of a rope, thinking in unison and acting in unison.”   文章指出,党的政治建设的首要任务,就是保证全党服从中央,坚持党中央权威和集中统一领导,绝不能有丝毫含糊和动摇,必须常抓不懈。要教育引导全党从党史中汲取正反两方面历史经验,坚定不移向党中央看齐,切实增强“四个意识”、坚定“四个自信”、做到“两个维护”,自觉在思想上政治上行动上同党中央保持高度一致,确保全党上下拧成一股绳,心往一处想、劲往一处使.

The piece also talks about how dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the strength of the Chinese system, and warns that “political passivity is the most dangerous passivity.” Therefore, there is a demand for cadres to demonstrate their political alignment in terms of actions. It ends with a call to draw on the power of belief from the “red genes” and “consciously be a firm believer and faithful practitioner of the lofty ideals of communism and the common ideals of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and truly become an indefatigable and unrepentant Marxist warrior.” 要从红色基因中汲取强大的信仰力量,自觉做共产主义崇高理想和中国特色社会主义共同理想的坚定信仰者和忠实践行者,真正成为不屈不挠、永不悔改的马克思主义战士. 

Next, there is the sixth story in the mid-year economic review series. This one focuses on domestic consumption. It says that as per NBS data, total retail sales of consumer goods in China in H1 was at 21.19 trillion yuan ($3.27 trillion), an average growth rate of 4.4% over two years. Investment in fixed assets (excluding rural households) was 25.59 trillion yuan (about 3.96 trillion, an average increase of 4.4% in two years, 1.5 percentage points faster than the first quarter. In the first half of the year, the contribution rate of final consumption expenditure to economic growth reached 61.7%. 

However, the article does caution that domestic demand recovery has been uneven, with some sectors still struggling with the impact of COVID-19. On the other hand, for manufacturing forms, transforming profits into investments is at least a two-year cycle, and for now there are challenges with regard to commodity prices, instability and uncertainties in the international market, and rising shipping costs. The piece then talks about retail sales and e-commerce.

These are also useful data points to keep in mind: “​​From January to May this year, the total profits of industrial enterprises above designated size increased by 83.4% year-on-year, with an average increase of 21.7% in two years. In the first half of the year, investment in high-tech industries increased by 23.5% year-on-year, with an average increase of 14.6% in both years, which was 4.7 percentage points faster than that in the first quarter. Among them, investment in the high-tech manufacturing industry increased by 29.7%, and investment in the high-tech service industry increased by 12%.”

With this said, NBS put out July data today. Here’s CNBC’s report on it:

  • Retail sales rose by 8.5% in July from a year ago 

  • Auto-related sales, the largest component of retail sales by value, was the only category to decline in July, down 1.8% year-on-year.

  • Industrial production grew by 6.4%

  • Fixed asset investment for the first seven months of the year rose by 10.3%

  • The unemployment rate in cities was 5.1% last month, while that for those aged 16 to 24 years old remained a much higher 16.2%.

Next, we have a commentary on passing on the Lei Feng spirit. This is part of the series of commentaries and the spiritual development of the Party. Basically, the piece tells us a bit about Lei Feng and how his spirit of selflessness and dedication to the Party’s cause has inspired many cadres and masses. “Practice has fully proved that the spirit of Lei Feng embodies the traditional virtues of the Chinese nation, is in line with the trend of the times of social progress, demonstrates the advanced nature of our party; Lei Feng spirit is a flag that never fades; it is the valuable spiritual wealth of the Chinese nation, a vivid embodiment of socialist core values.” 实践充分证明,雷锋精神体现了中华民族的传统美德,顺应了社会进步的时代潮流,彰显了我们党的先进性;雷锋精神是一面永不褪色的旗帜, 是中华民族宝贵的精神财富,是社会主义核心价值观的生动体现.

The commentary then calls on cadres to rely on the “strong spiritual impetus and rich moral nourishment” that the Lei Feng spirit provides to move toward the goal of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” in the new era. What cadres must do is “consciously serve the overall work of the party and the country,” “promote the party's innovative theory,” address people’s needs, promote the practice of core socialist values, and work to enhance/modernise social governance.

Finally, we have a piece in the series on Tibet. This one talks about the poverty-alleviation-effort-linked relocation programme. It tells us that as of 2020, there are some 964 lower-altitude relocation zones. Some 266,000 people have relocated there “voluntarily.” The piece also talks about how this has meant significant change in traditional ways of living and approaches to livelihood.

Page 2: First, we have a report (English report) about Sun Chunlan calling for “strict, scientific, and accurate measures to combat cluster COVID-19 infections.” She said this while visiting Yangzhou in east China's Jiangsu Province. Second, a report that tells us that the local government in Zhengzhou is assuring people that essentials are abundantly available in the city, and door-step deliveries were being arranged. Zhengzhou was locked down in the first week of August amid a COVID outbreak after the floods.

Page 3: Three pieces of note on the page. First, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s comments (English version) about Japanese cabinet ministers visiting the Yasukuni shrine. Here’s the question:

“Q: According to media reports, on August 15, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga gave a cash offering to the Yasukuni Shrine. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, several cabinet members and some lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine on the same day or in recent days. What is China's comment on that?”

Hua said:

“What some Japanese political figures have done on the issue of the Yasukuni Shrine affronts historical justice and seriously hurts the feelings of people in the victimized Asian countries, including China. It again reflects Japan’s wrong attitude towards its own history of aggression. The Chinese side has lodged solemn representations with the Japanese side through diplomatic channels in both Beijing and Tokyo to register strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition. We urge the Japanese side to earnestly honor its statement and commitment of facing up to and reflecting on its history of aggression, tread carefully on historical issues such as the Yasukuni Shrine, make a clean break with militarism, and win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community through concrete actions.”

Second, we have a Zhong Sheng commentary on the pandemic situation in the US. Basically, this repeats the same talking points about the surge of cases in the US being the product of the system’s failure - from partisan politics to polarisation and social tensions, etc. It then says that while American politicians have always talked about the separation of powers in the system as providing a means for self-correction and checks and balances, the pandemic response has shown that the system does not play a corrective role; rather it has devolved into power struggles and partisan disputes. The author then talks about tensions between local governments and the federal government across party lines. 

Core point being made: “After the current U.S. government came to power, the Democratic-controlled federal government and the Republican ‘red states’ are still in deep conflict...American politicians care more about political self-interest than people's lives and health.”

Finally, we have a piece by the Chinese ambassador to Iran on the 50th anniversary of ties. Xi also exchanged messages with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on the occasion. 

Page 5: Today we have the 21st piece in the series on Xi Thought, phew! The first question today says: “Why is the comprehensive strict governance of the Party a great self-revolution?”

The response tells us that from the 18th Party Congress to the end of 2019, around 333,000 cases of violations of the eight central regulations have been investigated and dealt with. This covered 414 central-level cadres, 18,000 cadres at the bureau level and 137,000 cadres at the county level. So why is this self-revolution needed?

“As Marx pointed out, the difference between proletarian revolution and other revolutions lies in that it criticizes itself and grows by criticizing itself. To defeat a strong enemy one must overcome one’s own weaknesses first.* The Communist Party of China is a Marxist political party, and the nature of the party determines that our party has no special interests of its own except the interests of the country, nation and people. Only by not seeking self-interest can we seek the foundation and profit, and be qualified, emboldened and brave in facing problems and self-revolution.” 正如马克思指出的,无产阶级革命与其他革命不同之处就在于:它自己批评自己,并靠批评自己壮大起来. “能胜强敌者,先自胜者也。”中国共产党作为马克思主义政党,党的性质决定了我们党除了国家、民族、人民的利益,没有任何自己的特殊利益. 不谋私利才能谋根本、谋大利,才有资格、有底气敢于直面问题、勇于自我革命. 

*translation of the phrase to convey its meaning rather than a literal translation. 能胜强敌者,先自胜者也 - Néng shēng qiáng dí zhě, xiān zì shèng zhě yě.

Our party has matured through continuous self-criticism and self-revolution. We have picked up scalpels to eliminate diseases, solved our own problems time and time again, and overcome seemingly insurmountable difficulties one after another. History has shown us that we must continue to carry out self-revolution, resolutely fight against all issues that affect the party’s advanced nature and weaken the party’s purity, and achieve self-purification, self-improvement, and self-renewal.” 我们党就是在不断自我批评、自我革命中成长成熟的,一次次拿起手术刀革除自身的病症,一次次靠自己解决了自身问题,攻克了一个又一个看似不可攻克的难关. 历史深刻昭示我们,必须不断进行自我革命,同一切影响党的先进性、弱化党的纯洁性的问题作坚决斗争,实现自我净化、自我完善、自我革新、自我提高.

The piece then quotes Xi warning cadres that “no external force can defeat us. Only we can defeat ourselves...Things must rot first, and only then do insects grow.” 东西必须先腐烂,然后昆虫才会生长.

Then we get a breakdown of what comprehensive strict governance means. So comprehensive means all across the Party, but with a specific focus on a “key few.” Strict means...err, I guess it means to be strict. And governance means “from the CPC Central Committee to local party committees at all levels, from the central ministries and commissions, the party committees of state organs and departments to the grassroots party branches, they must shoulder the main responsibility, and the party secretary should take party building as a matter of key responsibility; disciplinary committees at all levels should shoulder the responsibility of supervision...be brave in discipline and accountability.” “治”就是从党中央到地方各级党委,从中央部委、国家机关部门党组(党委)到基层党支部,都要肩负起主体责任,党委书记要把抓好党建当作分内之事、必须担当的职责;各级纪委要担负起监督责任,敢于瞪眼黑脸,勇于执纪问责。

Comprehensive strict governance requires enhancing the “systematic” style of operation and having “foresight, creativity, effectiveness” so that all efforts “are focused on enhancing the party's self-purification, self-perfection, self-renovation, self-improvement capacity.” The final paragraph of the answer talks about the achievements in this process since the 18th Party Congress.

  • Integration of strict governance across the Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy, i.e., comprehensively building a well-off society, comprehensively deepening reform, comprehensively implementing the rule of law and Comprehensively strengthening the Party's discipline.

  • implementation of the eight central regulations to improve the style of work.

  • Establishment of an effective supervision and discipline system

  • Mass line education campaign

  • Campaign to emphasise original aspiration

  • “From the strict regulation of political life within the party to the efforts to create a clear and beautiful political ecology”

This paragraph towards the end is useful:

Although there have been historic achievements in the Party’s comprehensive strict governance, this effort is still far from complete. The long-term, complex, and severe nature of the risks and challenges imply that it is necessary to be consistent and persistent in governing the Party strictly...It is necessary to fully implement the general requirements of party building in the new era, adhere to strict ideology, strict supervision, strict discipline, strict governance of officials, strict style of work and strict anti-corruption efforts, improve and implement the system of comprehensive strict governance of the Party...党面临的风险挑战的长期性、复杂性、严峻性,决定了全面从严治党必须一以贯之、持之以恒,不能有差不多了该松口气、歇歇脚的想法,不能有打好一仗就一劳永逸的想法,不能有初见成效就见好就收的想法. 要全面贯彻新时代党的建设总要求,坚持思想从严、监督从严、执纪从严、治吏从严、作风从严、反腐从严,完善和落实全面从严治党制度,以彻底的自我革命精神,以永远在路上的执着,把全面从严治党这场伟大自我革命进行到底。

The next question is why is the CCP a Marxist ruling party but also a Marxist revolutionary party?

There has been a popular argument for some time that our party has changed from a ‘revolutionary party’ to a ‘ruling party’, and now it is only a ‘ruling party’ instead of a ‘revolutionary party’. This statement is not only untenable in theory, but also inconsistent with historical facts. In reality, it has caused ideological ambiguity, which is wrong and harmful.” 一段时间以来,有一种流行的说法是,我们党从“革命党”变成了“执政党”,现在只是“执政党”,而不是“革命党”。这种说法不仅在理论上站不住脚,而且与历史事实不符。现实中造成了思想上的模糊认识,是错误的,也是有害的.

It tells us that “General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized that there is no distinction between ‘revolutionary party’ and ‘ruling party’; revolution and ruling are not to be regarded as two completely different things. This reveals the dialectical unity of our party as a Marxist ruling party and Marxist revolutionary party.” 习近平总书记强调,这里面并没有区分“革命党”和“执政党”,并没有把革命和执政当作两个截然不同的事情. 这揭示了我们党作为马克思主义执政党与马克思主义革命党的辩证统一.

“Marxism holds that ‘revolution is the locomotive of history,’ ‘a powerful driving force for social and political progress’ and that ‘the first step of the workers' revolution is to make the proletariat rise to the position of the ruling class.’ After the proletariat holds state power, it is necessary to establish new relations of production, and on this basis, carry out extensive and profound social revolution.” 马克思主义认为,“革命是历史的火车头”,是“社会进步和政治进步的强大推动力”,“工人革命的第一步就是使无产阶级上升为统治阶级”;在无产阶级掌握国家政权之后,就要建立新的生产关系,在此基础上展开广泛而深刻的社会革命.

The next paragraph tells us that the CCP took power with a revolution and has never forgotten revolution while in power. The author casts the Soviet period, the Maoist era of the PRC, and reform and opening up within this revolutionary light. In essence, the argument being made is that the Party under Deng Xiaoping was not breaking from its revolutionary past; rather it was in a different phase of revolution, which entailed removing “all ideological and institutional obstacles that hindered the development of the country.” Finally, in the new era, 

“in order to fulfil the party's historical mission and push forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics, we must always maintain the revolutionary spirit and fighting spirit under the long-term ruling conditions, and continue to push forward the great social revolution that our party has led the people for a hundred years. We must never be proud of our victory, never slack off because of our achievements, and never retreat because of difficulties...The longer our party is in power, the more we cannot lose the essence of being a Marxist party, the more we cannot forget the original mission of the party, the more we cannot forget that we are communists, we are revolutionaries, and we should not lose our revolutionary spirit.” 进入新时代,要完成好党的历史使命,把中国特色社会主义事业继续推向前进,就必须在长期执政条件下,始终保持革命精神、革命斗志,将我们党领导人民进行了百年的伟大社会革命继续推进下去,决不能因为胜利而骄傲,决不能因为成就而懈怠,决不能因为困难而退缩...我们党越是长期执政,就越不能丢掉马克思主义政党的本色,越不能忘记党的初心使命,越不能忘记我们是共产党人,我们是革命者,不要丧失了革命精神。

Other Pieces:

I thought I’d just highlight some of the interesting bits from other pages that I usually do not spend time reading.

On Page 10, Li Junkai from the Beijing Academy of Science and Technology writes about self-reliance. He emphasizes the need to focus on core technologies and R&D.

On Page 11, the key story is about the challenges of cyberbullying; this is part of a series of stories that talk about providing a clean online environment for minors.

On Page 16, the lead international story is about COVID in the US; the page also has reports on the German economy’s recovery, the Taliban entering Kabul, and US household debt reaching $14.96 trillion. Data shows that total US household debt increased by $313 billion in the second quarter, a 2.1% increase from the previous quarter.