Xi-Merkel Talk, PLA Political Education, Modern Industrial Supply Chain, Human Rights Pushback

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

Page 1: There’s a lot to cover from the front page today. Let’s start with the new guidelines on promoting ideological and political education in the PLA. The full text is not available, but PD reports the following.

The purpose of the guidelines: These “are the top-level guidance for building the ideological and political education system of the people's army in the new era. It is of great significance to better adhere to the party's absolute leadership over the army, and to gather the will and power to strengthen the army and to prosper the army.”

They work to ensure the implementation of the “party's goal of strengthening the army in the new era to lead ideological and political education, closely focusing on achieving the party's goal of strengthening the army in the new era, building the people's army into a world-class army in an all-round way, and training successors who obey the party's command.” 

The key tool to do this: “we must unremittingly use Xi Jinping’s thinking on strengthening the army to forge the soul and educate people...” 

Second, Xi spoke to Germany’s Angela Merkel on Wednesday. Xinhua English has all the details as PD. Xi said that enhancing China-Germany and China-EU cooperation could produce major results with significance. He praised the bilateral economic cooperation despite the pandemic, and called for more work “in the spirit of mutual respect, mutual benefit and win-win.” 

He added “China is actively building a new development paradigm, Xi said, adding that China is relying on its own strength for development while sticking to opening up and actively participating in international division of labor and cooperation. China is willing to share the opportunities brought about by its new round of opening up and development with foreign companies including those from Germany, he said.”

Now on the frictions with the EU, he said: “Noting that China-EU relations are facing new opportunities as well as various challenges, Xi said that the key is to keep to the general direction and keynote of China-EU relations from a strategic perspective, respect each other and remove distractions. (in the Chinese language report, the term used is “干扰” which translate to interference, as I understand, and not distractions.) Xi said China's development has been an opportunity for the EU and urged the EU to make correct judgment independently and truly achieve strategic autonomy.” 

Xi then spoke about vaccine nationalism and the need for fair and reasonable vaccine distribution, particularly to developing countries. According to Xinhua, Merkel said that the EU upholds independence in its foreign relations, and spoke about willingness to cooperate on the pandemic-related issues, initiate a new round of inter-governmental consultations and so on. 

Third, the State Council’s weekly meeting (PD report and English report) focussed on healthcare to network speeds. So it was decided that “going forward, intensified efforts will be made to deepen the reform of (the) medical and healthcare system, and strengthen the general support mechanism for covering outpatient medical bills under the employee basic medical insurance.” This effort will begin with a focus on retirees, who should get 50% reimbursement to start with. 

On the internet, the report says that “the construction and application of 5G services and gigabit fiber optic networks will be vigorously advanced...By the end of this year, gigabit fiber-optic networks are expected to cover more than 200 million households...Basic telecommunications service providers will be guided to cut the average broadband service rate and the average dedicated internet service rate for small and medium-sized enterprises by another 10 percent. Concessional internet service rates will be rolled out for special groups, including senior citizens and people with disabilities.”

Next, there’s a commentary marking the anniversary of the reopening of Wuhan after the lockdown last year. Basically, it reiterates the Party’s narrative on the pandemic and makes the point that “the fundamental reason why a nation is great is that it never gives up, does not retreat, does not stop in the face of any difficulties and risks, and is unrelenting in fighting for its own future and destiny. 

Finally, Wang Yang spoke at the first study session looking at the United Front work regulations. He said that the regulations “provide important political, organizational, and legal guarantees for the innovation and development of the united front in the new era. To study and implement the regulations, it is necessary to strengthen the party’s leadership as the fundamental principle, and to run the party’s leadership throughout the various fields of the united front…” He added that “political nature is the first attribute of the united front work. It is necessary to establish political awareness, strengthen political experience, and improve political capabilities.”

Page 2: There’s a report about a call between Li Keqiang and Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene. Li basically said that “the two sides should strengthen cooperation in epidemic prevention and control, work toward faster recovery of border port shipments, ensure smooth progress in large cooperation projects.” 

Next, there’s a press meeting with finance ministry officials talking about fiscal and taxation system development during the 14FYP period. There’s an English report here, apart from the Chinese language report. The key points are that during the 13th Five-Year Plan period, cumulative tax and fee reductions exceeded 7.6 trillion yuan, and going ahead the focus will be on five areas:

  • continue to implement the systemic tax reduction policy

  • orderly withdrawal of the phased tax reduction and fee reduction policy. But temporary and emergency policies related to epidemic prevention and control related to ensuring supplies will cease upon expiration.

  • strengthen tax incentives for small and micro enterprises

  • increase support for manufacturing and technological innovation, i.e., “manufacturing enterprises can deduct 100 percent of their expenses on research and development, if the spending is not part of the intangible assets included in the profit and loss for the current period. The deduction will come into effect from Jan 1 this year. If intangible assets are formed, they shall be amortized by 200 percent of the cost of intangible assets before tax from Jan 1, the statement said, adding that tax policies would look to encourage technology research and innovation.

  • continue the effort on the fee reduction front.

Ou Wenhan, assistant minister of the Ministry of Finance, also said that: “The ministry will ensure fund injections for significant technology innovation projects and adopt tax incentives to encourage enterprises' investment in basic research. Efforts will be made to support the construction and operation of national laboratories. In addition, the policy will support a pilot project for insurance compensation as part of the efforts to promote innovation.”

There’s more on technology in the Chinese language report. “In terms of enhancing the technological innovation capacity of enterprises, enterprises will be supported to lead the formation of innovation consortia, undertake major national science and technology projects, expand the size of the National Science and Technology Achievement Transformation Fund, the implementation of tax incentives for enterprises to invest in basic research, and support the development of the first (set) of major technical equipment insurance compensation pilot…”

The next part of the report talks about specific transfers from the central government, which they said would essentially be used for livelihood support. In the English report there’s a bit on local government debt: “Assistant Minister Ou highlighted the need to control local government debt risks, improve the allocation mechanism of newly issued bonds, and bond issuances in high-risk regions. ‘We will not allow the financing of new projects by raising implicit debt,’ said Ou, adding that local governments are not allowed to increase contingent liabilities through corporate borrowings. Financial institutions should also not provide any illegal financing to local governments...By the end of last year, outstanding local government debt reached 25.66 trillion yuan ($3.92 trillion), still under the debt ceiling of 28.81 trillion yuan approved by the nation's top legislature. Total government debt accounted for 45.8 percent of the GDP and the debt risks are well under control, according to the Ministry of Finance.”

Page 3: Just one report. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic took the Sinopharm vaccine. He, as per PD, recommended that the public choose Chinese vaccines; vaccine production is equally important to Serbia, and he hopes to develop biotechnology with China.

Page 9: There’s an interesting piece by Xia Wenbin and Lan Qingxin on building a modern industrial supply chain. They argue that China’s economic and industrial fundamentals remain strong, which have laid “a solid foundation for improving the modernization of the industrial chain and supply chain.” But “it should also be noted that there are still some challenges to achieve the goal of ‘significant improvement in innovation capability, advanced industrial foundation, and significant improvement in the modernization level of the industrial chain’.” To deal with these challenges, they say that “it is necessary to focus on improving core capabilities, make targeted efforts to target global industrial chain development trends and technological innovation dynamics, promote the joint development of industrial chains, supply chains, and innovation chains, and accelerate the development of a modern industrial system.”

They argue that China should:

  • aim at setting international standards.

  • focus on improving technological innovation and import substitution, and strengthening core technology control. They argue that it is important to “realize the import substitution of core parts, basic materials and equipment, and reduce external dependence.”

  • establish industry-university-research integration alliances, industrial technology incubation bases, etc to improve the innovation system. The idea is to improve application of research for industrial development and creating new products. Part of this includes better compensation for technology sector talents.

Page 11: A short report on China’s forex reserves for March, which fell $34.97 billion to $3.17 trillion compared to $3.205 trillion in February.

Page 17: Two pieces on the international page to note. First, a presentation by the Chinese embassy in Australia pushing back on the issue of Xinjiang. The presentation had comments from officials and videos of people from Xinjiang, which PD says “clarified the facts, and exposed the lies and fallacies of the anti-China forces in the West.” How did this go down in Australia? Here are three headlines and stories to note:

Next, there’s a commentary criticising the 2020 State Department Human Rights report. The author argues that:

“In this report, the United States once again regards its narrow understanding of human rights as the so-called ‘human rights standards’, categorizes situations that differ from its standards as "human rights violations", and treats the results of the report as suppressing countries with different political systems from its own. The tool of slander and slander is extremely capable of doing everything possible to achieve the purpose of safeguarding its international hegemony.”

Here’s more: “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and various international human rights conventions establish not only individual civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights...A large number of human rights resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council involve a series of individual and collective human rights, such as the rights to survival, development, peace, and the environment. The strange thing is that in the U.S. national human rights report, the individual freedom and political rights that are highly emphasized under the U.S. national system are selected in general. This standard selectivity fully exposes what the U.S. wants. Impose its own political and social system on all other countries in the world.