Discover more from Tracking People's Daily
Xi's Command of COVID-19 'People's War' - 'Time and Momentum': China's Economic Development Review - Xi's COP26 Speech - Zhong Sheng on US Intelligence Report on COVID Origins
Here are the stories and pieces from the November 2, 2021, edition of the People’s Daily that I found noteworthy.
Page 1: Let’s begin with the second piece in the “key decision” series. Today, we have the story of the people’s war against COVID-19, which we are told has been won by the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core. It is interesting that this is being published at a time when at least 14 provinces are experiencing a fresh COVID outbreak, Beijing has strict entry-exit restrictions and China continues to remain largely closed to much of the outside world.
Anyway, the piece tells us that the pandemic brought about changes which are intertwined with the major changes unseen in a century, leading to many uncertainties. Every scientific and rational judgment, every strategy to assess the situation and every decision to turn the tide needed great political courage and superb political wisdom. There was one man at the helm leading this heavy ship. The more critical the crisis is, the more critical the moment is, the more evident is the role of the core of leadership. In the face of the sudden outbreak, General Secretary Xi Jinping personally commanded and made arrangements for managing the overall situation. Xi made wise and decisive decisions, responded to the extraordinary events with extraordinary measures, confronted the pandemic with the strength of the whole country, and led more than 1.4 billion Chinese people to wage a great anti-epidemic struggle with great vigour and vitality. 百年变局与世纪疫情交织叠加，冲击超乎想象，未来充满变数。每一个科学理性的判断，每一个审时度势的战略，每一个力挽狂澜的决策，都需要巨大的政治勇气和高超的政治智慧. 船重千钧，掌舵一人。越是危难关头，越是关键时刻，越能彰显领导核心的作用. 面对突如其来的疫情，习近平总书记亲自指挥、亲自部署，统揽全局、英明果断，作出历史性抉择，以非常之举应对非常之事，以举国之力对决重大疫情，带领14亿多中国人民开展了一场艰苦卓绝、气壮山河的伟大抗疫斗争.
The piece basically praises Xi’s leadership for having effectively contained the pandemic, taking decisive decisions like shutting down Wuhan and Hubei and balancing pandemic control with economic development and poverty alleviation.
Cue the dramatic narrative:
“January 25, 2020, the first day of the first lunar month, Zhongnanhai Huairen Hall. Xi Jinping sat with six other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. ‘The epidemic situation is urgent; we have to get everyone together; we have to study and make deployments to address the issue. General Secretary Xi Jinping said with a solemn expression: “I could not sleep at night on New Year’s Eve.” 2020年1月25日，农历正月初一，中南海怀仁堂。习近平总书记和其他6位中共中央政治局常委坐在一起. “现在疫情形势紧急，不得不把大家召集起来，一起来研究部署这个问题。”习近平总书记表情凝重地说, “大年三十我夜不能寐.”
Of course, apart from directing and deploying resources, the piece tells us that Xi went to the front lines of the battle too. This refers to his visit to Wuhan on March 10, 2020. Alas, Li Keqiang and more importantly Sun Chunlan, who actually managed things in Wuhan and Hubei get little credit in this piece. What does get highlighted is that Xi asked officials to ensure that sufficient fish is made available for people in Wuhan because that’s something that people in the city like eating. “武汉人喜欢吃活鱼，在条件允许的情况下应多组织供应.” 总书记特意叮嘱，把对人民群众的关怀落细落实.
And soon truckloads of fish were brought to Wuhan; but not just that, there were vegetables from Shandong, rice from northeast China and fruits from Hainan, all provided “under the care of General Secretary Xi Jinping.” 很快，一车车活鱼从武汉周边的水产养殖基地迅速起网，送到武汉市民的餐桌。在习近平总书记关心下，山东的蔬菜、东北的大米、海南的水果，源源不断向武汉输送…
Anyway, the piece goes on not just about Xi’s concern for the people related to the pandemic but also his leading of efforts to get the economy going, his personal inspections across various provinces, and the lessons he has drawn for China’s governance from this experience. The piece also talks about China’s “open, transparent and responsible” approach in the fight against COVID-19. It references Xi’s engagement at the G20 last year, the WHA and Global Health Summit in Beijing, etc.
The piece ends with this:
“Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, the fight against COVID-19 pandemic has achieved significant strategic results, which fully demonstrated the remarkable advantages of the Communist Party of China’s leadership and China’s socialist system, the great strength of the Chinese people and nation, the profound foundation of Chinese civilisation and the conscious responsibility of China as a major country, greatly enhanced the self-confidence and pride, cohesion and centripetal force of the whole party and people of all ethnic groups, and will inspire us to overcome difficulties and forge ahead bravely in the new era and new journey.” 在以习近平同志为核心的党中央坚强领导下，抗击新冠肺炎疫情斗争取得重大战略成果，充分展现了中国共产党领导和我国社会主义制度的显著优势，充分展现了中国人民和中华民族的伟大力量，充分展现了中华文明的深厚底蕴，充分展现了中国负责任大国的自觉担当，极大增强了全党全国各族人民的自信心和自豪感、凝聚力和向心力，必将激励我们在新时代新征程上披荆斩棘、奋勇前进.
Along with this, we also have a commentary around this theme on the page, reiterating the key points mentioned above. I guess, this is as apt a moment as any to plug my book, which offers a detailed and objective account of China’s handling of COVID-19 along with the implications of policies and narratives.
uphold multilateral consensus
Parties need to honour their commitments, set realistic targets and visions, and do their best according to national conditions to deliver their climate action measures. Developed countries should not only do more themselves, but should also provide support to help developing countries do better.
make a green transition by upgrading energy and resources sectors as well as the industrial structure and consumption pattern
“Recently, China released two directives: Working Guidance for Carbon Dioxide Peaking and Carbon Neutrality in Full and Faithful Implementation of the New Development Philosophy, and the Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking Before 2030. Specific implementation plans for key areas such as energy, industry, construction and transport, and for key sectors such as coal, electricity, iron and steel, and cement will be rolled out, coupled with supporting measures in terms of science and technology, carbon sink, fiscal and taxation, and financial incentives.”
And then we have another long piece titled “time and momentum are on our side” - 时与势在我们一边. This is a review story, looking at actions and themes related to China’s economic development under Xi. It’s too long to summarise, but some of the key points that stand out:
Self-reliance and self-improvement through science and technology to seek new competitive advantages for a strong country...National rejuvenation is fundamentally about innovation.
Addressing the issue of choke point technologies. Xi is quoted as saying that if the “Gate of Life” - 命门 - in the supply chain is in the hands of others, “it is like building a house on someone else’s wall. No matter how big or beautiful it is, it is unlikely to withstand the wind and rain, or may even be vulnerable to a single blow.” ——应变: 攻坚 “卡脖子” 问题，把发展主动权牢牢掌握在自己手中. 习近平总书记打过一个生动的比方：“供应链的‘命门’掌握在别人手里，那就好比在别人的墙基上砌房子，再大再漂亮也可能经不起风雨，甚至会不堪一击.”
Coordinated development through regional strategies. One of the aims here is to establish a “unified and open market for goods and factors with orderly competition across the country.”
Infrastructure development-- so railways, roadways and dams get highlighted. Then the piece talks about environmental concerns, sustainable development, etc.
Next, we have a short report telling us that Xi has signed an order to promulgate a set of regulations on military equipment procurement. Xinhua tells us that focusing on war preparedness and combat capabilities, the regulations are the basic rules governing military equipment procurement.
Page 2: Just one report to note. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development on Monday said that the annual goal for affordable housing development across 40 major cities is to build 936,000 units. So far, from January to September, the construction of 720,000 government-subsidized rental housing units began across 40 cities, accounting for 76.9 percent of the annual plan. This has entailed a total investment of 77.5 billion yuan. Among these cities, Nanjing, Wuxi, Ningbo, Foshan, Changchun, Nanning and other six cities have completed their annual plans.
The report also tells us that Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen will add 470,000 units, 600,000 units and 400,000 units respectively during the 14th Five-Year Plan period, accounting for about 45 percent of the total new housing supply. In addition, the report informs us that “it is clear that affordable rental housing is mainly for new citizens and young people without housing, and there is no income threshold. It is mainly for small units below 70 square meters, and the rent is lower than the rent of rental housing in the same lot and the same quality market.” 并且均明确保障性租赁住房主要面向无房新市民、青年人，不设收入线门槛，以70平方米以下的小户型为主，租金低于同地段同品质市场租赁住房租金. -- I guess we are likely to see inspections in a matter of time related to this too.
Second, Gan Shaoning, deputy head of the National Intellectual Property Administration, spoke at a presser yesterday (English report), talking about to the goal of boosting international IPR cooperation during the 14th five-year-plan period.
Page 3: Just one piece to note, i.e., a Zhong Sheng commentary saying that the US is continuing its effort to “smear China through presumption of guilt. This obsession with stigmatising the virus and politicising its origin runs counter to the spirit of solidarity in the fight against the virus.” The argument is that the US declassifying its intelligence assessment with regard to the origins of COVID-19 during the G20 in Rome was coordinated. It says that using the intelligence community to trace the virus’ origin is in itself proof of politicisation. The report, the piece says, is “full of lies” and “has no credibility at all.” The piece adds:
“Facts have proved that the US’s stigmatisation and politicisation of the tracing of the virus not only seriously interferes with the international solidarity against the epidemic, but also seriously hinders its own epidemic prevention and control, and has become an ‘accomplice’ of the virus.” 事实证明, 美方搞病毒污名化, 溯源政治化不仅严重干扰国际社会团结抗疫, 而且严重阻碍本国疫情防控, 已经沦为病毒的 “帮凶”.
Quick thought: Despite the rhetoric, I think the declassification of the report, whatever the reasons behind it, is a positive step from the point of view of balancing US-China ties. It takes away the irritant that the issue of the virus’ origin had become; the issue will now likely lose its political salience. Of course, in part, this is also about the domestic narrative in the US, which I am not aware of.
The lead piece on the theory page is by Xu Guangchun on a century of Marxism in China.
This is external and personal: I was on The Diplomat’s podcast with Ankit Panda discussing India-China ties. You can listen to the conversation here.
Finally, Jonathan Cheng’s report in WSJ, which informs that “China’s official manufacturing purchasing managers index dropped to 49.2 in October, according to data released Sunday by the National Bureau of Statistics, lower than September’s 49.6 reading and the lowest since the outbreak of the pandemic in February 2020. The reading fell far short of the 49.9 median forecasts expected by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal and marked the second straight month that the gauge came in below 50 which separates contraction from expansion. Last month’s PMI contraction had already ended an 18-month-long factory-sector boom that helped power the world’s second-largest economy as it bounced back from the pandemic.”