Soothing Nerves amid Regulatory Storm - Xi Speaks to Draghi & Rahmon - Xi Thought: Virtue Cultivation via Education & Public Welfare in Health - Xinhua Party Secretary on National Rejuvenation

Here are the stories and pieces from the September 8, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: Today’s front page is news report heavy, and we’ll get to those. But first, let’s look at the only commentary on the page. This one aims to address worries related to the recent regulatory actions that have been taken across different sectors, i.e., specifically “platform economy, education and training, and information security.” The commentary says that these measures have been taken from a strategic perspective, with the aim of:

“standardizing market order, building the new development pattern and promoting high-quality development; they are pragmatic actions aimed at promoting the formation of a fair competitive market environment and better protecting consumers’ rights and interests, and are powerful measures to coordinate development and safety; efficiency and fairness; vitality and order; domestic and international; and improve the socialist market economic system in a complex and changeable situation.” 一段时间以来,有关部门陆续出台平台经济、教育培训、信息安全等多个领域监管举措。这一系列监管举措,是从规范市场秩序、构建新发展格局、推动高质量发展的战略高度出发,促进形成公平竞争的市场环境,更好保护消费者权益的务实行动,是在复杂多变局面下统筹发展和安全、效率和公平、活力和秩序、国内和国际,完善社会主义市场经济体制的有力举措.

The piece then talks about the work done since the 18th Party Congress to deal with monopolies and unfair practices. The aim, the piece says, has been the development of a “high-standard market system” and “the formation of a unified, open market system with orderly competition.” 

“In response to the problems of barbaric growth and disorderly expansion of some platform enterprises, the relevant departments have resolutely implemented the decisions and deployments of the Party Central Committee, increased anti-monopoly supervision, investigated and dealt with monopolies and unfair competition of the the concerned platform enterprises in accordance with the law, and prevented the disorderly expansion of capital with initial results and steadily improved the order of fair competition in the market.” 党的十八大以来,党中央围绕反垄断、反不正当竞争,作出一系列重大决策部署,完善公平竞争制度,改革市场监管体制,加强反垄断监管,推进高标准市场体系建设,推动形成统一开放、竞争有序的市场体系。针对一些平台企业存在野蛮生长、无序扩张等突出问题,有关部门坚决贯彻落实党中央决策部署,加大反垄断监管力度,依法查处有关平台企业垄断和不正当竞争行为,防止资本无序扩张初见成效,市场公平竞争秩序稳步向好.

The next bit talks about developing a “multi-dimensional” regulatory and supervision system in fields of “platform economy, scientific and technological innovation, information security and people's livelihood security.” There should be equal focus on upholding regulatory norms and promoting development, the piece says.  坚持监管规范和促进发展两手并重、两手都要硬. 

The objective is to “guide and urge enterprises to obey the leadership of the Party, obey and serve the overall interests of economic and social development” along with encouraging and supporting enterprises to play a positive role in promoting scientific and technological progress, developing a thriving market economy, making people’s lives better, and participating in international competition (目的是引导督促企业服从党的领导,服从和服务于经济社会发展大局,鼓励支持企业在促进科技进步、繁荣市场经济、便利人民生活、参与国际竞争中发挥积极作用)...The socialist market economy is essentially an economy ruled by law…” and the idea is that the current changes will “provide a more solid guarantee for the well-regulated and sound development of all types of capital and industries.” 

The piece then commits to the “two unwaverings” 两个毫不动摇, which underscores support for the private sector. So since the 18th Party Congress, there have been a “series of reform measures to support the development of the private sector, thereby enabling the creation of a sound legal and business environment for the development of private enterprises, further enhancing their vitality and confidence.” It then says:

“The number of market players has increased from 55 million in 2012 to 146 million today, an increase of nearly 1.7 times. We stepped up assistance for market entities and introduced a series of policies and measures to help market entities tide over difficulties and build up strength in fiscal, taxation, social security, financial and market order. Facts fully prove that the position and role of the non-public sector in China's economic and social development has not changed. The principles and policies of unswervingly encouraging, supporting and guiding the development of the non-public sector have not changed. The policy of creating a favorable environment and providing more opportunities for the development of the non-public sector of the economy has not changed. Under the new circumstances, we must adhere to the two unwaverings, improve the legal environment supporting the development of private businesses and foreign-invested enterprises, improve the system supporting the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, and create a market environment in which entities with different ownership patterns have equal access to resources and factors in accordance with the law, participate in open, fair and impartial competition, and enjoy equal legal protection. The regulatory policies are non-discriminatory and target violations of laws and regulations, not specific industries or companies.” 我们党在坚持基本经济制度上的观点是明确的、一贯的,从来没有动摇。党的十八大以来,党中央坚持“两个毫不动摇”,出台一系列扶持民营经济发展的改革举措,为民营企业发展营造良好的法治环境和营商环境,进一步增强了民营企业发展活力、信心和底气。深入推进简政放权,促进形成公平竞争的市场环境,为各类市场主体特别是中小企业创造广阔的发展空间,保护和激发市场主体活力,市场主体由2012年的5500万户增长到目前的1.46亿户,增长了将近1.7倍;加大为市场主体纾困力度,从财税、社保、金融、市场秩序等多方面出台一系列帮扶政策措施,助力市场主体渡过难关、积蓄力量。事实充分证明,非公有制经济在我国经济社会发展中的地位和作用没有变!毫不动摇鼓励、支持、引导非公有制经济发展的方针政策没有变!致力于为非公有制经济发展营造良好环境和提供更多机会的方针政策没有变!新形势下,我们要坚持“两个毫不动摇”,健全支持民营经济、外商投资企业发展的法治环境,健全支持中小企业发展制度,营造各种所有制主体依法平等使用资源要素、公开公平公正参与竞争、同等受到法律保护的市场环境。出台的监管政策是一视同仁的,针对的是违法和违规行为,绝不是针对特定行业或企业.

The next bit talks about unwavering adherence to opening up. The data points mentioned are the foreign investment law, opening of Shenzhen, Hainan and Pudong, China’s FDI inflow, etc. In the new era now,

“China will unswervingly promote high-level opening to the outside world, protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign capital, promote fair competition between domestic and foreign-funded enterprises, protect property rights and intellectual property rights, enhance policy transparency and predictability, and form a new pattern of all-round, multi-level and wide-ranging opening.” 面向未来,中国将坚定不移推进高水平对外开放,保护外资合法权益,促进内外资企业公平竞争,保护产权和知识产权,增强政策透明度和可预期性,形成全方位、多层次、宽领域的全面开放新格局.

Finally, the piece ends by telling us that “China's long-term economic policy remains unchanged” and that current measures are aimed at “stimulating the development of market entities” and to “fully generate all sources of strength conducive to the development of social productive forces.”

My quick take: The fact that we got this on the front page tells us that there is an acknowledgement that it’s not all hunky dory. The commentary seeks to assure the private sector while making the case for regulation to further the development of a socialist market economy. Of course, in doing so, it does not address the opaqueness and abruptness in the manner in which these steps were announced and implemented. There is an effort to tell us that specific industries or enterprises have not been the target of the effort; rather this is about creating a sound overall environment. The fact that this is mentioned is an acknowledgement that this is how the steps have been perceived. The commentary also seeks to soothe the nerves of foreign investors and firms, telling them that China’s basic economic policy has not changed. But at the same time, the commentary also tells us very clearly that while the private sector has a role in the economy, enterprises must remain subservient to the Party and to what the Party believes are the country’s strategic interests. Whatever the rhetoric, this is a shift in practice, and we should expect more regulatory action. What’s been achieved so far are merely “initial results.” Finally, while the piece mentions enhancing policy transparency and predictability, there are structural reasons for regulators and ministries to act the way they do, as HKU’s Angela Zhang explains when talking about “regulatory intensity” in this episode of The Little Red Podcast.

Now, let’s turn to the reports. First, Xi Jinping’s chats with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.

Speaking to Draghi (English report), Xi said that he wants both countries to “respect each other firmly, safeguard China-Italy friendship, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, and set an example for developing relationship between countries of different systems and cultures.” He also wanted deeper BRI cooperation and hoped “the Italian side can play an active role in promoting the healthy and steady development of China-Europe relations.” He also mentioned the G20, of which Italy is now president and will be arranging a summit meeting in October, and the need to support “each other in successfully hosting the Beijing Winter Olympics and the Milan-Cortina Winter Games in 2026.”

As per Xinhua, Draghi “appreciates China's positive efforts and contributions to combating global climate change” and “Italy highly values China's important role in the issue of Afghanistan.”

Next, speaking to Emomali Rahmon (English report), Xi promised to work to “build a community of development with rich connotation and an indestructible community of security.” Xi said that the “two sides have firmly supported each other on issues involving each other's core interests and major concerns, which demonstrates a high level of strategic mutual trust.” 

He spoke about COVID-19 cooperation and said that they are “iron-clad partners who can count on each other.” Xi spoke about the need to focus on “high-quality joint construction of the Belt and Road,” which entails cooperation in economy and trade, interconnectivity, and the digital economy. He promised greater investment in Tajikistan and import of Tajik agricultural products. They also spoke about cooperation under the SCO framework.

The finally sentence of the story tells us that: the two sides also exchanged views on the situation in Afghanistan, and agreed to continue deepening counter-terrorism and security cooperation and to jointly maintain regional security and stability.

Next, we have a report (English version) about Li Zhanshu addressing the Fifth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. Li spoke about the challenges and priorities related to the pandemic. He said that “while battling the coronavirus, the world should also keep fighting the political virus, and oppose the practices of putting politics above science and politicizing issues such as origins-tracing.” The other point he made was this:

“Li called for respecting the development paths and systems independently chosen by the people of various countries and settling disputes and hotspot issues through political and peaceful means; and safeguarding the international system with the United Nations as the core and the international order based on international laws, and promoting global governance on a more just and reasonable track.”

Then we have a report (English version) about Zhao Leji meeting with  Communist Party of Vietnam’s Central Committee’s Inspection Commission chief Tran Cam Tu. Zhao said:

“China is willing to work with Vietnam to implement the consensus of the top leaders of the two parties, deepen exchange of experience in the governance of party and country, and promote exchange and cooperation in the fields of discipline inspection and supervision, to provide political guarantee for the steady and sustained development of bilateral relations and the cause of socialism of the two countries.”

Then we have a report (English version) about Vice Premier Han Zheng meeting Britain's Alok Sharma, who is also president-designate of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which is scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November. Han said that:

“it is hoped that COP26 will send a strong political signal to firmly uphold multilateralism, respect multilateral rules, and promote actions; actively call for all parties to transform climate goals into specific policies and actions; and complete the negotiations on the implementation details of the Paris Agreement to ensure that global climate governance continues on the right track.”

Sharma said that Britain looks forward to expanding exchanges and cooperation in climate finance, energy, carbon trading and other fields with China.

Page 2: Two brief reports on the page. First, China has administered more than 2.11 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines, of which more than 969.7 million people finished their all-course inoculation. Second, PBOC’s Pan Gongsheng informed that as of July, outstanding inclusive small and micro loans were at 17.8 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 29.3%. The bank will also add some 300 billion yuan of reloan quota in the next four months to support small and micro firms and self-employed businesses. 

Page 3: We have a report about Chile approving the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd for use in children over 6 years of age. Reuters informs that Chile has already approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children over 12, with 654,053 receiving at least one dose since May. Next, a report about CASS organising a BRI conference to mark the 8th anniversary of the initiative. A BRI handbook was also issued during the conference.

Page 5: Today, we have the 38th piece in the Xi Thought series. The first question asks why is it said that the fundamental task of education in the new era is to cultivate virtue? The piece begins by telling us the story of Zhang Boling, the man who founded Nankai University, having posed the “three patriotic questions” to students in 1935: “Are you Chinese? Do you love China? Do you want China to be great?” We are then told that Xi retold this story in September 2018 at the National Education Conference, emphasising that these are not questions of history but also questions of the future that must be asked of each generation. And that these “three patriotic questions” are the essence of the primary question of what kind of individuals education should cultivate.

We are then told that only when morality, not just individual but also social, is firmly established can talents be useful and serve the country, and what the Party and country needs are “socialist builders and successors.” These are the people who “must embrace the lofty ideal of communism and the common ideal of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” 

Xi is quoted to have said: “Our education must never produce socialist saboteurs and grave diggers, and must never produce people who have a Chinese face, but do not have a Chinese heart, or lack Chinese sentiment and Chinese flavor!” 我们的教育绝不能培养社会主义破坏者和掘墓人,绝不能培养出一些'长着中国脸,不是中国心,没有中国情,缺少中国味'的人!  This “original intention” when it comes to education must not be forgotten, the piece says. We are then told that since the 19th Party Congress, fostering virtue through education has been a fundamental task. 落实立德树人根本任务, and that effort has been put in this direction.

The next paragraph is interesting. I am summarising largely. It talks about people being particularly impressionable during adolescence, with values still evolving. We are told that this generation of China has experienced peace for a long time, without having endured the hardships that folks fighting for national survival did; they have “not experienced the test of blood and fire.” And now with a China that has developed a market economy and is open to the wider world, the impact of values like consumerism, money worship (拜金主义) and utilitarianism cannot be underestimated. And then there are those pesky external powers who seek to launch “colour revolutions;” “One of their biggest endeavors is to compete for our youth. Such a struggle will be long-term and severe. Without proper guidance and long-term education, teenagers will find it difficult to establish correct ideals and beliefs, and may even go astray.” Therefore, “cultivation of morality” must be a “fundamental task” with the focus on the young establishing “belief in Marxism and socialism with Chinese characteristics, gaining confidence of the Chinese nation in the great rejuvenation of the Chinese dream, and being able to better shoulder the important task of national rejuvenation.” 特别是要看到,各种敌对势力对我发动“颜色革命”的企图从来没有消停过,他们下功夫最大的一个领域就是争夺我们的青少年,这样的斗争是长期的、严峻的. 如果不加以正确引导和长期教育,青少年就难以树立正确理想信念,甚至可能走偏. 必须把立德树人作为根本任务,着力教育引导广大青少年牢固树立马克思主义信仰、中国特色社会主义信念、实现中华民族伟大复兴中国梦信心,更好地肩负起民族复兴的时代重任.

Quick thought: I guess all men get this grumpy-old-fellow, killjoy vibe with age. But on a serious note, this bit underscores the logic behind the patriotic education effort as much as it does censorship and cyberspace governance. Also, often one tends to reduce the emphasis on Xi Thought and its inclusion in textbooks to this business of common prosperity or culture sector crackdowns, etc, as merely the creation of personality cult, a simple power play by Xi, or the Party cutting down alternative power bases. But that’s a very narrow, dare I say unambitious interpretation of this effort. This is about restructuring society and forging a new set of values. In that sense, it is a revolutionary effort.

The next paragraph reiterates the bits above while adding that while there must be modernisation of education, “we must always adhere to the socialist orientation in running schools.” It calls to “strengthen and improve ideological and political education in schools” and take the effectiveness of moral education as the “fundamental criterion” for judging the work of schools and universities. -- I guess this also suggests that when it comes to cadre selection the balance is clearly moving far more in favour of reds as opposed to experts.

“We will continue to educate people for the Party and the country, and guide young people to integrate their love of the country, their ambition to strengthen the country, and their devotion to the country into their efforts to uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics.”坚持为党育人、为国育才,引导青少年把爱国情、强国志、报国行融入坚持和发展中国特色社会主义事业的奋斗之中...

The next question is about the need to ensure that public welfare is writ large on the banner of medical and health services. The response begins with the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that while countries in the West spoke about human rights, often elderly patients were abandoned and many couldn’t afford medical care, leading to scenes of tragedy. In contrast, in China, the Party mobilised resources to ensure care to the young and old alike. In other words, while the West functioned on the capitalist principle of “capital first and money first,” China functioned on the principle of “people first and life first.” 

“Adhering to public welfare means focussing government spending on basic medical and health services, constantly improving the system, expanding services and improving the quality, so that the broad masses of the people have equitable and continuous access to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and health promotion services.” 坚持公益性意味着要将政府投入重点用于基本医疗卫生服务,不断完善制度、扩展服务、提高质量,让广大人民群众就近享有公平可及、系统连续的预防、治疗、康复、健康促进等健康服务.

The next bits talk about expansion of healthcare services and security nets. The final paragraph talks about combining Western medicine and TCM with “equal emphasis,” along with paying particular attention to key groups like women and children, the elderly, the disabled, the migrant population (流动人口), low-income groups and the poor.

Other Stories:

1. The lead piece on the Theory page is by Shuang Chuan Xue, who is the party secretary and president of Xinhua. He summarises some of the key points from Xi’s July 1 speech. His key arguments are that

  • There is “historical inevitability” to national rejuvenation, which is premised on certain “historical foundations.” In other words, the Chinese civilisation and Marxism, which provide a “spiritual impetus” for rejuvenation. Also, continued struggle has created spiritual and institutional strength. And do note, he writes, “time and momentum” are on China’s side.

  • The next bit talks about the need to ensure the Party’s strength and strong core leadership. He emphasises the role of the “guiding ideology,” and talks about the Party’s evolution, the role of top leaders and their thoughts and theories in guiding the Party. It’s interesting that in this, the Party is the protagonist in this piece and he doesn’t specifically recite the need to ensure the two maintenances/safeguards.

  • The next bit talks about maintaining the spirit of struggle, in the context of risks and challenges ahead, given that China is in a “critical” phase of rejuvenation. This bit is a call to cadres to take responsibility and struggle.

“On the new journey, we must unswervingly follow the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics, neither taking the old road of being closed and rigid, nor taking the evil path of abandoning the banner.” 新的征程上,必须坚定不移走中国特色社会主义道路,既不走封闭僵化的老路,也不走改旗易帜的邪路...This bit harks back to Hu Jintao’s speech at the 18th Party Congress. The official translation of this was: “Throughout the past 30-plus years of continuous exploration for reform and opening up, we have held high the great banner of socialism with Chinese characteristics and rejected both the old and rigid closed-door policy and any attempt to abandon socialism and take an erroneous path.

Anyway, in this context, the author does talk about fully implementing Xi Thought, calling it an action guide for the Party and the people to achieve national rejuvenation.

2. On the international page, the Taliban’s new government does not get covered. But we do have a Zhong Sheng commentary that is critical of the US’ China policy, which it says is being held hostage by some politicians who want to create an “imaginary enemy” and apply Cold War logic to ties.