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Podcast on GDI, GSI & GCI - More Books on Xi Thought - New Round of Inspections Set to Begin - Railways Fixed-Asset Investment in Q1 at $16.53 billion - Lashing out at AUKUS
Before we get to today’s edition, let me share below a recent episode from Takshashila’s All Things Policy podcast where I discussed China’s New Initiatives: The GDI, GSI and GDI, while also thinking through what could be some implications from an Indian interests perspective. I think much more thinking needs to go in this direction. So I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas and feedback.
Here are the key reports and articles that I found noteworthy from the People’s Daily’s edition on Monday, April 10, 2023.
Page 1: It’s a slow news day in the paper today. The top story is about the publication of more books on studying Xi’s thought, which are all going to be handy for the education campaign that is underway. The report informs that three new compilations of excerpts from Xi’s discourses have been published. The books are on self-revolution, investigation and research and worldview and methodology of Xi’s thought.
The other leading story confirms that 15 teams of disciplinary inspectors have been assigned to positions, as part of the first round of disciplinary inspections launched by the 20th Central Committee. If you recall, this round focuses on 30 centrally administered state-owned enterprises, five financial agencies, and the General Administration of Sport of China. I had covered the entire list of entities being inspected in the post on March 28, along with the details of the scope of inspections.
Xinhua reports: “The inspection teams will be stationed at their assigned units for approximately two and a half months or one and a half months, depending on the type of inspection they are set to carry out. Meanwhile, telephone lines and mailboxes will be set up to receive tip-offs on matters such as discipline violations by Party officials.”
Next, there’s a report informing that China’s Small and Medium Enterprises Development Index grew by 1.3 points to 89.3 in the first quarter of the year, compared with the previous quarter. This was the highest increase of the index since the fourth quarter of 2020. The index is calculated based on a survey of 3,000 small and medium-sized enterprises. China Daily has an English report on this. It says that:
“Among the eight sub-industry indexes, the hospitality and catering, transportation, information transmission and software industries experienced the highest increases in the first quarter of this year. In the meantime, the macroeconomic sentiment index, which reflects the SMEs' confidence in future development, and the benefit index showed notable growth, according to the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises. Analysts said the government's continuous efforts to stabilize the economy, including tax cuts, fee reductions, consumption stimulation packages, measures to support the private sector and the resurgence of the exhibition economy, have contributed to the increase in business confidence among SMEs. They predicted that the growth trend will continue in the second quarter of the year.”
Finally, some data from the Ministry of Education, which informs that as of 2022, the proportion of full-time teachers engaged in rural compulsory education who have a bachelor’s degree or above is 76.01%, an increase of 35.29 percentage points from 2012. Some other useful data in the article:
Since the implementation of the special post plan for school teachers in rural compulsory education, a total of 1.095 million college graduates have gone to teach in rural schools in the central and western regions, of which 84.8% have a bachelor's degree or above.
Excellent principals and teachers were selected from schools in the eastern region and cities to help rural schools in the central and western regions, which effectively alleviated the shortage in underdeveloped areas.
As of 2022, more than 18 million people have participated in the National Training Program, which provides targeted training for rural compulsory education teachers in the central and western regions; the central government has invested more than 20 billion yuan in total.
Page 2: Just one report to note: In Q1 of 2023, fixed-asset investment in China's railway system reached 113.55 billion yuan ($16.53 billion), a year-on-year increase of 6.6 percent, as per data from China Railway Co showed. The report informs that since the beginning of the year, the focus has been on 102 major railway projects. Global Times has an English report. It informs that:
“In the first quarter of 2023, multiple key railway projects have achieved breakthroughs, with high-speed railways including Guiyang-Nanning, Fuzhou-Xiamen, and Guangzhou-Shantou all completing track-laying, according to the statement. Other leading projects under construction including Chengdu-Lanzhou railway, the Shandong section of Jinan-Zhengzhou high-speed railway, and others have achieved breakthroughs in major engineering projects…China's total fixed-asset investment in the first two months totaled 5.36 trillion yuan, rising 5.5 percent year-on-year, with the amount in railway investment alone growing by 17.8 percent, data from National Bureau of Statistics showed.”
Page 3: A couple of pieces to note. First, there’s a commentary on AUKUS by Ong Tee Keat, the chairman of the Centre For New Inclusive Asia in Malaysia. He argues that AUKUS is primarily “a tool” “to maintain US global hegemony.”
He argues that the AUKUS agreement poses “risks of nuclear proliferation, violates the purpose of the NPT, seriously threatens regional peace and stability, and has aroused widespread concern among countries in the region.” 相关计划构成核扩散风险，违反《不扩散核武器条约》的目的和宗旨，严重威胁地区和平稳定，引起了地区国家广泛担忧.
He adds that the deal shows “blatant contempt for ASEAN’s efforts to build a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia. The Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty initiated by ASEAN aims to build Southeast Asia into a nuclear-weapon-free region and to better implement the NPT. The United States claims that the primary goal of the trilateral security partnership between the United States, Britain and Australia is to ‘enhance the stability of the Indo-Pacific region amid the rapidly changing global dynamics’. This statement is completely contrary to the actual situation. The trilateral security partnership between the United States, Britain and Australia will only increase security risks in the Asia-Pacific region and aggravate geopolitical tensions in the region. The stationing or cruising of warships belonging to the United States or its allies will only undermine peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.” 美英澳此举也是对东盟打造东南亚无核武器区努力的公然蔑视。东盟倡导的《东南亚无核武器区条约》，旨在将东南亚地区建设成为没有核武器的地区，也是为了更好地落实《不扩散核武器条约》。美国声称，美英澳“三边安全伙伴关系”的首要目标是“在迅速变换的全球动态中增进印太地区的稳定”。这一说法和实际情况完全相反。美英澳“三边安全伙伴关系”只会给亚太地区增加安全风险，加剧地区地缘政治紧张局势。美国或其盟友的舰艇进驻或游弋，只会破坏亚太地区的和平稳定.
The next paragraph retreats that AUKUS is a tool for “maintaining American hegemony.” “In order to maintain its hegemony, the United States is sacrificing regional security and stability, which essentially means that the people of the Asia-Pacific region are paying for US hegemony. People in the region know full well that any attempt to sow discord and create confrontation in the Asia-Pacific is not in the interests of the region. This is why countries in the region are generally wary of the AUKUS partnership.” 为了维护自身霸权，美国不惜牺牲地区安全稳定，这实际上是让亚太地区人民为其霸权埋单。地区国家人民深知，任何在亚太地区挑拨离间、制造对抗的行为都不符合地区利益。正因为如此，地区国家普遍对美英澳“三边安全伙伴关系”保持警惕.
“The US increasing its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region under the guise of maintaining peace and stability is not a new phenomenon. US policy in the South China Sea issue is a typical example. The US claims that it has increased its military operations in the South China Sea in order to maintain peace and stability. However, countries in the region generally believe that the South China Sea issue can be resolved by relevant countries through negotiations. ASEAN and China have established dialogues for more than 30 years, and they are fully confident and capable of solving the South China Sea issue without the intervention of external forces. 美国打着维护和平稳定的幌子增加自身在亚太的军事存在，并不是一个新现象。美国在南海问题上的做法就是一个典型例子。美国声称其在南海增加军事行动是为了维护南海和平稳定。但地区国家普遍认为，南海问题可以由相关国家通过谈判解决。东盟同中国建立对话关系已超过30年，完全有信心、有能力解决好南海问题，不需要外部势力插手. — Comment: This is just a terrible argument that does not accord with facts.
“The US pays lip service to the ‘rules-based international order’, but what it calls rules are actually those oriented by its own interests, rather than the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law. What the US really cares about is its geopolitical influence. At present, the US is trying to start from the military security level, stirring-up/poisoning individual countries, in order to form a small circle to provoke confrontation among major powers. This practice will only undermine the stability of the international order.” 美国口口声声说要维护“基于规则的国际秩序”，但美国所谓的规则，实际上是以其自身利益为导向的规则，而不是以联合国为核心的国际体系和以国际法为基础的国际秩序。美国真正在乎的是自身的地缘政治影响力。目前，美国正试图从军事安全层面入手，蛊惑个别国家，组建小圈子来挑起大国对抗。这种做法只会损害国际秩序稳定.
One of Beijing’s key arguments against AUKUS was put forward by the Chinese embassy in Britain recently.
“The AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation marks the first time for nuclear weapon states to transfer naval nuclear propulsion reactors and weapons-grade highly enriched uranium to a non-nuclear weapon state, it noted. As the current International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system is incapable of ensuring effective safeguards, such cooperation poses serious nuclear proliferation risks, seriously compromises the authority of the IAEA, and deals a blow to the agency's safeguards system, the embassy said. ‘If the three countries are set on advancing the cooperation, other countries will likely follow suit, eventually leading to the collapse of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime,’ it said.”
Next, there’s a Hé Yīn commentary on China’s human rights diplomacy at the 52nd UN Human Rights Council meeting. It says that:
“China's historic achievements in the cause of human rights fully show that in respecting and protecting human rights one must adhere to the principle of universality of human rights and follow the path of human rights development in line with one’s national conditions. The historical and cultural traditions, specific national conditions and people's demands of different countries vary widely, and there is no one-size-fits-all human rights protection model in the world. Copying the model of other countries will only lead to it not being acclimatised in the host country; imposing one’s model on others will do more harm than good. The right of all countries to choose their own path of human rights development must be respected.” 中国人权事业取得历史性成就充分说明，尊重和保障人权必须在坚持人权普遍性原则基础上，走符合本国国情的人权发展道路。各国历史文化传统、具体国情、人民诉求千差万别，世界上不存在定于一尊的人权保障模式。照搬照抄别国模式只会水土不服，强加于人更会贻害无穷。各国自主选择人权发展道路的权利必须得到尊重.
The next paragraph adds that “no country is qualified to be a ‘judge’ of human rights, and human rights cannot be used as an excuse to interfere in other countries' internal affairs or to curb their development. Since 2019, the United States has, four times in a row, gathered some countries and used human rights issues to attack and discredit China at meetings of the Third Committee meeting of the UN General Assembly. This met with firm opposition from the overwhelming majority of countries and ended in failure. Nearly 100 countries have expressed their understanding and support for China’s legitimate position in different ways at successive sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. They have opposed politicising human rights issues, practising double standards and interference in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights. These voices of justice fully demonstrate that justice prevails. The most important thing for those countries to discredit China's human rights situation is to take concrete actions to solve the serious human rights violations in their own countries, and deeply review the human rights disasters they have caused to other countries.” 任何国家都没有资格当人权“判官”，人权不能成为干涉别国内政、遏制别国发展的借口。2019年以来，美国连续4次纠集一些国家借人权问题在联合国大会第三委员会会议上攻击抹黑中国，遭到了绝大多数国家坚决反对，均以失败告终。近百个国家连续在联合国人权理事会会议上发出正义声音，以不同方式表达对中国正当立场的理解和支持，反对将人权问题政治化和奉行双重标准，反对借人权问题干涉中国内政。这些正义之声充分说明公道自在人心。那些抹黑中国人权状况的国家最应该做的，是采取切实行动解决本国存在的严重侵犯人权问题，深刻检讨自身给他国制造的人权灾难.
Page 12: A report on the Chinese coast guard’s law-enforcement operations. It says maritime law-enforcement entails land inspection, sea patrol and air patrol. In 2022, the coast guard:
dealt with 15,227 cases
investigated and handled 732 criminal cases
investigated and dealt with 2,681 various public security administrative cases
seized 1.12 tons of drugs and 1.2 tons of drug-making materials
busted 3 large drug gangs
471 cases of various types of smuggling were dealt with; the value of seizure was 2.18 billion yuan.
Page 16: Three reports from the international page that I’d like to highlight.
First, and this is interesting, because it does talk about a noteworthy shift taking place in the Middle East. The report informs that many countries in the Middle East are normalising their ties with Syria. It says that Saudi Arabia has agreed to open its embassy; Tunisia’s president has said that he wants to restore diplomatic ties; and UAE, Egypt, Lebanon and other countries called on the Arab League to restore Syria's membership.
So far this year, Bashar al-asaad has visited UAE and Oman. During Asaad’s visit to the UAE, Sheikh Mohammad was quoted as saying: “To the people of Syria, it's been too long, and you have been missed. It's time for the Syrians to return to the Arab family.” Also, many countries in the Middle East actively provided humanitarian assistance to Syria after the recent earthquake, and successively sent high-level delegations to visit Damascus, among which the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt visited the country for the first time since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, the piece informs.
Second, a brief report noting that a Saudi delegation is visiting Yemen to talk to the Houthi rebels.
Finally, an article that argues that the US’ Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is:
based on “flimsy” and “false” reports.
ignores the basic principles of international law and disrupts the international order. The US’ “practice of imposing one's own domestic law as ‘international rules’ is a flagrant violation of the basic principle of international law of the sovereign equality of states.” Also, as a WTO member US has completely disregarded its various obligations, willfully violated fair, just and objective international economic and trade rules, seriously distorted the normal international trade order and undermined market principles.” It has done all this “in order to achieve the purpose of maliciously suppressing China…” 其次，涉疆法无视国际法基本原则，严重侵蚀国际法治、扰乱国际秩序。国际社会由平等的主权国家组成，“平等者之间无管辖权”。而美国恰恰习惯于依其本国法向别国发号施令。在人权问题上，美国素来不愿接受国际人权公约确立的人权标准，而是以美国国内法为依据审查其他国家的人权状况，以他国违反美国国内法确立的标准为由频繁制定人权制裁法，对他国的个人、企业、实体甚至政府机构实施制裁。这种将一己国内法当作“国际规则”强加于人的做法，是对国家主权平等的国际法基本原则的公然违反. 作为世界贸易组织成员，美国完全无视其各项义务，恣意违反公平、公正、客观的国际经贸规则，严重扭曲正常的国际贸易秩序、破坏市场原则。为实现恶意打压中国的目的，该涉疆法将在中国新疆地区全部或部分生产产品均推定为所谓“强迫劳动”产品，除非能够提供明确、令人信服的证据，证明供应链上任一环节均不是使用强迫劳动生产的，否则禁止进口.
violates human rights in the name of safeguarding human rights, i.e., “it seeks to deprive people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang of their right to work and seriously infringes on the local people's right to survival and development.” 涉疆法要求供应链每一个环节都不采购新疆产品，不雇佣来自新疆的员工，其实质是要试图剥夺新疆各族群众的工作权，严重侵害当地民众的生存权与发展权.
Just highlighting below a couple of other interesting stories that are worth reading.
First, Emmanuel Macron’s rather blunt interview with Politico, where he talked about reducing Europe’s dependence on the US in terms of security, energy and the “extraterritoriality of the U.S. dollar.” He warned that “if the tensions between the two superpowers heat up … we won’t have the time nor the resources to finance our strategic autonomy and we will become vassals.” This approach fits with the framework of middle powers bargaining for gains while jostling for autonomy amid great power competition. For those interested, here’s a brief position paper that I had written in early February, which discusses the framework and potential directions in which things can go. I had argued:
“In sum, competition among great powers in the post-COVID world is not, for the moment, resulting in the creation of clear power blocs or an existential systems rivalry. Rather, what is evident is a state of tremendous fluidity. Great powers are seeking to compete by investing in domestic capacity, constraining and delegitimizing each other’s actions and expanding influence. Middle powers, meanwhile, are eyeing capability enhancement, autonomy of action and greater bargaining power. In essence, what we are witnessing today is in an era of great power competition in an increasingly multipolar world.”
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