Discover more from Tracking People's Daily
Politburo Session on Biosecurity - China-EU Strategic Dialogue - Shanghai's High-Tech Goals - Medical Security System During 14-FYP - NDRC on Power Cuts - Hailing China's COVID-19 Strategy
Before, we begin, I’d like to share my latest piece assessing the direction of and challenges in the India-China relationship.
Also, I’d like to highlight this comment from yesterday’s press briefing by the Chinese foreign ministry:
TASS News Agency: According to Times of India, Indian army has deployed more sophisticated artillery to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in the Eastern Ladakh. It is said that three M777 howitzers regiments has been deployed on the border with China. Do you have any comments on this information?
Hua Chunying: The Indian side has long pursued the “forward policy” and illegally crossed the LAC to encroach on China's territory, which is the root cause of tension in the China-India border situation. China opposes any arms race in the disputed border areas for the purpose of competition over control. We have always been firm in safeguarding national territorial sovereignty and security, and committed to peace and stability in the China-India border areas.
It’s the first use of the term “forward policy” by China in reference to developments in Eastern Ladakh in my recollection. To me, this is an upgrade in signalling from Beijing; not sure what it means tangibly though. But what drew my interest more was that this was a question asked my TASS.
Anyway, here are the stories and pieces from the September 30, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.
Page 1: Let’s begin with a report informing us about the 33rd study session of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee. Xinhua English has a detailed report too. PD informs us that Wu Kongming from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences was the expert who spoke at the session. After that, Xi Jinping delivered a speech. He said that “biosafety is related to people's lives and health, the country's long-term peace and stability, and the sustainable development of the Chinese nation.” He added that “biosecurity is an essential part of overall national security and an important force that may affect and even reshape the global landscape.” He also stressed the significance and urgency of enhancing biosecurity in China and urged efforts to build “a strong shield” against biosecurity threats.
In his speech, Xi informed that since the 18th Party Congress, biosafety has been placed within the purview of the overall national security strategy. He added that the efforts to manage COVID-19 have enhanced China’s “awareness and protection capacity” when it comes to biosafety issues.
He then spoke about the “intertwining of traditional problems and new risks concerning biosecurity as well as the coexistence of overseas biological threats and domestic risks.” He added that China’s biosecurity risk prevention and control system still has weaknesses, adding that it is necessary to scientifically analyze the biosafety situation in China, grasp the risks and challenges, and clarify the ideas and measures to strengthen biosafety construction.” 习近平强调，现在，传统生物安全问题和新型生物安全风险相互叠加，境外生物威胁和内部生物风险交织并存，生物安全风险呈现出许多新特点，我国生物安全风险防控和治理体系还存在短板弱项。必须科学分析我国生物安全形势，把握面临的风险挑战, 明确加强生物安全建设的思路和举措.
I think Xinhua English captures the next paragraph well. Xi highlighted the need to strengthen strategic and forward-looking studies and planning for the national biosecurity strategy, calling for improvements to the biosecurity governance mechanism with the Party’s leadership, the government responsibility, social synergies, public involvement and the rule of law. Efforts should be made to improve related laws and regulations, raise public awareness, and better fight the people's war against biosecurity risks.
He then spoke about the need to strengthen systemic governance and ensure whole-process prevention and control of biosecurity risks. This entails building a strong network for biosecurity risk monitoring and early warning, with a focus on strengthening the building of grassroots monitoring stations and enhancing the ability to identify risks at the grassroots level. Potential threats of outbreaks of new infectious diseases, major animal or plant epidemics, drug-resistance of microorganisms and risks regarding the impact of biotechnology on the environment should be detected and identified at an early stage, thus enabling a timely response, he added. Xi also talked about planning for major biosafety emergencies and improving the rapid emergency response mechanism. In addition, In this he also talked about clarifying the “institutional mechanism for prevention and control of animal and plant diseases at the grassroots level.” Efforts should be made to cut the transmission of zoonotic diseases at the source, Xi said.
Next, he said that workers in key biosecurity-related fields should think about worst-case scenarios and always remain alert, noting that border control and quarantine should be strengthened, while violations should be punished. Xi added that it “is necessary to strengthen the management of pathogen-laboratory biosecurity, strictly implement relevant standards and norms, and strictly manage experimental samples, experimental animals and wastes from experimental activities.” 要加强对国内病原微生物实验室生物安全的管理，严格执行有关标准规范，严格管理实验样本、实验动物、实验活动废弃物.
Xi then talked about strengthening innovations and industrial applications in biotechnology and accelerating the development of biosecurity-related science and technology toward greater self-reliance. He underlined the need to carry out strict ethical reviews of biotechnological research projects and conduct moral education among scientists. Efforts should be made to ensure the healthy development of biotechnology and move forward with industrial applications of bio-breeding and biomedicine in an orderly manner and on the basis of respecting science, strict supervision, law-based regulation and improved security. In addition, he wants to integrate traditional Chinese and western medicine with modern biotechnology.
The final bit is about global governance and international exchanges, wherein he wants to focus on biosecurity-related fields such as “policy formulation, risk assessment, emergency response, information sharing and capacity building.”
Next, 48 more books around Xi Jinping Thought are now available in digital format for the masses and cadres to better understand the thought. Third, we have a report about the Central Propaganda Department releasing the first batch of great spirits, which are to be included in the spiritual pedigree of the Party. I had done some spirit gathering in the past, but I guess there are more than I had collected. Fourth, a report about the “enthusiastic response” to Xi’s speech on talents, which I covered yesterday. I guess, at least the folks leading science-tech institutions and academies will be enthusiastic about the comments; there’s been repeated emphasis on greater autonomy, financial freedom and less bureaucratic work for researchers, which Xi also referenced in his speech.
Then we have a commentary based on Xi’s speech. It says that:
“the world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, with a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation developing rapidly. Science and technology have never had such a profound impact on China's future and people’s well-being as they do today. China needs to be able to attract, retain and use talents from around the world.” It adds that the goals identified by Xi have “established a ‘timetable’ and ‘road map’ for accelerating the building China as a global talent center and innovation hub.”
Reading through the piece, I kept wondering how is it that Beijing believes it’s going to keep attracting the best and brightest from around the world, given the evolving political situation.
The answer that the piece offers is that China’s political stability, economic prosperity, thriving innovation scene, the strong leadership of the Party and the superiority of the socialist system, along with breakthroughs in basic and applied research have “created favorable conditions” to attract people. 现在，我国正处于政治最稳定、经济最繁荣、创新最活跃的时期，党的坚强领导和我国社会主义制度的政治优势，基础研究和应用基础研究实现重大突破，面向国家重大需求的战略高技术研究取得重要成果，应用研究引领产业向中高端迈进，为我们加快建设世界重要人才中心和创新高地创造了有利条件. ----
Quick thought: I do see some merit in the argument being made. There will be a number of people around the world who would like to move to China, and will not fuss about the kinds of things that analysts and think tankers go on about. For a large majority of people, the promise of a better financial future and a good lifestyle are really what matters most. Rule of law and social frictions are relevant, but only in terms of how these impact you rather than society at large, particularly when you are in a foreign country. The challenge to all of this is what happens when talent and research-related approaches get politicised and restricted, and there are restrictions because others are also viewing this as part of strategic competition? Will you be able to attract folks at the cutting edge? Also, will the Meng Wanzhou-Kovrig-Spavor case have a long-term impact on perceptions?
Finally, Wang Yang visited an exhibition on achievements in helping border areas and their residents to achieve prosperity. He spoke about “historic achievements” having been made in this regard and the need to “consolidate the sense of community for the Chinese nation” and improve “differentiated policies for supporting the development of different areas.”
Page 2: Some reports to note on the page. First, a report (English version) about the State Council approving a plan to promote high-quality development of a medical security system during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025). The report tells us that “with the aim of guaranteeing people’s health and pushing for common prosperity,” the plan keeps “people’s health at the core” and seeks to “ensure its sustainable development.” As per the plan “by 2025, the medical security system will become more mature. The reform on multiple major mechanisms and key areas of health services will be basically finished. By 2035, the basic medical security system will be more standardized and unified, according to the plan, and a multilayered medical security system will be well-established.”
The key tasks that are outlined are:
improve multilayered medical security system
improve the quality of basic medical insurance
improve the quality of basic medical insurance by classifying medical insurance participants according to laws and regulations, expanding medical insurance coverage, and improving services on medical insurance fees collection
encourage the development of commercial health insurance
develop a medical mutual assistance system and a long-term nursing insurance system
improve mechanisms for medicine pricing and payment
improve standardized healthcare public services and direct settlement for off-site medical treatment, enhance legal support, strengthen management on medical insurance funds, and ensure data security of medical care information
By 2025, Shanghai aims to have 4.5 percent of its GDP devoted to research and development. Basic research would make up 12 percent of the city’s total R&D budget by then.
Foreign capital accounted for over 40 percent of R&D spending by large companies and industries in the city. At the end of August, there were around 500 foreign-funded R&D centers in the city, and the number is set to rise to 560 by the end of 2025.
Government will provide financial services, stronger intellectual property protection, and greater convenience for foreign experts working and living in the city.
Integrated circuits, biomedicine, artificial intelligence and several other industries will be focuses and drivers in Shanghai's transformation into a global innovation hub
Shanghai's Zhangjiang Comprehensive National Science Center is the core pillar for the city's rise as an international science center.
The city is also home to 45 State Key Laboratories, ranging from information technology and artificial intelligence to advanced manufacturing
Scientists from the city contributed 32 percent of the Chinese papers published last year in top journals such as Nature, Science and Cell.
Page 3: Let’s begin with the China-EU strategic dialogue. The report in PD is rather limited. I am therefore relying on the readout from China’s foreign ministry, and will also look at the EU’s readout.
As per China, Wang underscored that “bilateral exchanges should be based on mutual respect, seeking common ground while shelving differences, expanding cooperation and reducing antagonism, upholding the international order based on the UN Charter and international law, and jointly addressing common challenges such as COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.” He also said that the EU “has said on many occasions that it welcomes China's development, has no intention of engaging in institutional confrontation and will not engage in any form of ‘new Cold War’. China appreciates that.”
He wants to “step up coordination on a new round of high-level economic, trade and digital dialogues to deepen and deliver concrete results for the China-EU green and digital partnership.” He also wants to “align the Belt and Road Initiative and the EU's connectivity initiative.”
Wang talked about Xi’s UNGA speech. He said that Xi had proposed the Global Development Initiative, which aims for “international cooperation in such fields as poverty reduction, food security, and fight against the pandemic, financing for development, climate change and green development, industrialization, and connectivity to prevail against the pandemic and accelerate the realization of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has received positive response and support. We welcome the active participation of the EU.” -- Useful filling in of details to the GDI.
The Chinese readout says that Josep Borrell said that the “EU regards China as an important strategic partner and the bilateral relations are mature, multi-faceted and non-confrontational.” It adds that “the EU welcomes the Global Development Initiative” and that it “appreciates” the announcement of not funding new coal-fired power projects abroad and is willing to work on Covid-19 related issues.
The last bit of the readout focuses on human rights and Taiwan.
On human rights:
“in terms of human rights protection, there is no single best way, only the better one. China is ready to conduct dialogue and cooperation on human rights with other countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect. However, China will not accept ‘an instructor’ on human rights, and oppose interference in other countries' internal affairs under the pretext of human rights. Borrell said that the EU will respect China’s sovereignty and has no intention to lecture at China.”
“stressing that the one-China principle is the general consensus of the international community and the political basis for the development of relations between China and the EU and its member states. "If the foundation is not firm, the ground is unsteady." Borrell said that the EU always adheres to the one-China policy, which is an important cornerstone of EU-China relations. The EU will not conduct official exchanges with Taiwan.” -- This is so very, very different from what the EU’s statement says.
The readout ends by saying that they talked about “Afghanistan, Myanmar, non-proliferation and other issues of common concern.” -- So I guess the non-proliferation is a euphemism for AUKUS?
The EU’s readout says that “the High Representative reaffirmed the validity of the EU’s multifaceted approach towards China, in all its dimensions. The High Representative noted that while disagreements still persisted, the EU and China needed to continue engaging intensively in a number of important areas.”
“The High Representative stressed the necessity to engage on human rights issues and to resume the EU China Human Rights Dialogue, as a key component of a mature relationship. He expressed his hope that the next meeting could take place before the end of the year. This will be crucial to address the disagreements between the EU and China. In this context, they also discussed the situation in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.” -- Let’s see if this happens, and if so, what does it yield?
On Taiwan, the EU’s statement says the “High Representative stressed that the EU had always been, and would continue, applying its One China policy consistently. At the same time, the EU and its Member States have an interest to develop cooperation with Taiwan, a like-minded and important economic partner in the region, without any recognition of statehood.”
This is also an interesting paragraph, which confirms my earlier thought on what non-proliferation meant in the Chinese readout. “The Strategic Dialogue also touched upon the EU Indo-Pacific Strategy, with the High Representative highlighting its inclusive nature and cooperative approach. On the recently announced defence agreement between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom (”AUKUS”), the High Representative welcomed the joint statement by Presidents Biden and Macron. He also referred to his fruitful exchanges in the margins of UN General Assembly, including with his US counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken.” -- So, I guess the EU’s basically telling China that it’s cool with AUKUS?
Quick thought: My sense after going through both the readouts is that while the EU is crafting its own approach to China, based on this conversation, it seems that it is much closer to the US’ approach on China than we generally assume. But that doesn’t mean there’s perfect congruence. Three things come to mind. First, in the EU’s approach, there’s no hankering for an ideological or systemic confrontation, although there is the values difference that’s acknowledged. I am not sure what sort of sticks the EU can bring to bear in this regard though, and how will it ensure respect for values when it comes to say new technology cooperation with China. This will be challenging. Second, there’s an appreciation of business interests and the need to work on common challenges with China. Third, my sense is that there’s a realisation in Brussels that the EU gains from a tougher US policy on China, provided this policy isn’t entirely unhinged. So US efforts to have “guardrails” with China will be welcomed as will stiff China-US competition. This creates more room for the EU to manoeuvre. What do you think?
Next on the page, a report about Wang Yi’s chats with counterparts from Malaysia, Mexico and Brunei. With Malaysia’s Saifuddin Abdullah, Wang spoke about BRI, economic cooperation and the need to work on emerging areas, including 5G, big data, and cloud computing. He also promised to “vigorously promote vaccine cooperation between the two sides, and talked about the need to “stick to the just position against stigmatization of the epidemic and politicization of origins tracing.” Wang also pushed the GDI as “a major public product.” The two men also spoke about “international and regional issues of common concern, such as the Afghanistan situation and nuclear non-proliferation.”
To Brunei’s Haji Erywan, Wang said he hopes that Brunei will continue to play a constructive role as the rotating chair of ASEAN and push China-ASEAN relations to a new level. What do you know, non-proliferation figured in this chat too!
With Mexico’s Marcelo Ebrard, Wang said that the two countries, with “time-honored civilizations and similar historical experiences” have to “shoulder the important task of the times to achieve national rejuvenation and deliver happiness for their people, and (have) a shared mission to uphold international fairness and justice.” He then talked about COVID-19-related cooperation before moving on to the CPTPP.
Wang said that China has officially filed an application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which demonstrates its strong determination to further open up and represents China's crucial move to help boost globalization. China is willing to make joint efforts with all parties to make the agreement more broadly represented and play a positive role in promoting trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, as well as following the trend of economic globalization. -- So I guess Wang’s view is that China’s doing everyone a favour by applying to join the CPTPP.
Ebrard said, as per Xinhua, that Mexico firmly sticks to the one-China policy, abides by the principle of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, and supports China's legitimate claims on issues involving Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, he said. The Mexican foreign minister commended and welcomed China’s application to join the CPTPP, saying that Mexico will keep communication with China on the issue.
Next a report that Minister of Public Security Zhao Kezhi met with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng. They talked about cracking down on telecom fraud, online gambling, “preventing political security risks, implementing drug control and strengthening law enforcement capabilities.”
Page 4: First, a report (English report) about Liu Yongtan, a radar and signal processing expert, was bestowed with the honorary title of ‘Role Model of the Times’ in recognition of his contributions to the development of radar technology used at sea. Another report on the page talks about a book about Liu which was released in Harbin on September 26. The article quotes Jia Yumei, member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Heilongjiang Provincial Committee and head of the Propaganda Department there, as saying that “I hope the people of the province, especially the young students, can learn from Liu Yongtan, inherit on the red gene and lineage, and inherit the spirit of scientists with practical actions.” The idea of the piece is that science and technology should serve the national cause.
Second, the CCDI and Supervision Commission have published 10 typical cases of the Four Winds: i.e., formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and waste. This is sort of a warning during the holidays of the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day.
Page 6: The entire page is dedicated to one piece (shorter English version) on similar lines. This tells us that amid the pandemic, policymakers around the world have been trying to figure out how to manage the “intricate balance between safeguarding public health and mitigating the economic impacts.” In this regard, “China has had a clear and proven solution for the dilemma...Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China Central Committee with Xi Jinping at its core, the country has walked a fine line between virus control and economic reopening, saved lives at all costs, fostered opportunities from the crisis, opened its door wider despite strict COVID-19 containment, and coordinated near-term tasks and long-term goals.”
The piece does have some interesting data points:
China currently sees more than 230 international passenger flights and around 3,700 international cargo flights every week, even though it has suspended more than 300 inbound passenger flights since June 2020.
China raised its deficit by 1 trillion yuan over the previous year. Still as per an April IMF report, the overall deficit as a share of GDP in 2020 for China was 11.4% in 2020, which was lower than the US’ 15.8%, UK’s 13.4%, and Japan’s 12.6%. The average level for advanced economies was 13.3%.
The latest report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows that the scale of foreign direct investment flowing into Europe and North America last year shrank by 80% and 40%, respectively, while the scale of foreign direct investment into China increased by 6%.
The per capita treatment cost of a COVID-19 patient in China is 23,000 yuan, and the treatment cost for a severe patient even exceeds 150,000 yuan. By the end of June, 2.837 billion yuan of medical expenses had been settled for hospitalized COVID-19 patients nationwide, of which 1.631 billion yuan was covered by medical insurance. More than 2.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered free of charge across the country so far.
There’s also some good, old dissing of the West, arguing that China has put righteousness 义 - a key idea a the heart of China and concept of the socialist system - ahead of profit in the fight against COVID-19. - 义, 反映的是我们的一个理念，共产党人、社会主义国家的理念.
The next section talks about how the pandemic also provided opportunities; this is in the context of new forms of businesses and domains of investment. And the piece ends with how long-term strategy and global cooperation have continued.
Page 7: There’s a report on the page with the NDRC’s press briefing on the current energy crisis. Zichen Wang and Alexander Wang have a translation of the entire presser in the Pekingnology newsletter. I’m referring you all to that instead of doing a breakdown here.
Page 10: A long piece to commemorate Martyr’ Day.
Page 17: Consolidated report about criticism of the US during the 48th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council. The report classifies statements and criticism in three categories. Opposing unilateral sanctions; opposing military intervention; and opposing colonialism. The last of these bunches together issues like systemic racism, economic inequality, rights of indigenous peoples, contemporary forms of slavery, armed conflicts, damage to cultural heritage, etc.