Reform & Opening Up - Chinese Modernisation vs Western Capitalist Modernisation - Why China Still Enjoys Strategic Opportunities? - 7 Sins - Grievances over HK - Covid Control Must be 'Top Priority'

Here are the stories and pieces from the August 5, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: Let’s begin with the story of Xi and Erdogan exchanging messages marking the 50th anniversary of bilateral ties. 

Xinhua English tells us:

“The two countries, Xi suggested, should understand and support each other on issues concerning each other's core interests and major concerns, accelerate the aligning of development strategies, and push for steady and long-term development of their strategic cooperative relationship, so as to bring benefits to both countries and their people.”

There’s no core interests-related comment from Erdogan or even a congratulatory bit for the Party that’s reported. But he says that he “attaches great importance to the development of bilateral relations, and will continue to push forward strategic cooperation between the two countries.”

Next, we have the third piece in the mid-year economic review series. This one emphasises the importance of reform and opening up. Again it’s useful to note what all gets seen as contributing to reform and opening up in the year so far. None of it, of course, indicates market liberalisation:

So this piece mentions:

  • Pudong New Area plan, Hainan Free Trade Port reform, and Zhejiang being the new Common Prosperity Demonstration Zone

  • The merger of China Potevio Corp. as now a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation

  • The merger of Sinochem Group with ChemChina

  • China Satellite Network Group Co. Ltd. being headquartered in Xiong’an

  • Integration of national pipeline network resources

  • Improving the evaluation mechanism for scientific and technological achievements

  • Pilot reform of medical service prices

  • Work towards achieving carbon peak and neutrality

  • Expanding foreign trade and attracting FDI; also this: in the first half of the year, the 21 pilot free trade zones used 100.88 billion yuan of foreign investment, attracting nearly 17% of the country's foreign investment

  • There’s emphasis on support for SMEs and R&D support for enterprises

Next a report (English report) about the State Council putting out new regulations for anti-seismic construction. These are aimed at improving earthquake resistance of projects under construction, reducing disaster risks, and safeguarding the safety of people’s lives and property. The regulations are effective from September 1. It says that:

“Construction projects for schools, kindergartens, hospitals, nursing facilities, child welfare institutions, emergency operation centers, emergency shelters, and broadcast buildings should be equipped with seismic fortification measures, and meet the highest standards for key projects.”

The regulations cover anti-seismic investigation, design, construction, appraisal, fortification, maintenance, and supervision.

Finally, there are two commentaries on the page. The first one talks about the “great spirit of the War of Resistance against Japan.” Here’s how it talks about the victory.

“This was a great victory for the national spirit with patriotism at its core, a great victory for the Chinese Communist Party to have played the role of a mainstay, a great victory for the whole nation to have fought bravely with one will, and a great victory for the Chinese people to have fought side by side with anti-fascist allies and people of all countries.” 这是以爱国主义为核心的民族精神的伟大胜利,是中国共产党发挥中流砥柱作用的伟大胜利,是全民族众志成城奋勇抗战的伟大胜利,是中国人民同反法西斯同盟国以及各国人民并肩战斗的伟大胜利. 

The piece talks about how the Chinese people built a new Great Wall with “flesh and blood” as part of the fight against Japan. In essence, it emphasizes that patriotism was everyone’s calling at the time and that many stepped up and sacrificed a lot to resist the “invaders” who sought to “colonize and enslave China.” Of course, I am butchering the evocative nature of the piece with such a summary. But to me, what’s important is the messages that the piece is seeking to apply to China’s present-day geopolitical environment. Because as the piece tells us that the “spirit of the War of Resistance” is a “great spiritual wealth” of the Party and the people. And this spirit must “inspire the Chinese people to overcome all risks and challenges on the road ahead” to seek the great rejuvenation of the nation.

Next, we have the first in what I am assuming will be a series of front-page commentaries on the China-US equation, the pandemic and origins tracing and the geopolitics thereof. There is nothing new in terms of the arguments in the piece that we have not already read in the 16 Zhong Sheng commentaries on the issue so far. But this is on the front page and is bylined “评论员”. Based on the information I’ve gained from Wen-Hsuan Tsai and Peng-Hsiang Kao’s fantastic paper “Secret Codes of Political Propaganda: The Unknown System of Writing Teams”, the commentary implies a subtle shift in the level of significance the issue now enjoys in the scheme of the propaganda apparatus, and thereby in terms of the overall political priorities of the central leadership.

The piece says that the “the actions of American politicians have become ‘accomplices’ of the virus, and can be called ‘political viruses,’ which are even more harmful. Such actions are neither moral nor popular, and will only end in failure.” 美国政客的所作所为,实际上已成为病毒“帮凶”,堪称危害更烈的“政治病毒”,这种行径既不道德,也不得人心,只会以失败告终.

The piece says that there is evidence of the virus being present in other parts of the world in 2019. It says that US politicians have arrived at conclusions first and are then looking for evidence; the use of intelligence agencies for origins tracing and the presumption of guilt before a probe implies that they are practicing “tracing terrorism.” It says that the US is also engaged in “political manipulation, opposing science, and distorting facts,” and we get a mention of the Iraq war WMD scandal to say that the US is “repeating old tricks.” Of course, from the authors’ perspective, this is all a product of “American hegemonic thinking and bullying behavior.”

Page 3: First, there’s a long piece on US policy with regard to Hong Kong. This has also been published by Xinhua English in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2). It says that there have been “unprovoked” attacks by the US on China with regard to Hong Kong. This is all related to the Biden administration’s policies so far, and the underlying point is that Washington is seeking to destabilize China using Hong Kong.

As this sentence in the conclusion reads:

“All in all, some U.S. politicians' concern about Hong Kong's democracy is a sham. Their true intention is to meddle in Hong Kong's politics and China's internal affairs. Their real purpose is to use Hong Kong as a tool to realize their political interests and contain China's development.”

Here’s what’s all has upset Beijing:

  • March 17: sanctions against 24 Chinese officials, including 14 vice chairmen of the NPC Standing Committee

  • March 31: “U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken certified to U.S. Congress that Hong Kong remains undeserving of ‘special treatment’ by the United States under U.S. law. On April 1, U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong Hanscom Smith raved that Hong Kong elections would not produce ‘meaningful democratic results’.

  • April 16: “anti-China Hong Kong disruptors, including Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and Martin Lee Chu-ming, were sentenced by a Hong Kong court according to law. Later, Blinken tweeted that the sentences ‘are unacceptable’, and called for the release of those disruptors. He also added the hashtag #StandWithHongKong at the end of his tweet. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also tweeted that she was ‘saddened and disturbed’ by the sentences, and smeared the sentences as ‘another sign of Beijing's assault on the rule of law’.”

  • May 6-7: Joshua Wong and three others sentenced to four to 10 months in prison. Blinken tweeted the country “stands with the people of Hong Kong.” This support for “rioters,” the piece argues, shows that “Washington is actually siding with criminals and treating the Hong Kong people as enemies.”

  • Blinken’s criticism of the electoral changes in Hong Kong.

  • June 3: “Blinken issued a statement on the website of U.S. Department of State, claiming that the United States will ‘stand with the people of China as they demand that their government respect universal human rights’. On the following day, he tweeted a call for ‘the immediate release’ of some people in Hong Kong that were arrested.” This is followed by claims that protesters in HK “trampled on human rights in an attempt to seize the jurisdiction in Hong Kong and subvert the state power.” And then there is talk about double standards and the US’ human rights record.

  • June: U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong Hanscom Smith said that the NSL had created an “‘atmosphere of coercion’ that threatens both the city's freedoms and its standing as an international business hub.” The piece tells us that as per data, in Q1, crimes dropped about 10% year-on-year, GDP rose 7.9 percent year-on-year. As per the World Investment Report 2021 released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Hong Kong remained the world’s third largest destination for foreign direct investment in 2020.

  • June 25: US criticism after the closing down of Apple Daily. Basically, this says that Apple Daily was “engaged in concocting fake news to mislead the public,” and that press freedom in Hong Kong has not worsened.

  • July 7: Extension of emergency by the White House. 

  • July 10: Media Freedom Coalition statement

  • July 16: The U.S. government issued “a so-called ‘business advisory’ to caution U.S. businesses about ‘emerging risks’ to their operations and activities in Hong Kong.”

Despite all this, the rhetoric is still not as personal and vitriolic as it was during the Trump era; in other words, Blinken’s no where close to receiving the Pompeo treatment; also, it would be unwise to do so at present.

Next, we have two reports about Wang Yi’s diplomacy. First, the ASEAN + 3 dialogue (English report). Wang had a four-point proposal here, along with talking about a “10+3 Cooperation Work Plan (2023-2027).”

  • First, all sides should jointly build a barrier against the pandemic in East Asia. He also said that “origin tracing is a serious scientific issue” and that “China hopes that all parties will uphold a scientific, fair and objective position, oppose the attempts to politicize the virus origin tracing, resist the ‘political virus’ infringing on virus origin tracing, and work together to prevent future risks as well as maintain global public health security.

  • Second, jointly promote East Asia economic integration.

  • Third, accelerate regional digital transformation, make good use of the scale advantages of the markets in East Asian countries, and carry out practical cooperation on artificial intelligence and the digital economy.

  • Fourth, jointly build a foundation of common values in East Asia.

Second, we had Wang Yi’s comments (English report) at the East Asia summit; he took the floor for the second time, the report tells us and pushed back against the US and Japan on issues of human rights. 

Xinhua tells us that “As affairs related to Xinjiang and Hong Kong are all China's internal affairs, Wang said making irresponsible remarks over China's internal affairs has seriously breached the basic norms governing international relations, and undermined the principle of sovereign equality. ‘For such abominable behavior, we will resolutely make refutation each and every time it comes up,’ added Wang.” It’s fascinating that Wang Yi then went on to talk about “massive killing exercised by the United States on American Indians” as “the real genocide” and “the massive casualties suffered by innocent civilians as a result of warfare waged by the United States worldwide” as “crimes against humanity.”

“Now you are expressing your so-called concerns, then what are you concerned about? You want Hong Kong to return to chaos and turmoil, and 'Hong Kong independence' forces to take to the streets again? Is that what you want?" Wang asked. "I want to make this clear: drop the illusion about the idea. It is impossible for you to see that day!” 

Page 4: First, Sun Chunlan’s comments (English report) about the COVID-19 outbreaks in China. She spoke at a teleconference held by the State Council joint prevention and control mechanism against COVID-19. 

She called for:

  • Epidemic prevention and control to be “the top priority” of local governments

  • Airports, harbours and land borders should be closely guarded

  • International travellers and cargos should be strictly separated from spaces where local people can enter

  • Close management of people working at high-risk posts, who should avoid contact with family members and local communities while on duty.

  • Timely and transparent reporting

  • Regional investigations targeting close contacts should be completed within 24 hours

Next, a report that informs us that total vaccine doses administered is at 1.7 billion.

Page 5: The 14th piece in the series on Xi Thought. The first question today is about how Chinese-style modernization is a great change unprecedented in human history. So what is this?

“Chinese-style modernization is socialist modernization, which is unique and different from capitalism. Western capitalist modernization is based on the primitive accumulation of bloody plunder by foreign colonization and cruel exploitation of people at home. Marx once said: ‘Capital comes into the world, from head to toe, every pore is dripping with blood and dirty things’.” And then there’s talk of colonialism, slavery, etc.

“Chinese-style modernization is a modernization with a huge population, a modernization with common prosperity for all people, a modernization in which material civilization and spiritual civilization are coordinated, a modernization in which man and nature coexist harmoniously, and a modernization that takes the road of peaceful development. Chinese-style modernization breaks the myth that modernization can be realized only by following the capitalist modernization model, overcomes the inherent defects of capitalist modernization, provides a new choice for modernization, and shows the bright future of modernization of human society.” 中国式现代化是社会主义现代化,是独具特色、有别于资本主义的现代化。西方资本主义现代化是建立在对外殖民血腥掠夺、对内残酷剥削人民的原始积累基础上的。马克思曾说过:“资本来到世间,从头到脚,每个毛孔都滴着血和肮脏的东西。”据统计,自15世纪末开始,西方殖民者在300多年间,仅从中南美洲就抢走了250万公斤黄金、1亿公斤白银。英国的“圈地运动”、美国的“西进运动”以及罪恶的奴隶贸易等,都标注了西方资本主义现代化的“原罪”。邓小平同志强调,中国搞现代化,搞的是中国式现代化,只能靠社会主义,不能靠资本主义。中国共产党领导的中国式现代化始终坚持社会主义目标和方向,具有许多重要特征。中国式现代化是人口规模巨大的现代化,是全体人民共同富裕的现代化,是物质文明和精神文明相协调的现代化,是人与自然和谐共生的现代化,是走和平发展道路的现代化。中国式现代化打破了只有遵循资本主义现代化模式才能实现现代化的神话,克服了资本主义现代化所固有的先天性弊端, 提供了现代化的全新选择,展现了人类社会现代化的光明前景.

The next paragraph talks about how:

“Chinese-style modernization is the modernization of developing countries, which has opened up a brand-new road for late-developing countries to move toward modernization. There is neither a one-size-fits-all modernization model nor a universally applicable modernization standard in the world.” It says that the modernization path depends on “historical conditions.” Western countries developed with “industrialization, urbanization, agricultural modernization and informationization developing in sequence and it took more than 200 years to reach the current level.” If China were to follow a similar road, it would be “impossible for China to keep pace with the development process of modernization of western developed countries.” China, therefore, “must give full play to its advantages as a latecomer, base itself on China's reality, and take its own road to comprehensively promote modernization. China’s development is a ‘parallel’ process in which industrialization, informatization, urbanization and agricultural modernization are superimposed...Chinese-style modernization has expanded the way for developing countries to move toward modernization, and made it possible for countries that want to develop and want to develop by adhering to the development path that suits their own national conditions. The successful practice of Chinese-style modernization shows the world that there is more than one road to modernization. As long as we find the right direction, keep moving forward and take our own road, we will be able to realize modernization.” 中国式现代化是发展中国家的现代化,开辟了后发国家走向现代化的崭新道路。世界上既不存在定于一尊的现代化模式,也不存在放之四海而皆准的现代化标准。现代化不是单选题,历史条件的多样性,决定了各国选择发展道路的多样性。在世界历史的坐标上,中国式现代化是后发国家的现代化。西方发达国家发展是一个“串联式”的过程,工业化、城镇化、农业现代化、信息化顺序发展,发展到目前水平用了200多年时间。中国要后来居上,把“失去的二百年”找回来,就不可能沿着西方发达国家现代化发展过程亦步亦趋,必须发挥后发优势,立足中国实际,走自己的路,全面推进现代化。我国发展是一个“并联式”的过程,工业化、信息化、城镇化、农业现代化是叠加发展的,我国仅用了几十年的时间,在发展的很多方面走过了西方发达国家上百年甚至数百年的发展历程。新中国成立70多年来,中国全速奔跑在现代化的赛道上,从“现代化的迟到国”成为“世界现代化的增长极”、“最大的经济和社会变革的实验室”。中国式现代化,拓展了发展中国家走向现代化的途径,让想发展、要发展的国家看到坚持走符合自身国情的发展道路是可行的。中国式现代化的成功实践昭示世人,通向现代化的道路不止一条,只要找准正确方向、驰而不息,走好自己的路,就一定能够实现现代化.

The next question is about why is China still in a period of “important strategic opportunities”? The response begins with the Macartney Embassy. It says that the Qing rulers saw the “industrial revolution achievements as tribute collections for enjoyment” rather than thinking of long-term consequences. 

The piece says:

“The ability to accurately judge and make good use of strategic opportunities at key historical junctures will have a global, long-term and decisive impact on the future and destiny of a country and nation. Seizing the opportunity, winning the strategic initiative, and taking advantage of the momentum will usher in great development; if you cannot seize or end up missing an opportunity, you may fall into strategic passivity, gradually fall behind, or even miss a whole era.” 能否在关键历史节点准确判断和利用好战略机遇,将对一个国家和民族的前途命运产生全局性、长期性、决定性的影响. 抓住机遇,赢得战略主动,乘势而上,事业将迎来大发展;如果不能抓住或错过一个机会,就可能陷入战略被动,逐渐落后,甚至错过一整个时代.

Then we get an assessment of what the current situation is:

  • China’s GDP is at RMB 100 trillion

  • China is in a stage of high-quality development

  • Instability and uncertainty have increased significantly in the world

  • Unprecedented changes are taking place

  • Economic globalisation is under strain, but countries remain intertwined, and globalisation is “irreversible.”

  • Risk and challenges have increased

  • “A war between major powers is not only unaffordable for the major powers themselves, but also disastrous for the world, and will certainly be opposed by people all over the world.”

  • The basic conclusion is that things will be difficult going forward compared to the recent past, but there are still opportunities for China. This is fundamentally because of its strengths:

China’s strengths are identified as:

  • “Solving various global problems requires strengthening international cooperation, and China has strong capabilities and resources to solve global problems such as international poverty reduction, climate change, major infectious diseases and regional hotspot issues, and its role is irreplaceable.”

  • China has a key role to play in the emerging technology scenario, in terms of its business environment, and China has the “world’s most complete and largest modern industrial system.”

  • “There are more than 170 million people with higher education or professional skills, and the abundant human resources contain huge potential and vitality.”

  • Market size and expanding domestic demand.

  • The socialist economy system.

The piece ends with a call that opportunities and challenges will coexist; this is the eternal dialectical law. But given this, it is important to enhance the awareness of opportunities, mobilize and use all the positive factors, give full play to China’s unique advantages, seize the commanding heights of future development, enhance risk awareness, accurately recognize changes, respond scientifically, and be brave. 

This is important: “Maintain strategic determination, make ideological and work preparations to deal with changes in the external environment for a longer period of time, concentrate our efforts to run our own affairs well, and continue to advance towards the grand goal of building a modern and powerful socialist country in an all-round way.” 彩虹和风雨共生,机遇与挑战并存,这是亘古不变的辩证法则。我们要深刻认识当前机遇和挑战的新变化,坚定不移抓机遇、应变局,努力在危机中育先机、于变局中开新局。要增强机遇意识,调动和运用好国内外形势变化带来的一切积极因素,充分发挥我们的独特优势,抢占未来发展制高点。增强风险意识,准确识变、科学应变、主动求变,勇于开顶风船,善于转危为机。保持战略定力,做好较长时间应对外部环境变化的思想准备和工作准备,集中力量把自己的事情办好,朝着全面建成社会主义现代化强国的宏伟目标不断前进.

Pages 17-18: We have the second part of the 7 sins article that we had yesterday. The good folks at Global Times have helpfully put this graphic together that helps us understand the 7 sins.

Anyway, it is useful to look at the different data points that are mentioned under each of these. They help in understanding the kind of diplomatic arguments that Chinese officials are likely to/or are already making.

So we have Destruction. This includes:

  • Support for Colour Revolutions in Eastern Europe and Middle East

  • US and allies have left an “unmanageable mess in the Middle East and other regions”

  • “When Britain and France were forced to end their colonial rule, they sowed the seeds of their own influence and still hold the ‘colonial obsession’.” - This mentions the Kashmir issue, the Palestine issue, and Cyprus. It also talks about “new interventionism,” such as Xinjiang, Taiwan, South China Sea, etc.

Fifth sin: Lying. This includes mentions of:

  • Iraq War and WMD evidence issue

  • the Jessica Lynch scandal

  • Kosovo war - it says that the “Clinton administration was accused of exaggerating the number of Albanians killed by the Serbs”

  • Syria war, and the narrative controversy around the Syrian civil defence group, the White Helmets.

  • Pandemic politicisation

  • The United States “slandered China’s ‘militarization’ of the South China Sea and united its allies to strengthen military deployment in the South China Sea.” It adds: “The U.S. conflates commercial navigation with the conduct of provocative military intelligence gathering, surveillance activities, etc., and then claims that China is interfering with U.S. ships and aircraft in and over its exclusive economic zone in violation of free navigation guidelines.”

  • “The U.S. fabricated the big lie of ‘genocide’ in Xinjiang, and pulled in allies to impose sanctions on China.

  • Talking about BRI as “debt trap” and “neo-colonialism.”

  • “In the name of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’, the United States and its allies have been exporting conspiracies and lies to the world.”

Sixth sin: Concealment. This includes:

  • Support for Japan on the Fukushima wastewater issue. It says that the US has condoned the discharge.

  • It says that the US is supporting Japan in revising the “self-imposed ban on collective self-defense.”

  • The US conceals the crimes of the Japanese Army Unit 731. U.S. It talks about the US Army’s effort to obtain data and medical papers on human experiments, bacterial tests, germ warfare, and toxic gas experiments conducted by Unit 731. It says that the US also “successively dispatched bacteria warfare experts from Fort Detrick base.”

  • US policy with regard to Apartheid in the Truman era.

  • Violation of UNSC resolutions on Palestine and Syria, and its “favouring of Israel”

  • US and allies not focussing on racial tensions in Canada

Seventh sin: Disunion or Infighting. This includes:

  • “Suppressing” Japan and “forcing” it to sign the Plaza Accord

  • Using trade deficit to force allies to revise FTAs

  • Blaming allies during the pandemic and intercepting their supplies

  • The “United States has either abandoned or sanctioned or suppressed its allies without hesitation.” — The case mentioned here is that of Turkey

  • Economic “bullying” of allies and partners— this mentions the poison pill clause in the US-Canada-Mexico agreement and Nord Stream 2 pipeline related friction with the Europeans

  • US talked about supporting Australian wines, but export of Australian wines to Five Eyes countries have not gone up, it says.

  • Really shrewd this: “From December 2020 to February 2021, Australia’s coal exports to China fell to zero, while the share of coal imports from other countries in the Five Eyes Alliance rose from 2.7% to 6.1%; the market share of Australian imports of food and beverage in China decreased from 6.3% in April 2020 to 3.6% in February 2021, while the market share of other countries of Five Eyes Alliance increased from 25.5% to 39.5%.