PLA's History Education - Fukushima Plan Criticism - MIIT's Blueprint - Building 'World Class' Universities

Here are the stories and pieces from the People’s Daily’s April 19, 2021, edition that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: There’s a long piece on the Party history education campaign in the military. It talks about the focus of the campaign being on “leading cadres at the regiment level and above.” The campaign began on March second with a meeting in Beijing. Eventually, the Military Party History Study and Education Leading Group met on March 19, with people then traveling to different areas to execute the campaign. 

From what I can understand, there’s basically a lot of lectures, studying and discussions that are part of the campaign. The aim is to improve political judgment, political insight and political execution; in other words, enhance the Party’s control over the PLA. 

There’s also this:

“It is widely believed that President Xi's important speech at the mobilization conference on Party history study and education serves as the general guidance for Party history study and education. It is also a ‘great Party lesson’ for the whole Party by the core of the Party, the commander in chief of the armed forces, and the people’s leader. It points out the direction and provides a fundamental guideline for Party history study and education.” (大家普遍感到,习主席在党史学习教育动员大会上的重要讲话,是搞好党史学习教育的总动员总指导,也是党的核心、军队统帅、人民领袖为全党上的一堂“大党课”,为开展好党史学习教育指明了方向、提供了根本遵循.)

The different activities in the campaign entailed focussing on theoretical study, i.e., the importance of Marxism. So different theory study groups were created and the Academy of Military Sciences and the National Defense University organized seminars and symposiums. There were lots of lectures. Then there’s this:

“The Western Theater Command has made great efforts to convert the Party’s political and organizational advantages into winning advantages by intensifying the campaign of ‘studying Party history, studying battle examples, practicing command, and strengthening capability’ with the emphasis on war resources from history. (I wonder if this included the 1962 experience with India.) 

  • The folks with the Strategic Support Force got off light; they enjoyed field visits to revolutionary historical sites and museums. 

  • The PLA Rocket Force launched online activities under the theme “Forever Loyalty to the Party," arranging online quiz contests to study and educate the Party’s history.

Page 3: There are two big stories on the page.The first is regarding the China-US joint statement on climate change after John Kerry’s visit. I covered this in my weekly Eye on China newsletter yesterday. PD has a short report on the statement and the full statement published. There are two interesting points to note after this. First, this bit from the statement:

“Both countries recall their historic contribution to the development, adoption, signature, and entry into force of the Paris Agreement through their leadership and collaboration.” An acknowledgement from the US of China’s leadership in terms of the issue.

Second, Kerry’s comments after leaving China, as reported in WSJ. “This is the first time China has joined in saying it’s a crisis,” Mr. Kerry told reporters in Seoul, a day after wrapping up a four-day China tour to meet with climate officials. Mr. Kerry said that the Chinese delegation underscored that the climate issue must “be addressed with urgency. And they talked about ‘enhancing.’ So the language is strong.”

The piece then talks about options ahead of the April 22/23 climate summit that Biden’s hosting. It says that Beijing could announce fresh climate goals ahead of the summit during the Bo’ao Forum; or a joint statement by Biden and Xi; and it says that while Xi hasn’t confirmed his attendance, “people familiar with the matter said he would participate.”

The other story on the page is about the Fukushima wastewater issue. First, there’s the comment from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment; it basically says that Japan must engage with all stakeholders, which has not been done. The spokesperson then differentiates the current wastewater to regular affluents, arguing that:

“The wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear accident came from the cooling water injected into the melted damaged core after the accident, as well as the groundwater and rainwater that infiltrated the reactor. It contained various radionuclides present in the molten core, and it was difficult to treat.”

Next, an interview with Zhao Chengkun, executive deputy director of the Expert Committee of the China Nuclear Energy Industry Association, Liu Xinhua, a researcher at the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Center of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and Liu Senlin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Atomic Energy.

Liu Xinhua says that the water that is being discharged is different. Liu’s argument is the same as the one from the ministry as I’ve quoted above. Liu adds that “the wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear accident contained various radionuclides present in the molten core, including some long half-life fission nuclides, and extremely toxic transuranic nuclides such as plutonium and americium.” Then he says that “Japan adopts the technology of multi-nuclides treatment system (ALPS) to purify wastewater, and whether it can finally meet the discharge standards still needs to be verified.”

Zhao Chengkun then goes on to say that on February 10, 2020, Japan’s “ALPS subcommittee” released a report saying that as of December 2019, 73% of the wastewater treated via the ALPS method exceeded Japanese discharge standards. He also talks about TEPCO’s data not being satisfactory. And then he lashes out at TEPCO as a company that has “a record of concealing false reports and falsifying information before and after the Fukushima accident.”

Liu Senlin says that Japan proposed five alternate disposal methods, i.e., stratum injection, ocean release, steam release, hydrogen discharge, and subsurface burial. Liu says that they ended up deciding ocean release without discussing with all stakeholders and in their own “self-interest.” He says this is “extremely irresponsible behaviour” that will set a bad precedent. He even cites UNCLOS. “The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that countries should take all necessary measures to ensure that pollution caused by events or activities within their jurisdiction or control does not extend beyond the area where sovereign rights are exercised,” he argues.

Page 9: On the Theory page today, we have a piece by Xiao Yaqing, the Minister for Industry and IT. Xiao first outlines where China’s manufacturing and IT sectors are at and then talks about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

“During the 14th Five-Year Plan period, China is still in an important period of strategic opportunities for development, but there are new developments and changes in both opportunities and challenges, and on the whole there are more opportunities than challenges. China has made major strategic achievements in the fight against COVID-19, accelerated implementation of the strategic plan for building a new development pattern, continued efforts to comprehensively deepen reform and high-level opening up, and a new round of global scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation have all provided broad space and injected strong impetus to the development of industry and information technology. At the same time, we must recognize that the international and domestic environment remains grim and complex. Once-in-a-century changes are compounded by a once-in-a-century epidemic. Instability and uncertainty are on the rise. Imbalanced and inadequate industrial development in China remains a serious problem, and enterprises, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, still face many difficulties in production and operation. We must use a comprehensive, dialectical and long-term perspective to make a scientific analysis of the situation, grasp the overall trend of development, and strive to take advantage of crises and break new ground in changing situations.”

He calls for focussing on industrialisation and IT application. Xiao writes that “the new concept of innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development is a systematic theoretical system. It answers a series of theoretical and practical questions about the purpose, driving force, means and path of development, and clarifies major political questions about the Party’s political stance, value orientation, development model and development path. The field of industry and information technology is to implement the main battleground of the new development concept…”

He talks about the new development concept being a “strategic” choice. The aim is to “modernize the industrial chain and supply chain, keep the proportion of manufacturing basically stable, enhance the resilience of the supply system of manufacturing, and promote the development of digital industrialization and industry digitalization.” He then talks about the “grim and complex” challenges in terms of industrial development and IT development. The key, therefore, is to strengthen “bottom line” thinking and initiative taking. 

Amid all this, here’s Xiao’s agenda/blueprint:

“We will accelerate efforts to improve industrial innovation capacity. This is the key to enhance the core competitiveness of the industry and effectively respond to risks and challenges. We should continue to make self-reliance and self-improvement in science and technology the strategic support, make full use of the advantages of China’s super-large market and the new nationwide system, and fully implement the strategy of innovation-driven development. We will carry out projects to tackle key and core technologies and products, strive to make breakthroughs in “chokepoint” technologies, and promote the development of key technologies and product ecosystems. We will encourage and support innovation, not only by creating more individual technologies and products, but also by vigorously enhancing the capacity of industries for independent innovation. To achieve this, we need to further promote the construction of a collaborative innovation system in the manufacturing sector and strengthen the supply of basic generic technologies. We will accelerate the establishment of a system for technological innovation in which enterprises play a leading role, give full play to the leading role of leading enterprises, and promote integrated innovation among large, medium and small enterprises.”

He also pledges greater digitisation of industries, overall upgrading, creating high-quality brands, world-class advanced manufacturing clusters, low-carbon manufacturing, and highlights key tech domains like 5G, AI, blockchain, network equipment development, etc, with a focus on enhancing cybersecurity. 

The other piece on the page is from Chen Xu and Qiu Yong, Party Secretary and President of Tsinghua University, respectively. They basically talk up Tsinghua and write about creating world class universities. They argue that:

“Generally speaking, world-class universities are often produced in economically developed countries or regions. It is a new undertaking to establish a world-class university in a developing country like China. At the early stage of establishing world-class universities, Chinese colleges and universities were clearly aware of the gap between themselves and foreign first-class universities in terms of basic conditions, so they have worked to grasp the relationship between key breakthroughs and overall advancement… and used the limited resources to the best advantage.”

Going ahead, they propose that:

“To establish a world-class university in China, we should first study the common characteristics of world-class universities and choose different development goals at different stages. We should neither aim beyond our reach nor belittle ourselves. We should not be in a hurry, but be aggressive. China’s colleges and universities should create and maintain their own characteristics based on national conditions and the actual situation of the school, and provide their own answers with regard to the direction, philosophy and orientation of the school as part of a process of continuous exploration.”

But they still have some core prerequisites for Chinese universities:

“Chinese universities must always adhere to the guidance of Marxism, adhere to the socialist direction of running schools, adhere to the morality and cultivation of people, comprehensively strengthen the party’s leadership of the university, fully implement the party’s educational policy, inherit and carry forward the excellent cultural traditions and glorious revolutionary traditions, actively serve the country’s major strategic needs and economic and social development…”

Finally this, i.e., the need for the university to influence global debates across domains. 

“World-class means leading, not only should one lead the development direction of world science and technology, but also influence the innovation and development of social ideology and culture. World-class also means contribution and influence, not only should one make outstanding contributions to the development of the country and the nation, but also to play a role in solving major problems faced by all mankind.” 

By this metric, Chinese universities are honestly far away from being world class.