Xi's Diplomacy - CPPCC on Policy Priorities - Highways of Development - the Original Aspiration - Pak Analyst on US' Afghanistan Withdrawal - Wang-Di Maio Talks

Here are the stories and pieces from the People’s Daily’s June 22, 2021, edition that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: It’s quite a busy front page today. Let’s first cover the conversations that Xi Jinping has had with the leaders of Congo, Tanzania and Finland and his message to Iran’s president-elect. 

First, speaking to the Republic of Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso (English report), Xi said that he wants to “deepen political mutual trust and share more governance experience with each other.” Xi also added that “China supports the Republic of the Congo in taking a development path that suits its national conditions, supports it in safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and supports it in transforming its advantages in resources and geographical position into development advantages.” 

The Chinese president also talked about how the two sides had worked “closely in international and regional affairs to safeguard international fairness and justice and the common interests of developing countries.” Xi does emphasise this aspect quite frequently in certain conversations. Beijing likes having the numbers at its side when it comes to the UN. 

Xi also spoke about increasing Chinese investment in areas such as medical care and health, agriculture, and people’s livelihood.” He spoke about providing vaccines to the country. Xinhua tells us that “under Xi's strong leadership, said Sassou, China has successfully won the battle against poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic and played a pivotal and important role internationally, and the Chinese people are marching forward on the path towards prosperity and development.” He also promised support for “China's stance on safeguarding its core interests and opposes interference in China's domestic affairs.”

Anyway, what Chinese media hasn’t reported is that President Denis Sassou Nguesso asked Xi to restructure the country’s debt owed to China. Rappler quotes Congo’s Finance Minister Rigobert Roger Andely as saying that the Congolese president had told Xi that, in the two years since the restructuring was agreed, the debt had again become unsustainable due to the shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A request that Xi agreed to. The report also says that Congo’s debt to China is at 1.3 trillion CFA francs ($2.4 billion); that’s down from 1.48 trillion CFA francs ($2.73 billion) in 2019.

Second, Xi’s chat with Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan (English report) also saw reference to working together to “jointly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries.” Xi said that he views ties “from a strategic and long-term perspective and firmly supports Tanzania in taking the development path in line with its national conditions.” He added that the bilateral relationship is “facing historic opportunities,” and while mentioning BRI, he also touched on cooperation in areas like “agriculture, transportation, communications, tourism and energy.” 

Hassan said that the “CPC boasts a long and glorious history,” praised the Party for making “one after another remarkable achievements” and added that she “firmly believes that “under the strong leadership of Xi...the Chinese people will surely realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.” She also said that her country “adheres to the one-China policy and firmly supports China's stance on issues concerning China’s core interests such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang.” 

Hassan’s predecessor John Magufuli had in January asked China to forgive part of the country’s debt. Not sure how things have worked out since.

Third, a report (English report) on Xi’s chat with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto. Xi said that (and do note the language here; it’s remarkable) “Finnish firms are welcome to keep sharing the dividends brought by China's development,” he said, “voicing his hope that Finland can continue to support bilateral cooperation in investment and other fields with an open attitude.” Xi also spoke about working together in areas like “scientific research and education as well as green and low-carbon development.” 

Then he talked about China-Europe relations, saying that “the key is to jointly ensure dialogue and cooperation as the leading aspect in China-Europe relations as well as to keep mutual benefit as the main tone in bilateral ties. It is hoped that Finland will play a unique and positive role in promoting the healthy and stable development of China-Europe relations.” 

“Noting that the current world is undergoing increasingly fast changes while confronting threats and challenges on a global scale, Xi said all parties should jointly respond in ways that are cooperative rather than confrontational, and win-win rather than zero-sum. In this regard, China appreciates Finland’s positive role.” To me, all of this suggests a sense of greater anxiety in Beijing with regard to the direction of China-EU relations. 

Niinisto, Xinhua says, spoke about the Winter Olympics, cooperation in high-tech sectors, the pandemic, climate change, and called China Finland’s “most important trade partner in Asia.” He also spoke about the ‘Helsinki Spirit’ of 1975 to deal with global challenges, adding that “in this process, China's role is vital and indispensable.”

Fourth, Xi’s congratulatory message (English report) to Ebrahim Raisi over his election as Iranian president. He said that he highly values the development of China-Iran ties, and stands ready to work with Raisi to strengthen bilateral strategic communication, consolidate mutual political trust, and broaden and deepen win-win cooperation in various fields. 

Next, we have a short report (English version) about Li Keqiang’s message to the new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Interesting times in West Asia, with political change in both Iran and Israel.

Next, a brief report (English version) about the leading Party members group of the Standing Committee of the NPC meeting for a “learning session on the history” of the CPC. They all “heard a report delivered by Xie Chuntao, vice president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, which reviewed the course of the Party’s struggles, and systemically expounded on the major subjects as to why the CPC is so capable, why Marxism works, and why socialism with Chinese characteristics excels.” 

PD says that:

“the comrades who participated in the session said that ‘it is necessary to thoroughly study and implement the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's important speech on party history study and education, and visit the History Exhibition of the Communist Party of China…” They also said that they “will study the history of the Party's unremitting struggle, the history of sacrifice, the history of theoretical exploration, the history of benefiting the people and the history of its own construction, inherit the red gene, cultivate noble moral qualities, never forget the original aspiration, remember the mission, further adhere to the people's congress system, improve it and develop it, and welcome the centenary of the Party with excellent achievements.” 参加报告会的同志表示,要深入学习贯彻习近平总书记关于党史学习教育的重要讲话精神,结合参观“‘不忘初心、牢记使命’中国共产党历史展览”,深入学习党的不懈奋斗史、不怕牺牲史、理论探索史、为民造福史、自身建设史,传承红色基因,涵养高尚的道德品质,不忘初心、牢记使命,进一步把人民代表大会制度坚持好、完善好、发展好,以优异成绩迎接党的百年华诞.

Moving on, the CPPCC National Committee met (English report) in Beijing to discuss implementing the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) and fostering the new development paradigm. Wang Yang was in attendance. Xinhua tells us that State Councillor Wang Yong “urged coordinated efforts to properly handle relations between supply and demand, independence and opening up, the whole and the part, government and market, and development and security, among other factors.” 

Zhang Qingli, vice chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, said that: “members of the Standing Committee should focus on the overall situation of the work of the Party and the country, with a strong sense of political responsibility and historical mission, closely follow the theme of the meeting, actively negotiate and discuss state affairs, perform their duties at a high level to serve high-quality development, and build consensus and contribute wisdom and strength to promote the smooth implementation of the 14 th Five-Year Plan and start a new journey of building a socialist modern country in an all-round way.” 常委会组成人员要着眼党和国家工作大局,以强烈的政治责任感和历史使命感,紧扣会议主题,积极协商议政,以高水平履职服务高质量发展,为推动“十四五”规划顺利实施,开启全面建设社会主义现代化国家新征程凝聚共识、贡献智慧和力量. 

The report also talks about the key policy priorities that will be discussed during the meeting. These include:

  • supply-side structural reforms

  • adhering to the strategy of expanding domestic demand

  • accelerating scientific and technological self-reliance

  • accelerating agricultural and rural modernization

  • improving people’s quality of life

  • implementing high-level opening to the outside world

Finally on the front page, we have a piece looking at highways as a metaphor for China’s development. The piece tells us that:

“In 1988, the mainland had no breakthrough in expressways; In 1999, the mileage of expressways exceeded 10,000 kilometers; In 2007, it reached 50,000 kilometers; In 2013, it exceeded 100,000 kilometers, ranking first in the world; By the end of 2020, the total mileage will increase to 161,000 kilometers, covering 99% of cities and prefecture-level administrative centers with a population of more than 200,000.” 1988年,我国大陆实现高速公路零的突破;1999年,高速公路里程突破1万公里;2007年,达到5万公里;2013年,超过10万公里,跃居世界首位;2020年底,总里程增至16.1万公里,覆盖99%城区人口20万人以上的城市和地级行政中心. 

The piece then talks about how highways have boosted development, with clusters of key industries developing along them. It tells us that looking at the highway map of China one sees a “criss-crossing of ‘big arteries’ that have set up a skeleton structure for economic development.” 展开中国地图, 高速公路如纵横交错的“大动脉”, 为经济发展挺起了骨骼.

There’s also a PD commentary on China’s highways and what they represent on Page 2. It says that “interconnected expressways have injected a steady stream of power to promote high-quality development, and also provided an important and unique perspective for the world to understand the improvement of people's livelihood in China...” It refers to highways as a key to decipher China’s development code or a “password” for this. 习近平总书记指出:“一个流动的中国,充满了繁荣发展的活力。”互联互通的高速公路,为推动高质量发展注入了源源不断的动力,也为世人了解中国民生改善、体会地理人文变迁、解读中国发展密码提供了重要而独特的视角.

All of this, at a philosophical level, underscores the argument that’s often made about the Chinese development model of-- if you build it, they will come. For instance, see this chunk from the commentary, which talks about highways:

“Once a devastated, impoverished and penniless country, China has now become the world’s second largest economy, the biggest industrial country, the biggest trader of goods and a country with the most foreign exchange reserves, with a GDP exceeding the 100 trillion yuan mark and a per capita GDP of more than $10,000, and its economic strength, scientific and technological strength, comprehensive national power and people’s living standards have jumped to a new level. The Chinese people, who once endured hunger, lacked food and clothing, and lived in hardship, have now made the historical leap from poverty to subsistence to well-off, and their livelihoods and well-being, such as employment, education, medical care, housing, pensions and social security, have continued to improve, with a growing sense of access, happiness and security.” 曾经满目疮痍、积贫积弱、一穷二白的国家,如今已成为世界第二大经济体、第一大工业国、第一大货物贸易国、第一大外汇储备国,经济总量突破100万亿元大关,人均GDP超过1万美元,经济实力、科技实力、综合国力和人民生活水平跃上了新的大台阶. 曾经忍饥挨饿、缺吃少穿、生活困顿的中国人民,如今实现了由贫穷到温饱再到小康的历史跨越,就业、教育、医疗、住房、养老、社保等民生福祉持续改善,获得感、幸福感、安全感不断增强.

Page 2: First, there’s a report about a seminar that was held to commemorate the 100th birthday of Chen Muhua. Li Zhanshu was in attendance and met her family. Vice Premier Hu Chunhua spoke at the event. He urged everyone to “learn from Chen’s loyalty to her belief and the Party, as well as her dedication to the people and make unremitting efforts to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.” Hu’s full speech is on Page 6

Page 3: First, we have a list of dignitaries that have congratulated the CCP on its centenary. Xinhua English has a similar report in three parts for now. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Next we have a report about Wang Yi talking to his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio. The Chinese readout tells us that “Wang said in the face of profound adjustment and transformation of the international situation, the Chinese side is willing to work with Italy to step up strategic communication, consolidate strategic mutual trust and get rid of all distractions.

He spoke about bilateral trade and added, “China will pursue opening-up at a higher level to promote high-quality development, welcome more Italian companies to invest and do business in China, and hopes that Italy will provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.” He called for cooperation in areas like “scientific and technological innovation, aerospace, clean energy, digital economy and third-party markets.” 

Here’s more:

“Wang said that in the face of unprecedented global challenges, all countries should insist on cooperation instead of inciting divisions, respect each other instead of launching political attacks, and shoulder due responsibilities instead of shirking them or shifting blames. It is hoped that the European side will adhere to strategic autonomy, practice true multilateralism, and promote the stability and long-term development of China-Europe relations.”

The Chinese readout also tells us that Di Maio said that “Italy hopes to push forward Belt and Road construction with China, strengthen cooperation in energy, industry and third-party markets...” Really interesting to note this given the reports around the G7 and about Italy reconsidering its BRI engagement. Of course, this is the Chinese readout of the call.

Wang also spoke about the upcoming 47th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. He said that “some countries, ignoring basic facts, made smear attacks on China and politicized human rights issues, which interfered with the normal agenda of the human rights council, poisoned international cooperation in the field of human rights, violated the norms governing international relations of non-interference in internal affairs, and is doomed to fail.”

A couple of other reports on the page that I am not going into. But these are about an event themed “The Story of the Communist Party of China—The Practice of Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in Shanghai in the New Era” being held on June 16 and 17. PD tells us that “more than 740 representatives from nearly 100 countries, 126 political parties and friendly organizations participated in the dialogue meeting via video link, and ambassadors from more than 40 countries attended the meeting.” 

Next, the Chinese Cultural Center in Yangon has launched the 2021 China Tourism and Culture Week series of events. I guess, this gives us a sense of how Beijing has adjusted to the coup in the country.

Page 6: If you are interested, the page carries the entire text of the new Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Military Facilities. 

Page 13: On the Theory page today, the theme is about the “original aspiration,” and so all the pieces revolve around that. The lead piece is by Zhu Jiamu, VP of CASS and President of the National History Society of the PRC. Zhu begins by quoting Mao and then Xi to make the point that:

“Because of this (keeping people at the center), our party has been able to develop and grow in extreme difficulties, stand out in desperate situations, rise up constantly amid adversity, and remain young and energetic forever. 正因为如此,我们党才能在极端困境中发展壮大,才能在濒临绝境中突出重围,才能在困顿逆境中不断奋起,才能永葆青春、永富朝气、永远年轻. 

He then says: “Throughout the century of the Party’s history, the ultimate goal of our Party’s revolution, construction, and reform has been to allow the Chinese people to live a good life. No matter how far our Party has gone, we have never forgotten why we started and our original mission.” 纵观百年党史,我们党干革命、搞建设、抓改革,最终目的都是为了让中国人民过上好日子. 无论我们党走了多远,都没有忘记为什么出发,没有忘记自己的初心使命. 

“Xu Jiexiu, the old man in the story of the ‘half quilt’, said, ‘What is the Communist Party? The Communist Party is a person who, even if he has a quilt, will cut off half of it and give it to the people.’ These words graphically illustrate the flesh-and-blood connection between our Party and the people.” “半条被子”故事中的徐解秀老人说:“什么是共产党?共产党就是自己有一条被子,也要剪下半条给老百姓的人。”她的话,形象地说明了我们党同人民群众的血肉联系. 

He talks about the Party having addressed long-standing issues since the 18th Congress, and this is because they adhered to a “people-centered” development concept. He finally emphasises the importance of “self-revolution.” 

“After a century of struggle, and under the conditions of long-term rule and the environment of reform and opening up and development of socialist market economy, an important reason why our Party has been able to never forget its original intention and keep its mission in mind lies in its strong spirit of self-revolution and its ability to constantly enhance self-purification, self-improvement, and self-rejuvenation.”习近平总书记指出:“勇于自我革命,是我们党最鲜明的品格,也是我们党最大的优势。”我们党历经百年奋斗,又处于长期执政条件下和改革开放、发展社会主义市场经济的环境中,之所以能做到不忘初心、牢记使命,一个重要原因就在于有强烈的自我革命精神,不断增强自我净化、自我完善、自我革新、自我提高的能力. 

In another piece on the page, Li Junru, former Central Party School Vice President, talks about how “seeking happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation is the historical responsibility that the Chinese Communist Party has assumed from the day it was born…” If you’ve followed these pieces before, there isn’t much new. Li writes that 

After the Xinhai Revolution, there were a number of different types of systems that were experimented with, such as constitutional monarchy, imperial rule, parliamentary system, multi-party system, presidential system, and so on. Different political forces and their representatives tried but failed to find the right answer...this is because they all had their own class limitations. “They could not really consider the fundamental and long-term interests of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, so they could not pursue the happiness of the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.” 辛亥革命之后,中国尝试过君主立宪制、帝制复辟、议会制、多党制、总统制等各种形式,各种政治势力及其代表人物纷纷登场,都没能找到正确答案. 因为他们都具有自身的阶级局限性,无法真正为中国人民、中华民族的根本利益、长远利益考虑,因而也无法做到为中国人民谋幸福、为中华民族谋复兴. 

He places the CCP’s assumption of power and the formation of the PRC in this context. Li then talks about the PRC’s achievements under the Party’s rule and then emphasises that for Party cadre, remembering the original mission is not a matter of some time, but rather important throughout their lives.

Page 17: On the International page, we have an opinion piece by Khalid Rahman from the Islamabad Policy Research Institute. He attacks the US’ Afghanistan policy. He warns that “the cloud of war is still looming” in Afghanistan. He terms US action in Afghanistan as a “failed war,” and says that a real ceasefire between the Afghan government and Taliban is not on the horizon. 

“This is a hasty retreat. Just as the United States began to withdraw its troops, the situation in Afghanistan further deteriorated. The conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban has escalated, and terrorist activities have also intensified, causing a large number of civilian casualties. The United States is indifferent to this and pushes for the withdrawal of its troops on its own.” 这是一次仓促的撤退。就在美国开始撤军的同时,阿富汗局势进一步恶化。阿富汗政府与塔利班冲突升级,恐怖主义活动也不断加剧, 造成大量平民伤亡,而美国对此无动于衷,自顾自地推进撤军.

He wants the “international community” to “urge the United States to bear the consequences of launching the war in Afghanistan.”

Then he gets to the meat of the matter:

“Recently, while withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, the United States has put pressure on neighboring countries to keep American troops there in order to maintain its military presence in the region. This approach is not only not conducive to solving the Afghan issue, it will also bring more disasters to neighboring countries, and the international community must clearly oppose it.” 最近,美国一面从阿富汗撤军,一面向周边国家施压,要求在当地驻留美军,以维持其在本地区的军事存在. 这一做法不仅无益于解决阿富汗问题,还将给周边国家带来更多灾难,国际社会必须明确予以反对.

Towards the end, he adds that “after the United States withdraws its troops, the terrorist forces in Afghanistan may take the opportunity to resurge, and neighboring countries may face new threats of cross-border terrorism and infiltration. Neighboring countries should maintain cooperation with all parties in Afghanistan to jointly combat terrorism..” 美国撤军后,阿富汗的恐怖主义势力有可能借机回潮,周边国家可能面临新的恐怖主义跨境渗透威胁. 周边国家应与阿富汗各方保持合作,共同打击恐怖主义.

Also noteworthy on the page is a report that talks about the new NIH study, which discusses the possible presence of COVID-19 in the US in December 2019.