Xi Talks to Zelensky & Erdogan - Foreign Trade - Afghanistan's Impact on C. Asia - July 1 Speech & Xi's 'Major Theoretical Innovation'

Here are the stories and pieces from the July 14, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: The front page today is all about Xi Jinping. First, Xi met with representatives of all who had participated in the preparations for the centenary celebrations (English report). The report tells us that there was a PSC meeting a few days ago, during which Xi made a speech after hearing a report on the celebrations. 

Xi called the centenary celebration “a major event in the political life of the Party and the state.” He was happy with the way that the celebrations were held and felt that they “played a role in unifying thoughts, building cohesion, inspiring people and boosting morale, and fully achieved the intended purpose.” He then spoke about taking the momentum forward to building socialist modernisation, enhancing historical consciousness, and further telling the story of the CCP to the world and effectively to enhance the international influence of the party and country.

Finally, Wang Huning gave a speech, emphasising the need to study and implement Xi’s speech. Some of the leaders who attended the meeting as per PD are “Ding Xuexiang, Yang Jiechi, Zhang Youxia, Chen Xi, Huang Kunming, Cai Qi, Xiao Jie and Zhao Kezhi.”

Next, Xi spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Interesting timing for this chat. Actually the past few weeks have seen some curious developments between Beijing and Kyiv. Most recently we had Putin publish an article calling Russians and Ukranians as “one people.” 

Here’s an excerpt from AP’s report on this:

“I am convinced that the true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia,” the article posted on the Kremlin’s website states. “Our spiritual, human and civilizational ties have formed for centuries and have been rooted in the same sources, they have been hardened by common trials, achievements and victories.” In televised remarks on Tuesday night, Putin said he had pondered the article for several months, but now was the time to release it. “It looks like active work on the project ‘anti-Russia’ has begun, and this, of course, elicits certain concerns,” he said. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from commenting Tuesday when asked if Russia could move to incorporate rebel-controlled areas of Ukraine’s industrial heartland, Donbas. “I would leave that question unanswered,” Peskov said during a conference call with reporters.

Second, recall the whole fiasco in late June of Ukraine withdrawing from a UNHRC statement led by Western powers was critical of Beijing’s Xinjiang policies. The report then was that Beijing had used its vaccine clout to get Kyiv to withdraw. In early July, we got a report about an agreement between China and Ukraine encouraging companies and financial institutions from both countries to “actively cooperate” on roads, bridges and railways projects. SCMP reported that the agreement was signed on June 30.

Today, we get this chat, in which as per Xinhua English, Xi told Zelensky that “the Chinese side is ready to work together with Ukraine to carry forward the traditional friendship, deepen mutual understanding, strengthen practical cooperation, and take the 30th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties next year as an opportunity to actively push forward China-Ukraine relations, and help the two countries better achieve their respective development goals.” He also spoke about pandemic-related cooperation and infrastructure, China-Europe freight trains and BRI. Zelensky thanked China for its support and said that Ukraine firmly adheres to the one-China policy.

Moving on, Xi also spoke to Erdogan yesterday (English report). Xi’s priorities were to “respect each other’s core concerns and enhance strategic mutual trust,” “cooperation with Turkey in anti-terrorism, security,” and “promote synergy between” BRI and the Middle Corridor project of Turkey. He added that “China supports Turkey in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and in taking a development path in line with its own national conditions…”

Erdogan, as per Xinhua, said that “Turkey also supports China in safeguarding its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and in combating terrorism, he said, adding that his country does not allow anyone to use Turkish territory to engage in separatist activities that endanger China's sovereignty.”

Reuters quoted a statement from the Turkish presidency, saying that “Erdogan pointed out that it was important for Turkey that Uyghur Turks live in prosperity and peace as equal citizens of China. He voiced Turkey’s respect for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Next, Xi spoke to Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley (English report). Xi spoke about BRI, pandemic cooperation, “exchanges of experience in national governance” and “practical cooperation in infrastructure and other fields.” In addition, Xi said that “the two sides should reinforce coordination and cooperation in international affairs and safeguard the common interests of developing countries.”

Finally, we have a report telling us that Xi’s July 1 speech has been published as a booklet; and then we have a commentary based on the speech. I think there’s been at least one commentary more or less daily in PD since the speech. This is how the commentary talks about Xi’s speech:

“General Secretary Xi Jinping solemnly proclaimed with bold confidence and impassioned ambition that he had achieved the first century of struggle and fully built a moderately prosperous society, solemnly declared his firm determination to adhere to and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era and move forward to the second century of struggle to fully build a modern socialist power, and profoundly elaborated the ‘nine musts’ for learning from history and creating the future…” 在庆祝中国共产党成立100周年大会上,习近平总书记以豪迈的自信、激昂的壮志,庄严宣告实现了第一个百年奋斗目标、全面建成了小康社会,郑重宣示坚持和发展新时代中国特色社会主义、向全面建成社会主义现代化强国的第二个百年奋斗目标迈进的坚定决心,深刻阐述以史为鉴、开创未来的“九个必须”根本要求,代表党中央向全体党员发出了为党和人民争取更大光荣的伟大号召,鼓舞和激励着全党同志乘势而上、再接再厉、接续奋斗,在民族复兴的伟业中为党和人民建功立业.

The commentary says that studying and implementing the speech is a “major political task” and calls on the Party to “profoundly grasp the speech through the methodology and worldview of “dialectical materialism and historical materialism,” since this is a “Marxist programmatic document.” It terms the speech “a political declaration that the Chinese Communists in the new era will not forget their original aspirations” and “an action guide for the party to unite and lead the people to learn from history and create the future.”

Page 2: There’s a report (English version) on the page about China’s foreign trade. I covered this briefly yesterday, but there’s more data today.

  • So total trade in H1 is 18.07 trillion yuan (June accounted for 3.29 trillion yuan)

  • exports were 9.85 trillion yuan, 

  • imports were 8.22 trillion yuan

  • Note that private enterprises’ imports and exports were 8.64 trillion yuan - so less than half of the total figure.

  • Cross-border e-commerce was at 886.7 billion yuan 

  • exports were 603.6 billion yuan

  • imports were 283.1 billion yuan

ASEAN, EU and the US were the top three trading partners for China. Trade with BRI partners was at 5.35 trillion yuan. That’s around 27.5% of China’s total trade. Computers, household appliances, furniture and other ‘home economy’ products to BRI countries were at 187.3 billion yuan, exports of steel products amounted to 127.87 billion yuan, exports of automobiles and parts were 105.02 billion yuan, the export of medical materials and drugs was 42.56 billion yuan.

GAC spokesperson Li Kuiwen did say that for the second half of the year, China’s foreign trade growth may slow down due to a high base last year; but he added that the foreign trade for the whole year is still expected to maintain rapid growth.”

Some key points to note here. First, exports in dollar terms rose 32.2% in June from a year earlier, compared with 27.9% growth in May. This beat expectations, particularly amid the Covid-19 related closures in Guangdong. Imports have fallen, however. Also, as per GAC data, India-China bilateral trade in the first half of the year totalled $57.48 billion, up 62.7 percent year on year. 

Second, PTI reports (also see GT’s report) that though Indian exports to China picked up with 69.6 percent year on year increase, the trade deficit, a structural problem for India for long, climbed to 55.6 percent. According to data released by China’s Customs, India’s exports to China reached $14.724 billion, up 69.6 percent year on year in the first six months and India's imports from China amounted to $42.755 billion, up 60.4 percent. So total trade is around 57.48 billion so far in H1. Last year’s total was $77.67 billion. Useful to note that Indian iron ore export to China has still remained really strong.

Page 3: One of the things that I always think about while reading PD is what has not got covered. These editorial decisions are as important as what’s covered. For instance, if one’s been reading PD, there’s really no indication of any friction between China and Japan over Taiwan. But this is clearly brewing. For instance, here’s Zhao Lijian lashing out at Tokyo for referring to the stability around Taiwan for the first time in its defense white paper. 

Here’s Xinhua English reporting it:

“‘China must and will be reunified. A complete reunification of China is most beneficial to regional peace and stability,’ Zhao said. The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are China's inherent territory, he said, noting that by conducting patrol and law enforcement activities in waters off the Diaoyu Islands, China is exercising its legal right. Zhao said the Coast Guard Law is just a routine piece of domestic legislation, not targeted at any specific country. It is totally in line with international law and international practice. In fact, many countries, including Japan, have enacted similar laws and regulations long before China, he added. He also said the ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy’ aims to stoke bloc confrontation and create cliques for geopolitical games, which marks the comeback of a Cold War mentality and retrogression and "should be swept into the dustbin of history.”

But on PD’s third page, which covers China’s foreign engagement, there’s no mention of this. Instead, we have a report about parliamentary-level talks between China and Russia; a Chinese TV show about the pandemic fight being aired in Iran after being translated in Persian, demonstrating China’s soft power; and Wang Yi meeting Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. 

Xinhua English’s report on this chat between Wang and Berdymukhamedov is far more detailed. It tells us that Berdymukhamedov said “cooperation with China in the energy field is a political decision made by Turkmenistan.” He said that “Turkmenistan regards China as a long-term and reliable strategic partner in the field of natural gas, and is willing to further expand cooperation with China in the fields of information, communications, high technology...” 

Xinhua adds that he said the Turkmen side thanked China for its assistance in fighting the epidemic. He said that China’s vaccines are safe, effective and trustworthy, and Turkmenistan is willing to continue to strengthen vaccine cooperation with China. He also spoke about ‘China+Central Asia’ mechanism to maintain regional security and stability, and he wants neighboring countries to play a bigger role on the Afghan issue.

The important bit in the story from my point of view is this. “Wang emphasized that the current security situation in Central Asia is not optimistic, and the urgency and necessity of strengthening security cooperation between China and Turkmenistan have become increasingly prominent. China is willing to maintain close communication with Turkmenistan on the situation in Afghanistan, strengthen cooperation under the ‘China+Central Asia’ framework, strictly guard against and respond to the spillover effect of the situation in Afghanistan on neighboring countries, and maintain regional peace and stability.”

Page 4: We get an oblique reference to the heavy rainfall and flooding in parts of China on the page. And this comes in the context of State Councilor Wang Yong, who heads the country’s flood control and drought relief headquarters, saying that unrelenting efforts should be made to safeguard the safety of people’s lives and property. 

Compare this coverage to SCMP’s report:

“Last year saw the worst flooding in decades, affecting tens of millions of people in dozens of provinces and resulting in at least 86 billion yuan in economic losses. Authorities have warned that the amount of rainfall this year could be even higher, with the Ministry of Water Resources issuing a call in June for flood prevention efforts and for communities to prepare for heavy rainfall that may persist until August…”

Also, note this Reuters report about the situation in Sichuan. None of this has got attention in PD.

Page 9: On the Theory page today, the lead piece is by Xie Fuzhan, who is the President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He is basically drawing from Xi’s July 1 speech. He writes that:

“General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out, ‘Over the past hundred years, all the struggles, all the sacrifices and all the creations made by the Chinese Communist Party unitedly leading the Chinese people have boiled down to one theme: the realization of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.’ This generalization is the first of its kind in the history of the Party, and is a major theoretical innovation made by General Secretary Xi Jinping in applying the worldview of historical materialism to scientifically understand the history of the Party and accurately grasp the main theme and mainstream essence of the Party's historical development.” 习近平总书记指出:“一百年来,中国共产党团结带领中国人民进行的一切奋斗、一切牺牲、一切创造,归结起来就是一个主题:实现中华民族伟大复兴。”这一概括在党的历史上是第一次,是习近平总书记运用唯物史观科学认识党的历史、准确把握党的历史发展的主题主线、主流本质作出的重大理论创新.

He talks about the significance of socialism and the Party’s journey. “The great achievements of socialism solemnly declare that the Chinese nation has ushered in a great leap from standing up, getting rich to becoming strong, and realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has entered an irreversible historical process.” 命运的关键一招,中国大踏步赶上了时代;创造了新时代中国特色社会主义的伟大成就,庄严宣告中华民族迎来了从站起来、富起来到强起来的伟大飞跃,实现中华民族伟大复兴进入了不可逆转的历史进程.

Also on the page is a piece by Jiang Shuping, director of the Third Research Department of the Central Party History and Documentation Research Institute, who writes that the power of Marxism has been the guide for the Party on “the road of struggle in the past,” and will continue to guide it.

Page 11: It’s old news, but today’s PD carried a report saying that Yu Zhigang, former member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, has been expelled from the Party. But this happened in late June from what I read in Caixin