Xi Calls Iran & Iraq - China on Taliban's 'Positive Signals' - Wang 'Appreciates' Dasu Attack Probe - Xi Thought Series: Party Discipline & Caging Power - Gig-Economy Workers' Rights

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

Page 1: Let’s begin with Xi’s calls to the presidents of Iran and Iraq. First, Xi spoke to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Xinhua tells us that Xi called on the two sides to “continue to support each other on issues related to their core interests and major concerns.”

It adds:

“China firmly supports Iran in safeguarding its sovereignty and national dignity, and opposes external interference...China is willing to work with Iran to enhance experience sharing on state governance, strengthen cooperation in pandemic response, advance their respective development, and promote the people's well-being in both countries. The plan for China-Iran comprehensive cooperation has opened up broader prospects for deepening bilateral win-win cooperation...China, Xi said, supports Iran’s legitimate concerns on the comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue, and stands ready to strengthen coordination and cooperation with Iran on regional affairs, so as to jointly safeguard common interests and promote regional security and stability.”

Raisi’s comments reported by Xinhua include a pledge for a “more robust comprehensive strategic partnership,” appreciation of “China's fair positions on international and regional affairs,” call to “jointly oppose unilateralism, hegemonism and external interference,” and support on Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong the COVID-19 origins issue.

Meanwhile, speaking to Iraqi President Barham Salih, Xi said that (English report) “China is willing to continue to support Iraq's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, expand bilateral cooperation in such fields as energy, electricity and transportation, and assist Iraq with economic rebuilding and social development.”

Xi added:

China firmly supports Iraq’s efforts to defend its national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, fight against terrorism and safeguard its national security and stability.” China “also supports the Iraqi people independently choosing a development path in line with Iraq’s national conditions, and opposes any external interference in Iraq’s internal affairs. He expressed his hope that the various factions in Iraq will strengthen unity, push for new progress in the domestic political process, and realize long-term peace and stability as well as prosperity and development.”

Salih said, as per Xinhua, that the “Iraqi side understands the measures taken by China to safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, and firmly adheres to the one-China policy.” He spoke about more pandemic-related support, cooperation on trade and investment, and the need to “intensify strategic communication” to deal with global changes and issues like terrorism.

Next, we have a report (English version) on the meeting of the NPCSC. He Lifeng, Director of the National Development and Reform Commission, made a presentation at the meeting. He talked about China’s economic recovery in H1 and then outlined priorities for H2.

  • Pandemic containment

  • Strengthen innovation

  • Keeping economic growth within reasonable range

  • Enhancing domestic demand

  • Boosting rural revitalisation

  • Implementation of major regional strategies

  • Improve livelihoods

  • Promoting new type of urbanisation

  • Pursuing opening up

Also at the meeting, Vice Minister of Finance Xu Hongcai reported on the implementation of the budget. “From January to July, revenue in the national general public budget reached 13.77 trillion yuan (about 2.12 trillion U.S. dollars), up by 20 percent year-on-year. During the same period, expenditure in the national general public budget reached 13.79 trillion yuan, up by 3.3 percent year-on-year.”

For Xu, H2 priorities were:

  • proactive fiscal policies must improve policy effectiveness

  • fully implement the government’s tight-living requirements

  • firmly grasp the bottom line of the ‘three guarantees’ at the grassroots level

  • prevent and resolve the local government debt risks

  • deepen the reform of the fiscal and taxation system

  • strengthen the supervision of accounting

The meeting also discussed the enforcement of the Law on Protection of Cultural Relics, reviewed a report on the ecological conservation of the Xiongan New Area, and two law enforcement reports on the Enterprise Bankruptcy Law and the Animal Husbandry Law.

The rest of the front page is dedicated to Tibet. So we have a report about PSC member Wang Yang traveling to Lhasa to attend a “gathering to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.”

The Xinhua English report tells us that “the national flag of the People's Republic of China was raised at the beginning of the celebration. People sang the national anthem. A congratulatory message from the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the State Council, the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the Central Military Commission was read.”

Wang was leading a central delegation of 22 members. Wang was accompanied by:

  • You Quan, head of the United Front Work Department

  • Bai Ma Chilin, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress

  • Zhang Qingli, vice chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC

The PD report predominantly talks about the central delegation heading to the Tibet Museum to open an exhibition, marking the achievements in Tibet since the signing of the 17-Article Agreement.

Along with the report, we have an editorial on the page. The editorial talks about Xi’s recent visit before repeating the key talking points of the Party about the 17-Article Agreement and the reform of Tibet and so on. It then says:

“The practice of 70 years has fully proved that only by persisting in safeguarding the unity and territorial integrity of the motherland can the fundamental interests of the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet be guaranteed; only by adhering to the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and the system of regional ethnic autonomy can we provide a fundamental guarantee for Tibet's long-term stability, prosperity and development; only by persisting in reform and opening up can Tibet’s economic and social progress be promoted in an all-round way; only by adhering to the people-centered development thought can we satisfy the yearning of all ethnic groups in Tibet for a better life; only by adhering to the Party’s general plan of managing Tibet in the new era can we build a new socialist modern Tibet that is united, rich, civilized, harmonious and beautiful.” 70年的实践充分证明,只有坚持维护祖国统一, 领土完整, 才能保障西藏各族人民的根本利益; 只有坚持中国共产党领导、中国特色社会主义制度, 民族区域自治制度, 才能为西藏长治久安和繁荣发展提供根本保证;只有坚持改革开放, 才能推动西藏经济社会全面进步; 只有坚持以人民为中心的发展思想,才能满足西藏各族群众对美好生活的向往; 只有坚持新时代党的治藏方略, 才能建设团结富裕文明和谐美丽的社会主义现代化新西藏.

The editorial doubles down on the central leadership’s policies with regard to Tibet. 

“To forge ahead into a new journey, we must fully implement the party's strategy of managing Tibet in the new era, adhere to the general tone of striving for stability, base ourselves on the new development stage, comprehensively, accurately and comprehensively implement the new development concept, serve and integrate into the new development pattern, and promote high-quality development. Strengthen the construction of border areas and do four major things: stability, development, ecology and strong borders…” 奋进新征程,必须全面贯彻党的新时代治藏方略,坚持稳中求进工作总基调,立足新发展阶段,全面、准确、全面贯彻新发展理念,服务和融入新发展格局,推动高质量发展. 加强边境地区建设,做好稳定、发展、生态、强边四件大事...

It adds that there is a need to “adhere to the focus of safeguarding the motherland’s reunification and strengthening national unity...enhance the people’s identification/recognition with the great motherland, the Chinese nation, Chinese culture, the Communist Party of China and socialism with Chinese characteristics, so as to lay a solid ideological foundation for national unity.” 不断增强人民群众对伟大祖国、中华民族、中华文化、中国共产党和中国特色社会主义的认同,为民族团结奠定坚实的思想基础.

Finally, there’s a feature report talking about development in Tibet or rather talking about how engaged Xi Jinping is personally in the governing and development of Tibet. It goes back to the 2013 NPC session, with Xi meeting with the Tibetan delegation. He then spoke about the importance of securing the border and ensuring stability as the first priority in governing Tibet. “治国必治边, 治边先稳藏.” The piece tells us that since the 18th Party Congress, Xi has “personally” been engaged in designing the layout of Tibet work and that he “loves Tibet.” 党的十八大以来,习近平总书记始终心系西藏、情系西藏,亲自为西藏工作谋篇布局.

The piece references the two Tibet Work symposiums in 2015 and 2020. Then we have a listing of the 10 musts:

  • Must uphold the Party leadership, the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, and the system of regional ethnic autonomy

  • Must adhere to the strategic thought of governing the borders and stabilizing Tibet before governing

  • Must maintain the unification of the motherland and focus on strengthening national unity

  • Must adhere to the important principles of managing Tibet according to law, enriching the people and developing Tibet, building Tibet for a long time, rallying people's hearts and laying a solid foundation;

  • Must coordinate the overall domestic and international situation

  • Must focus on improvement of people’s livelihood

  • Must promote exchanges between and integration of all ethnic groups

  • Must adhere to the direction of Sinicization of religion and manage religious affairs in accordance with law

  • Must insist on ecological protection first 

  • Must strengthen party building, especially political building

Some of the focus areas that it mentions are dams, roadways and railways, environment, livelihood issues, healthcare, education, etc. The focus is that Xi has been personally engaged in the evolution of developments across these domains.

Page 2: There’s a report (English report) about reforming and improving the management of central budgetary research funding. The State Council says that the aim is to “motivate researchers in generating more high-quality research outcomes and beef up self-reliance in science and technology.” 

“Greater discretion will be given to researchers in fund use with streamlined budget compilation and budget items will be merged into three categories - equipment costs, operating expenses and labor costs...The power over budget reassignments regarding equipment costs and others will all be delegated to institutes undertaking research projects, with approval no longer needed from departments governing the projects. The creation of ceilings in funding that enable the retention of unused funds will cover a larger scope and be promoted in talent-related programs and basic research projects, which are no longer subject to budget compilations, according to the guideline. It was also stressed that the fund allocation mechanism should be refined, with funds channeled to projects at a faster pace.”

Next, we have a report about Zhao Kezhi’s remarks to the national public security officials. He emphasised the political loyalty of the police force, referencing Xi’s July 1 speech, while also talking about the need to “thoroughly rectify stubborn and chronic diseases.”

Page 3: Three reports about Wang Yi’s engagements on the page today. First, on developments in Afghanistan, Wang Yi spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Xinhua tells us:

“Wang said that the situation in Afghanistan has changed overnight, and what will happen next depends on the policy of the Taliban. Taliban leaders have sent positive signals to the outside world, while a Taliban spokesperson has ensured the security of embassies in Afghanistan and expressed the willingness to establish sound relations with other countries, Wang noted, expressing his expectation that the commitments will be turned into concrete policies and actions. The Taliban spokesperson has said that it is hoped that an inclusive new government can be formed in Afghanistan, and the country will no longer be a center for growing opium and trading drugs. The remarks, Wang said, indicated a right direction.”

Wang also said that “the Taliban in Afghanistan needs to make a clear break with all terrorist forces and take measures to crack down on the international terrorist organizations designated by the United Nations Security Council, including the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. It will be difficult for the process of peace reconstruction in Afghanistan to go smoothly, Wang said, calling on the international community to jointly encourage and support all the parties and nationalities in Afghanistan to cooperate in solidarity during the process.”

Cavusoglu said, as per Xinhua, that “China's views and stance on the Afghan situation are objective and fair...the situation in Kabul is gradually returning to calm and the Taliban is adjusting its domestic and foreign policies in a positive direction.”

Second, Wang spoke to Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. They talked about Afghanistan and the Dasu attack, as per Xinhua

Wang said:

The so-called ‘democratic transformation’ proved to be unrealistic, which only brought about hurtful consequences and lessons from it are worth remembering and learning.” He then put out four points for China-Pakistan action:

  • Firstly, encourage all Afghan parties to strengthen solidarity, and to establish a new broad-based and inclusive political structure. 

  • Secondly, on terrorism, Afghanistan must not become a gathering place. 

  • Thirdly, the two sides should contact and communicate with the Taliban in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of Chinese and Pakistani personnel and institutions there.

  • Fourthly, the two sides should promote international cooperation involving Afghanistan.

On the Dasu attack:

“Discussing the Dasu terrorist attack, Wang voiced China’s appreciation of the important progress made by Pakistan in the investigation and hoped that Pakistan will make every effort to arrest the perpetrators, and punish them in accordance with the law, so as to give an explanation to the people of the two countries and as well as a powerful deterrent to the forces that attempt to undermine China-Pakistan friendship. He also hopes that Pakistan will accelerate to implement strengthened whole-process security measures and upgraded security cooperation mechanism to ensure that similar incidents will not happen again.” 

Qureshi said:

Afghanistan needs a political settlement through negotiations in the future, Qureshi said, adding the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul has not caused bloodshed and Afghanistan's domestic situation is stabilizing with life gradually returning to normal. He added that all the parties should support the Taliban to implement its commitment and protect the rights and interests of the Afghan people.

Also, this was interesting: 

Third Wang spoke to Haji Erywan, ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar and Brunei’s second minister of foreign affairs. Xinhua’s report is really intriguing. It talks about Wang first discussing economic and pandemic cooperation between China and Brunei. So he talked about BRI and also this:

“China attaches great importance to the needs of Brunei, will send a batch of vaccines to Brunei and deliver them as soon as possible, and lend a helping hand to Brunei when the country most needs it.” -- No humility or concealing the message here. 

And then Wang talks about Myanmar and basically gives Erywan a four-point script. This includes:

  • Deal with Myanmar pragmatically and build trust

  • Prioritise COVID-19-related assistance to the country

  • “Remain patient and determined” in moving towards peace talks. These should not only serve “the interests of Myanmar but also meet the expectations of the international community.”

  • And finally, in a cruel irony, he said: “stay vigilant against and oppose interference in Myanmar's internal affairs by extraterritorial forces”

Also on the page, there’s a piece based on the discussions from the China-Middle East cooperation forum. 

Page 5: We have the 24th piece in the Xi Thought series. The first question today is about Party discipline. Basically the response is that “Party discipline and rules are the code of conduct that all Party organizations and all Party members must abide by. The different types of discipline are:

  • political discipline

  • organizational discipline

  • integrity discipline 

  • mass discipline

  • work discipline 

  • life discipline

党的纪律主要包括政治纪律、组织纪律、廉洁纪律、群众纪律、工作纪律、生活纪律.

Useful to note that this is not just about professional conduct or corruption. It is about ideology and morality outside of public life too. And this is not surprising, right? We’ve seen adultery and licentiousness often mentioned in reports on disciplinary violations when it comes to some officials. 

Also, we learn that discipline entails written (“party constitution, party guidelines, national laws, and the fine traditions and working practices that the party has formed in its long-term practice.”) and unwritten rules. We also learn that the rules that are not explicitly included in discipline are matters of self-discipline. 纪律是成文的规矩,一些未明文列入纪律的规矩是不成文的纪律;纪律是刚性的规矩,一些未明文列入纪律的规矩是自我约束的纪律.

There’s an interesting anecdote in there about how after Zhou Enlai’s death, some people went to visit Deng Yingchao and asked her about some things. She responded by saying she didn’t know. Surprised, the other party asked her how she wouldn’t know things that Zhou knew. And she said: “Don’t think that I know everything that Comrade Enlai knew; he never said anything I shouldn’t know.” 邓颖超说,“不要以为恩来同志知道的事情我都知道,不该我知道的事他是从来不说的”. -- Ergo, discipline implies prioritising the Party and responsibilities towards the Party above all else, including family.

The next bit talks about the need to ensure “iron discipline.” Data from the discipline inspection campaign is highlighted to talk about how certain problems continue to persist. 

“The first and foremost thing that should be done to tighten the Party’s discipline is to tighten political discipline. Political discipline is the most fundamental and important discipline of our party…” In this the piece warns against political discipline simply becoming a perfunctory matter - something just for show; this, it says, could lead to a “broken window effect” 破窗效应, which could eventually lead to the disintegration of the party. 严明党的纪律,首要的是严明政治纪律。政治纪律是我们党最根本、最重要的纪律,是全党在政治方向、政治立场、政治言论、政治行动方面的刚性约束。如果党的政治纪律成了摆设,就会形成“破窗效应”,党就会沦为各取所需、各行其是的“私人俱乐部”,最终导致分崩离析,“忽喇喇似大厦倾”.

Therefore, it is important to adhere to the two maintenances, have no exceptions to the rules for anyone, not tolerate actions that are prohibited and ensure that central decisions are implemented. All Party members are called on to study and “internalise” the constitution and also “externalise” it in their actions. There should be no “secret doors” or “skylights” for offenders to escape through.

The next question is about the idea of constraining power in a cage. This is about governing the Party effectively and coordinating Party governance with national laws. The idea is that “a good system can prevent bad people from operating arbitrarily, and a bad system can prevent good people from doing good things well.” Therefore, there must be mechanisms to constrain and guide the exercise of power and authority, i.e., governing according to law. It says that “As long as public power exists, it must be restricted, otherwise it will be abused.”只要公权力存在,就必须受到制约,否则就会被滥用. 

“Leading cadres at all levels must bear in mind that no one has absolute power outside the law. Anyone who exercises power must serve the people, be responsible to the people, and consciously accept the people's supervision.” 各级领导干部都要牢记,任何人都没有法律之外的绝对权力,任何人行使权力都必须为人民服务、对人民负责并自觉接受人民监督.

So how does one place power in a cage? Well, first, it is important to build a cage. This refers to internal party guidelines, national laws, education and improving the party and state supervision system. In the context of the latter, there’s reference to supervisors being ineffective in the past because they’ve been worried about losing support, taking tough decisions and disturbing the “peace”  of the system. Going ahead, the article calls for:

“strengthening the supervision of senior cadres and leading cadres at all levels, improve the internal supervision system of leading bodies, and solve the problems of supervising the top leaders and peer supervision.” 重点加强对高级干部、各级主要领导干部的监督,完善领导班子内部监督制度,破解对一把手监督和同级监督难题. In this context too, the aim is to strengthen political supervision first.

Also on the page, we have a report based on a press conference from yesterday around the rights of flexibly employed workers or gig-economy workers This draws on the recent guidelines issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Transport, the State Administration of Market Supervision, and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions on rights and interests of flexibly employed workers. The guideline dates back to July 22. 

There are a bunch of important data points in the story; I’ll also draw from other state media reports:

  • First, although these workers tend to not have well-defined labor contracts, insurance or social benefits, platform companies need to assume the corresponding responsibilities for safeguarding the rights and interests of workers. This covers wages, workload, and benefits.

  • Li Huaqiang, deputy director of transport services at the Ministry of Transport, said that some ride-hailing applications encroached on drivers’ rights by increasing commissions on each order, meaning they have to work longer to maintain their incomes. China Daily reports that he said the ministry will require ride-hailing platforms to sign formal labor contracts with drivers and clarify the platforms’ responsibilities to the drivers they employ. CGTN adds that the government is considering setting an upper limit on commission taken from drivers by car-hailing platforms. “Measures will be taken to regulate the operating behaviors of car-hailing platforms, requiring them to standardize pricing, set a ceiling for platform fees and announce the results to the public, he said.”

  • Trade unions and workers’ representatives must have a role to play in the revision of institutional rules and platform algorithms that directly impact workers’ rights and interests. 对企业制定修订直接涉及劳动者权益的制度规则和平台算法,要充分听取工会和劳动者代表意见建议,并公示告知劳动者.

  • The report also talks about the rights of delivery workers. In this context, it points to workload, payments, modes of assessment and something like delivery timelines, along with support with regard to work-related injuries.

  • You Jun, vice-minister of human resources and social security, says that the ministry is formulating occupational injury protection pilot projects for gig-economy workers. He also spoke about developing insurance systems for these individuals. For instance, he mentions a government-led protection system, established and implemented under the general framework of the existing work injury insurance system.

  • There is also a reference to ​​liberalize the household registration restrictions for gig-economy workers to participate in the basic pension insurance in the place of employment. In addition, enterprises are being urged to participate in social insurance when it comes to such employees.

And that’s basically it from my point of view. I didn’t find much else that was terribly interesting in the paper today.