Xi to Cadres: Gear for Struggle - Supporting MSMEs & Students - Xi Thought: Pandemic Spirit & Saying No to Universal Values - Wang-Kerry & Wang-Bonne Chats - New Proposal on Online Rumours

Here are the stories and pieces from the September 2, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: The front page today is all about Xi. Let’s begin with his speech at the opening of a training session for young and middle-aged officials at the Party School. Xinhua English has a pretty detailed story on the speech too. Ding Xuexiang, Huang Kunming and Chen Xi were present, PD reports.

Xi told cadres that they “are born and live in a great era” and that they are a critical force for the cause of the Party and the people. Xi then said that the CPC has always been  a Party of “lofty ideals and indomitable conviction...the ideals and conviction refer to the belief in Marxism, the great ideal of Communism and a shared ideal of socialism with Chinese characteristics.” To him, “ideas and beliefs are the spiritual pillar and political soul” of the Party and the “ideological basis for maintaining unity.”

He then emphasised to the cadres that this process of strengthening ideals and beliefs is a lifelong task that they must engage in, without which they will be unable to stand the tests of time. So how does one firm up ideals and beliefs? Xi told them that “staying loyal to the Party is the best demonstration” of this, adding that “such loyalty has a clear gauge in peaceful times - upholding the Party’s leadership and resolutely safeguarding the authority as well as the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee.”

But it’s not just that. Xi also talked about:

  • implementing without compromising, the Party’s theory, line, principles and policies and the decisions of the Central Committee

  • strict adherence to “political discipline and political rules” and being honest

  • implementing organizational decisions and obeying organizational arrangements

He wants young cadres to “strive for the honour of being stationed in harsh and remote places.” “Knives must be sharpened on stones,” he said, and people learn from practice and experience. “Success rarely comes without arduousness and rich experience.” 刀要在石上磨、人要在事上练,不经风雨、不见世面是难以成大器的. 

The next bit of the report talks about Xi stressing the importance of understanding reality and proceeding from there. He wants cadres to cultivate skills of “investigation and research,” work on the “front lines” to learn about development; he wants them to absorb the praise and criticism they receive and learn from working at the grassroots to understand reality. He added: “insisting on proceeding from reality and seeking truth from facts is not only a question of ideological methods, but also a question of whether the party spirit is strong or not.” 习近平指出,坚持从实际出发、实事求是,不只是思想方法问题,也是党性强不强问题. In this regard, he wants cadres to be honest in “words, deeds and personality” while also being “good at independent thinking, and persist in seeking truth and being pragmatic.” 年轻干部要坚持以党性立身做事,把说老实话、办老实事、做老实人作为党性修养和锻炼的重要内容,敢于坚持真理,善于独立思考,坚持求真务实.

All of this encouragement came with a bit of a warning too: The Party places cadres in various posts with the goal that they act as officers, and not to become office holders enjoying comforts. 党把干部放在各种岗位上,让每个人都当军官,而不是当官享受幸福. In this context, he emphasised doing things and taking responsibility. “There are always risks in doing things. It is precisely because there are risks that we need to take responsibility. Whatever is beneficial to the Party and the people, we must do it boldly and resolutely without taking refuge or shirking our responsibilities.”做事总是有风险的。正因为有风险,才需要担当. 凡是有利于党和人民的事,我们就要事不避难、义不逃责,大胆地干、坚决地干.

Xi then railed against the idea of being “Mr. Nice Guy” 好好先生; such people according to Xi don’t necessarily have public interest at heart, lack integrity and are fundamentally selfish. For the Communists, he said, what matters is struggle. He wants cadres to remain unwavering on matters of principle; one must “never be vague or give in” on these matters of principles. He added that “all Party officials should be fair and just in performing duties and leave no place for personal favour in their work.”

Then we get to some interesting stuff, which tells us that being a “loveable” power is not really the desire. So, Xi talked about the “major changes unseen in a century” that are accelerating, with China’s national rejuvenation entering a “critical period.” He said that “the risks and challenges we face have increased significantly. It is unrealistic to expect a peaceful life without struggle. We must discard illusions, have the courage to struggle, and make no concessions on matters of principle. We must uphold China's sovereignty, security and development interests with unprecedented determination. Communists should have character, integrity, and courage so that we'll never be taken in by fallacies, never tremble in the face of danger, and never be spineless cowards.” 习近平强调,当前,世界百年未有之大变局加速演进,中华民族伟大复兴进入关键时期,我们面临的风险挑战明显增多,总想过太平日子、不想斗争是不切实际的。要丢掉幻想、勇于斗争,在原则问题上寸步不让、寸土不让,以前所未有的意志品质维护国家主权、安全、发展利益. 共产党人任何时候都要有不信邪、不怕鬼、不当软骨头的风骨、气节、胆魄.

This is followed by a call for cadres to “respect the rules and abide by the bottom line”. He said that cadres must have “reverence for the party, reverence for the people, and reverence for laws and regulations,” and “exercise strict self-discipline.” He wants cadres to work on their worldview, and outlook on life and values, in order to raise “ideological consciousness and spiritual level;” and it is only in such a situation that they move from not daring to be corrupt to never wanting to be corrupt.

He then spoke about the importance of knowledge, studying, research and practice. “We are in an era of unprecedented change and are engaged in a great cause that no one has ever done before”; this demands nurturing vision and capability, for Xi. 习近平强调,我们处在前所未有的变革时代,干着前无古人的伟大事业,如果知识不够、眼界不宽、能力不强,就会耽误事. Therefore, he wants cadres to study and think more, and one of the things that he wants them to study is Marxist theory, “especially the innovative theory of the party in the new era” (i.e., Xi Thought) and Party history. He further added: “real knowledge comes from practice and talent grows from practice.”

Also on the page, we have a report about reactions from folks at the school to Xi’s speech. Unsurprisingly, the reaction is “enthusiastic.” Finally, a brief note on the page that Xi will be speaking at the Global Trade in Services Summit of the 2021 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) via video on Thursday.

Page 2: Let’s begin with the State Council meeting (English report + this one too). The emphasis was that in order to stabilize growth and ensure employment, it is important to protect market players, particularly MSMEs. So what was decided was:

“Relief policies will be strengthened. Re-lending quota for small firms will be increased by another 300 billion yuan this year. Local banks will be supported in issuing loans to micro and small enterprises and self-employed individuals. Policies of loan interest discounts and incentives for industries and firms seriously affected by COVID-19 will be fine-tuned. Banks will be encouraged to grant more inclusive credit-based loans to micro and small enterprises. A risk compensation mechanism for the national financing guaranty fund will be put in place to support guarantee institutions in providing guarantees to micro and small enterprises that lack collateral or credit records. Financial institutions will be encouraged to roll out bill discount and standardized bill financing, and the People’s Bank of China will provide support in the form of rediscount, to alleviate the pressure on MSMEs caused by payment arrears...Reform of government functions will be further deepened, to improve the business environment and lower institutional transaction costs. Efforts will be made to protect property rights and intellectual property rights, to safeguard fair competition and shore up confidence in development. Greater support will be provided for starting businesses and pursuing innovations. Arbitrary levy and apportionment of charges will be resolutely prohibited. Sustained efforts will be made for the special campaign against delinquent payments. Localities will be encouraged to roll out targeted relief measures to ease the pressure of rising costs on MSMEs.”

In addition, the meeting said that “cross-cyclical adjustments will be made in a holistic approach. Special local government bonds will be harnessed to expand effective investments. Policy reserves will be strengthened in line with the changing international landscape and the need for developing the real economy.”

The meeting also discussed supporting students from poor families. Starting in the fall semester, the maximum annual loan amount for undergraduate students will be increased 50% from 8,000 yuan to 12,000 yuan and for graduate students 33.3% from 12,000 yuan to 16,000 yuan. Interest on the loans will be fully subsidized by the government while students are in school, and banks offering student loans will get compensation. In addition, the government will continue to provide a certain percentage of risk compensation to banks lending to students.

The meeting also cleared the revised draft of the law on Quality and Safety of Agricultural Products. 

Page 3: Wang Yi had two meetings, which are covered on the page. First, he met with U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. Wang said that China-US cooperation on climate change serves the interests of both sides…”but such cooperation cannot sustain without an improved bilateral relationship.” 

Wang recalled the good old days of China-US cooperation to then say that:

A “major strategic miscalculation by the United States has resulted in the sudden deterioration of bilateral relations in recent years, Wang said, adding the ball now is in the U.S. court. He urged the U.S. side to stop viewing China as a threat and rival, cease containing and suppressing China all over the world, and take concrete steps to improve ties. Wang also said the United States should conduct coordination and cooperation on bilateral, regional and global levels, in accordance with the principle of mutual respect and equality for win-win results.”

Then Wang got even more poetic, calling climate cooperation an “oasis” in bilateral ties. He then said, “if the oasis is all surrounded by deserts, then sooner or later the ‘oasis’ will be desertified.” 

Next, Wang spoke to Emmanuel Bonne, diplomatic counselor to French President Emmanuel Macron. Wang noted that “under the strategic guidance of the two countries' heads of state, China-France relations have been developing healthily and steadily in general.”

“China is happy to see the European Union (EU) grow stronger, said Wang, stressing that China and Europe are partners rather than rivals, and their common interests far outweigh differences. Strengthening dialogue between China and Europe is beneficial to both sides and the world at large, he added. Noting that France is a major country with independent tradition and strategic thinking, Wang expressed hope that with a focus on the common long-term interests of China and Europe, France will take the opportunity of holding the rotating presidency of the EU to push China-EU relations to eliminate interference, overcome difficulties, rise steadily and regain vitality.”

He lashed out at the US IC community’s COVID-19 origins report, calling it “an obvious anti-science act and a typical example of politicizing the origins tracing.” He wants the international community to “resist and oppose the U.S. approach.”

Xinhua tells us that Bonne said that as France assumes the EU presidency, it will take the “​​opportunity to promote cooperation between Europe and China in the fields of public health, environment, climate and trade.” It adds that as per Bonne, “France believes that the origins tracing should be conducted scientifically to avoid the recurrence of another pandemic.” 

Then the story talks about their chat about Afghanistan. Wang said there are three lessons worth learning from the situation in Afghanistan:

  • Firstly, it is unacceptable to claim hegemony, and no matter how strong a country is, it should respect other countries, as well as fairness and justice.

  • Secondly, military intervention is unacceptable, and political solutions to hot issues should be upheld. 

  • Thirdly, wishful thinking of ‘democratic transformation’ is unacceptable, and each country's development path, which is suited to its national conditions, should be respected. 

“The United States suddenly withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, but it cannot shirk its responsibility...What is pressing now is to provide urgently needed economic, livelihood and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, so as to make up for the huge damages done to Afghan national development and people’s well-being...effective measures should be taken to help Afghanistan achieve a smooth transition and avoid a wave of refugees and migrants that will bring bitter consequences to neighboring and European countries. It is also necessary to get rid of the old habit of unilateral sanctions...it is unwise and hardly effective to freeze Afghanistan's foreign exchange reserves in the United States and exert pressure on Afghanistan at every turn.”

Next on the page we have another commentary drawing from the US COVID-19 origins report, arguing that this is an effort in suppressing and containing China and it has not won international support. The piece ends with a warning that unless US politicians make a correct judgment and stop pursuing containment and suppression, their China policy will only run into a dead end. Of course, the argument is also that US containment is doomed to fail because China has international support on the origins issue and that its growth impetus is endogenous and an inevitable trend of historical evolution.

Page 4: Wang Yang’s speech at the end of the 18th meeting of the 13th CPPCC Standing Committee on building a peaceful China. 

Next the Cyberspace Administration of China’s Illegal and Unhealthy Information Reporting Center, the China Civilisation Network and the China Internet Development Foundation have jointly put out a proposal on “resisting internet rumours and building a network civilisation.” 新华社北京9月1日电  (记者王思北)为倡导全社会共管共治网络谣言,共建共享网络文明,中央网信办违法和不良信息举报中心、中国文明网、中国互联网发展基金会和中国互联网联合辟谣平台1日联合发布《“抵制网络谣言 共建网络文明”倡议书》. 

The report talks about online rumours in the context of COVID-19, saying that “rectifying online rumors and chaos, purifying the network ecology, and maintaining social harmony and stability have become the common aspirations of all segments of society.” 

It then talks about four key points, which entail strictly observing communication order, improving the pattern of rumour control, eliminating online rumours and building a network civilisation. 严守传播秩序、完善治谣格局、辟除网络谣言、共建网络文明.

Some of the tasks in this context are emphasising platform responsibility, creating media literacy, enhancing awareness of the rule of law, and carrying forward the core socialist values. 

Page 5: We have the 34th piece in the Xi Thought Q&A series. The first question is about the great anti-epidemic spirit. It tells us that this spirit is “the latest crystallization of the Party’s spiritual pedigree and the most shining spiritual symbol in the new era.” In a nutshell, what this spirit entails is daring to fight and win, putting life first, uniting the whole nation, sacrificing one’s life without fear, respecting science and sharing a common destiny. 在这场同严重疫情的殊死较量中,中国人民和中华民族以敢于斗争、敢于胜利的大无畏气概,铸就了生命至上、举国同心、舍生忘死、尊重科学、命运与共的伟大抗疫精神. The rest of the piece elaborates on these points.

If you are interested in the handling of the pandemic, the development of this spirit, and the geopolitics of it, may I recommend my new book Smokeless War, which offers a deep dive into all this.

The next question is about taking a clear stand against the so-called “universal values” of the West.

For me, this is really important to read and understand. There is much debate about what sort of global order China desires. And while the vision might be hazy, there is clearly a vision that is evolving. In part, this is evolving as a negation of the values framework underpinning what has come to be known as the liberal international order. Of course, this was liberal depending on who you were, and it was underpinned by American military power. But, in part, there’s also an effort to frame an alternative narrative of order. And the bit below gives us some sense of this.

The piece says that:

“for a long time, the United States and other Western countries have preached their own values ​​as so-called ‘universal values’, cleverly packaging them, and promoting them globally, confusing many people. Some people regard Western theories and Western discourse as golden rules and unwittingly become the trumpeters of Western capitalist ideology. They believe that the ‘universal values’ of the West have been around for hundreds of years...In this regard, we need to clear up the ideological fog and understand its essence and harm.” 长期以来,美国等西方国家把他们自己的价值观鼓吹为所谓的“普世价值”,巧加包装,在全球推销,迷惑了不少人。有的人奉西方理论、西方话语为金科玉律,不知不觉成了西方资本主义意识形态的吹鼓手,认为西方“普世价值”经过了几百年,为什么不能认同?为什么非要拧着来?对此,我们需要廓清思想迷雾,认清其实质和危害.

The author writes that it is important to understand the “specific connotation and political intention” behind the notion of “universal values.” “The values of ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ advocated by the modern Western bourgeoisie played a historic role in the process of opposing feudal autocracy. However, as the bourgeoisie gained dominance, these values increasingly became tools to maintain the rule of capital. The Western bourgeoisie tries its best to beautify these values as ‘universal values’ and export them everywhere in order to realize their global hegemonic designs.” Quoting Huntington, the author then says that the notion of “universalism” basically is the ideological tool of the West to deal with non-Western societies. This design and implication must be understood. “普世价值”作为西方资本主义意识形态的强势话语,有其特定内涵和政治用意。近代西方资产阶级倡导的“自由”、“民主”、“人权”等价值观,在反对封建专制过程中发挥过历史性作用。随着资产阶级取得统治地位,这些价值观越来越成为维护资本统治的工具。西方资产阶级极力将这些价值观美化成“普世价值”,并到处输出、贩卖,为实现他们的全球霸权图谋张目。美国学者塞缪尔·亨廷顿就曾经说过,“普世文明”的概念是西方文明的独特产物,“普世主义”是西方对付非西方社会的意识形态。因此,面对“普世价值”的各种论调,我们一定要认清其“弦外之音”、“醉翁之意”.

The next paragraph tells us that these universal values are not really universal even in the West. To make this point, the author cites, racism, the influence of money in politics, labour rights, inequality, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, cyber attacks, election interference and so on as examples of double standards. The next paragraph tells us that the “so-called universal values are neither universal nor a beacon that illuminates the world.” 

“For a long time, some Western countries have been peddling ‘universal values’ and promoting ‘peaceful evolution’ for their own political and economic interests and hegemonic ambitions. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the dramatic changes in Eastern Europe, the ‘colour revolutions’ and the ‘Arab Spring’ were all caused by the intervention of the United States and the West. There are plenty of examples of countries being torn apart into pieces, some have raging conflicts and some are in turmoil all day long”. 长期以来,一些西方国家为了自己的政治经济利益和霸权野心,四处兜售“普世价值”,推行“和平演变”苏联解体、东欧剧变、“颜色革命”和“阿拉伯之春”都是美国和西方的干预造成的. 在西方价值观的影响下,有的国家被撕成了碎片,有的国家被撕成了碎片,有的国家战火纷飞,有的国家整天动荡不安。这样的例子比比皆是.

Once again, we get a reference to Xiang Zhuang's sword dance to say that the real purpose behind the West’s advocacy for democracy, freedom and human rights “is to compete with us for status/standing (地位) and hearts and minds, and ultimately overthrow the leadership of the Communist Party of China and China’s socialist system.” The author says that this effort has never stopped. He argues against tailoring China’s practices on the basis of the Western capitalist value system and measuring China's development based Western capitalist evaluation system. The idea is that using the West as a yardstick to criticise China that can lead to unimaginable consequences. 西方国家对中国的价值渗透、西化分化也从来没有停止过,而且不断翻新花样、变本加厉。“项庄舞剑,意在沛公。”他们的真实目的就是要同我们争夺阵地、争夺人心、争夺群众,最终推翻中国共产党领导和我国社会主义制度。如果我们用西方资本主义价值体系来剪裁我们的实践,用西方资本主义评价体系来衡量我国的发展,认为符合西方标准就行,不符合西方标准就是落后的陈旧的,就要批判、攻击,那后果不堪设想.

The next paragraph makes the point that this rejection of “universal values” does not mean that there aren’t common values that humanity shares. Xi’s speech at the UNGA in 2015 is then quoted to say that “peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom are.common values of all mankind.” The argument is that humans live in a shared global village and this means that some “objective common interests and common values ​​are inevitably required.” So the common values that the author argues for are “seeking common ground while reserving differences, making peace while being different, fully respecting the diversity of civilisations and respecting the right of each country to choose its own social system and development path. This is fundamentally different from the ‘universal values,” which are self-serving and are imposed on others with the aim of promoting capitalist political ideas and institutional models. 反对西方所谓的“普世价值”,并不是说人类社会不存在共同价值。2015年9月28日,在第70届联合国大会一般性辩论上,习近平总书记掷地有声地指出:“和平、发展、公平、正义、民主、自由,是全人类的共同价值,也是联合国的崇高目标。”人类生活在同一个地球村里,越来越成为你中有我、我中有你的命运共同体,客观存在共同利益,必然要求共同价值。我们所主张的共同价值,不是要把哪一家的价值观奉为一尊,而是倡导求同存异、和而不同,充分尊重文明的多样性,尊重各国自主选择社会制度和发展道路的权利。这与唯我独尊、强施于人、旨在推行资本主义政治理念和制度模式的所谓“普世价值”根本不同.

The final paragraph emphasises the need to understand the above and being prepared to fight while strengthening strategic confidence.

Page 9: On the Theory page, the lead piece is by Huang Yibing from the Central Party History and Documentation Research Institute. He talks about understanding the key practical components of the history study campaign. Essentially, the argument is that studying party history is not an academic exercise; one must draw practical lessons about self-cultivation, party-building, serving the people and so on. Of course, these lessons must conform to a certain predetermined direction set by the central leadership, which is emphasised when one talks about maintaining the “correct political direction.”

Apart from this, I thought this piece by Luo Biqiong and Tang Songlin from Hunan University, on core socialist values, was interesting. They argue that:

“Colleges and universities should give full play to the role of ideological and political courses in the education of socialist core values, cultivate the soul and educate students with Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, guide young students to enhance their confidence in the path, theory, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and enhance the pertinence and effectiveness of teaching.” They want the teaching to make these core socialist values tangible and relevant from a daily life perspective so that these “can be perceived and understood,” “internalized in the heart, externalized through their deeds,” so that they abide by public morality and are strict when it comes to private morality. 高校要发挥思政课在社会主义核心价值观教育中的主阵地作用,用习近平新时代中国特色社会主义思想铸魂育人,引导青年学生增强中国特色社会主义道路自信、理论自信、制度自信、文化自信,增强教学的针对性和实效性,把社会主义核心价值观日常化、具体化、形象化、生活化,让青年学生在学习、生活等各种场合都能感知和领悟,将社会主义核心价值观内化于心、外化于行,真正做到明大德、守公德、严私德 --- It would be great to read some research on how this is being done.

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