Xi's Tibet Visit - Central Regions Development - China's Latin American Diplomacy - Telling the Party's Story - Understanding the Principal Contradiction

Here are the stories and pieces from the People’s Daily’s July 23, 2021, edition that I found noteworthy.

Page 1: The big story of the day, of course, is that Xi Jinping has visited Tibet. This is not in today’s People’s Daily because it was only reported on Friday morning. Xinhua today reported that Xi traveled to Nyingchi on Wednesday and then went to Lhasa. Nyingchi, of course, is very close to Arunachal Pradesh in India.

There, Xi inspected ecological preservation in the basin of the Yarlung Zangbo River and its tributary Nyang River. He also visited a local city planning hall, a village and a park in the city, inspecting the locality's city development planning, rural vitalization and city park building efforts. 

Xinhua then tells us that on Thursday, Xi went to Nyingchi railway station. This was in the context of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway and the functioning of the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway section. He took the train along the new route to Lhasa. There Xi visited the Drepung Monastery, Barkhor Street and the Potala Palace square “to learn about the work on ethnic and religious affairs, the conservation of the ancient city, as well as the inheritance and protection of Tibetan culture.”

Interesting timing by Xi for his first visit to the region after assuming power in late 2012. Here’s Tibetologist Robbie Barnett’s assessment:

I wonder why the media did not cover his visit until Friday morning. Even videos of the visit circulated yesterday evening only. These videos from what I understand were of Xi in Lhasa. So nothing at all while he was in Nyingchi. Really strange. Were there specific security concerns? And if that is the case, then it perhaps tells us something about potential vulnerabilities in terms of Party control in Tibet despite the confidence that the regime projects.

Anyway, let’s return to PD, which of course, today does not have a report about Xi’s visit to Tibet and neither does it talk about the floods in Henan. Rather, the stories dominating the top half of the page are about the guideline on promoting the high-quality development of the country's central region, revised regulation to ensure high-quality hog slaughtering and a feature piece. 

Anyway, on the development of central regions (Shanxi, Anhui, Jiangxi, Henan, Hubei and Hunan), Xinhua English has a detailed piece. It tells us that:

  • By 2025, the comprehensive strength and competitiveness of the region should be further enhanced, and marked progress should be achieved in innovation capacity, with its proportion of research and development input in the regional GDP reaching the national average. 

  • The region's urbanization rate should be increased by more than 1 percentage point annually, and the balanced development between urban and rural areas should be further strengthened. 

  • By 2035, the region should put in place a modern economic system, basically accomplish socialist modernization and make substantial headway in common prosperity. 

  • The guideline urges the building of industrial bases focused on sectors including intelligent manufacturing, new materials, new-energy vehicles and electronic information. 

  • It also underscores accelerating the construction of national logistics hubs in Zhengzhou, Changsha, Taiyuan, Yichang and Ganzhou, and increasing the listed products of the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange.

  • The central region should become integrated into major regional strategies.

  • Speed up the development of transportation in the region, including building high-speed railways, promoting the construction of an international logistics center and international air-freight shipping center, and improving the international air-traffic network.

  • It also urges continued efforts to develop pilot free trade zones in the provinces of Anhui, Henan, Hubei and Hunan to a high standard, and optimize a business environment that is market-oriented, rule-based and internationalized.

  • There’s also specific discussions on environment, pollution, healthcare and education.

On hog slaughter, PD tells us that there are three key points that the regulations make:

  • improving the whole-process management of hog slaughtering

  • enhancing the prevention and control of animal diseases

  • increasing punishment for illegal acts

But this is not simply about food safety and higher quality. There’s a key economic angle to all of this. For instance, Caixin tells us that:

“raising pigs has become a loss-making endeavor as prices have slumped and costs have soared, forcing the government to start an emergency pork buying program and prompting a warning to producers not to use the market for speculation or gambling.”

The report adds that

“The average market price of live hogs fell to 14.1 yuan ($2.18) per kilogram (kg) in late June, the lowest in more than two years, according to data from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), while the cost of corn feed rose to a record high of 3.01 yuan per kg last month, data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) show. Some 62% of monitored pig farmers were making losses in June, up from 9.7% in May and 1.1% in April, the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary on Tuesday, citing MARA data. As well as hurting the incomes of millions of small farmers, the double whammy has led to hard times for many large listed agriculture companies involved in the industry.”

Next, we have a report (English version) with Vice Premier Han Zheng talking about the efforts to accelerate the development of government-subsidised rental housing. Han termed this as a “key task” in housing construction during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025). Efforts should be made to guarantee the housing supply for new urban residents and young people. Based on his comments, it would be interesting to see what parameters are adopted to arrive at a pricing mechanism that satisfies the criteria of “affordability and sustainability.”

Han also stressed sticking to the principle of “housing is for living in, not for speculation,” while avoiding the use of housing as a short-term tool to stimulate the economy.”

Han said that “it is necessary to speed up the improvement of the ‘land price stabilisation’ working mechanism, optimise the land auction rules, and establish an effective corporate land purchase fund review system.”

Page 3: First up, there is a long report about the China’s diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report begins by telling us that China and countries Latin America are all part of the developing world.

It then tells us that:

“Under the joint leadership of President Xi Jinping and leaders of Latin American countries, China-Latin America relations have made new progress in the new era on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, innovation, openness and benefiting the people.” 在习近平主席和拉美国家领导人共同引领下,新时代平等、互利、创新、开放、惠民的中拉关系建设不断取得新进展,中拉命运共同体之船行稳致远.

There’s some recapping of diplomatic history and talk about specific projects before we get this datapoint: The recently released Report on China’s Infrastructure Projects in Latin America and the Caribbean shows that between 2005 and 2020, Chinese infrastructure investment (completed projects and those under construction) in Latin America exceeded $94 billion, creating more than 600,000 jobs in those countries. 最新发布的《中国在拉丁美洲和加勒比地区基础设施项目报告》显示,2005年至2020年间,中国在该地区已投入使用或在建的基础设施项目资金总额超过940亿美元,为当地创造逾60万个就业岗位.

Also, so far 19 Latin American countries have signed on to BRI. “From January to May this year, the volume of Sino-Latin American trade achieved a substantial increase of 45%, and China's direct investment in Latin America reached 10.38 billion U.S. dollars, a year-on-year increase of 40%. At present, Latin America is the second largest overseas investment destination of China after Asia.”

This is useful to note too:

“China has actively promoted the implementation of cooperation people-to-people- exchange initiatives, such as government scholarships, personnel training, and political party exchanges, and has launched projects such as the China-Latin America Science and Technology Partnership Program, the China-Latin America Young Scientists Exchange Program, and the China-Latin America News Exchange Center…there are 46 Confucius Institutes and 14 Confucius Classrooms that have been established in 24 countries in the region…” 中方积极推动落实政府奖学金、人员培训、政党交流等人文领域合作倡议,启动“中拉科技伙伴计划”“中拉青年科学家交流计划”和中拉新闻交流中心等项目;拉美中文热继续升温,已有24个国家成立了46所孔院和14所孔子课堂,成为全球发展最快区域之一;拉美艺术季、加勒比音乐节等活动在华举行,拉美多国艺术团体“云”参与中方举办的国际艺术交流活动,让拉美文化艺术更加走近中国民众的生活.

Next, we have a piece by Alexander Lomanov, Professor, RAS, Chief Researcher at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations. He writes about the anniversary and extension of the Russia-China Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation. The basic point being made is that

“On the 20th anniversary of the signing of the treaty, we have seen Russia and China firmly support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests. The high level of mutual trust between high-level leaders is an important driving force for cooperation between the two countries. This enables the high-level officials of the two countries to deepen mutual understanding and share effective experience in governing the country.” — Now, there is increasing depth to the Russia-China relationship, but such statements are useful reminders that personalities today play a big role in the dynamic, and when these personalities depart the scene, things can become tricky.

He also writs that

“in the context of profound changes that are taking place in the international situation, the value of the Russia-China Treaty of Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation has become more prominent. Russia-China relations are of global significance and contribute to the construction of stable and predictable international relations…It can be confidently said that Russia-China relations are becoming more mature and firm after the test of fighting the pandemic. The pandemic has underscored the shortcomings in global governance. Allowing all countries to participate in the process of global governance is the fundamental way to deal with global challenges. To improve the global governance system, we need to work together on the basis of the principles of openness, mutual respect and adherence to dialogue. Russia and China have chosen this path to the future.”

Here’s more:

“The Russian-Chinese joint statement on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and China pointed out: ‘Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and China needs a strong and successful Russia.’ This shows that both Russia and China are happy with each other's success and regard each other's development as an important condition for their own development and stability. All external actions that try to provoke and undermine Russia-China relations will fail.” 俄中关于《俄中睦邻友好合作条约》签署20周年的联合声明指出:“俄罗斯需要繁荣稳定的中国,中国需要强大成功的俄罗斯。”这表明,俄中两国都为对方取得的成功感到高兴,都把对方的发展看作自身发展稳定的重要条件。一切试图挑拨、破坏俄中关系的外部举动都将失败.

For some reason when I read that last sentence saying all external actions will fail, it reminded me of the tone of Hulk’s remark after he smacked around Loki. I guess I need a holiday.

Anyway, back to PD.

Wang Yi met (English report) with Portuguese Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva in Chengdu. The report tells us that Wang hoped the two sides “will jointly oppose political manipulation of the origin tracing issue, jointly resist the ‘political virus’ and safeguard the overall situation of solidarity against the pandemic. There is no conflict of fundamental interests or opposition of real interests between China and Europe, Wang said.

‘We hope that the current difficulties can be overcome as soon as possible to bring bilateral relations back to the track of sound development. It is believed that Portugal will continue to play a constructive role to this end.’

Next, the International Liaison Department of the CPC Central Committee, the Chinese Foreign Languages Bureau and Fudan University hosted an event with Chinese and foreign scholars to talk about how to tell the Party’s 100-year story well. Jin Xin, Director of the Research Office of the International Liaison Department said that it is important to take the centenary as an opportunity to:

“accurately grasp the changes in the relationship between China and the world, to better introduce the new era of the Communist Party of China to the world, to better show the real, three-dimensional and comprehensive China, and to better display a true, three-dimensional and comprehensive China, and better realise the benign interaction between China and the world, and between the CPC and the world.” 金鑫表示,要以建党百年为契机,准确把握中国与世界关系的变迁,更好地向世界介绍新时代的中国共产党,更好地展示真实、立体、全面的中国,更好实现中国与世界、中共与世界关系的良性互动.

Finally on the page, we have another Zhong Sheng commentary that is critical of the US’ handling of the pandemic…actually, this is a lot about the annoyance with Bloomberg for its Covid Resilience Ranking. The system ranked the US at the to, with the Chinese mainland ranked 8. Anyway, the commentary tells us that this is part of American “self-deception” in part because the pandemic exacerbated social and economic fault-lines in the US. So there’s a lot in there with regard to the wealth and income gap in the US and racial tensions. It says that the US’ fight against the pandemic is a “story about inequality.”

“According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June this year, Hispanics are twice as likely to be infected with Covid-19 as whites, 2.8 times as likely to be hospitalized, and 2.3 times as likely to die. The center’s data, as of May 12, shows that the vaccination rate of white Americans was 66% higher than that of Hispanics and 56% higher than that of African Americans.” This, the article quotes the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Samantha Artiga as saying, is a “problem of structural racism.” 美国疾病控制与预防中心今年6月的数据显示,拉美裔感染新冠病毒的风险是白人的2倍,需要住院治疗的风险是白人的2.8倍,死亡的风险是白人的2.3倍。该中心的数据还显示,截至5月12日,美国白人的疫苗接种率比拉美裔高出66%,比非洲裔高出56%. 美国健康政策研究机构凯泽家庭基金会成员萨曼莎·阿蒂加指出,曾经被不公正对待的经历让非洲裔美国人难以信任医疗机构.

Page 4: A fair amount of flood coverage on the page, but again this is very restrained and an effort to demonstrate care, action taken and control over the situation. For instance, we have a report about the the Central Organization Department allocating 20 million yuan of special funds to Henan Province to support flood prevention and disaster relief work. The fund comes from Party fees collected from CPC members.

Another report has comments from Wang Yong, who is the director of the National Committee for Disaster Reduction, talking about the need to do a good job in managing the situation in Henan and better preparation with regard to heavy rainfall and typhoons in the future and secondary disasters. Or this story about relief and rescue efforts and work to get life back to normal.

In addition to the above, there are reports about rivers reaching warning levels, rainfall in parts of Hebei, and Zhejiang and Fujian preparing for new storms.

Finally, propaganda chief Hunag Kunming, who was in Ningxia, talked about the importance of studying and understanding Xi’s July 1 speech.

“It is necessary to thoroughly study and understand the spiritual essence and core essence of the speech, and do a good job in propaganda, research and interpretation, and publicity to promote the spirit of the speech to be deeply rooted in the hearts of the people.”要深入学习领会讲话的精神实质、核心要义,扎实做好宣传宣讲、研究阐释、对外宣介,推动讲话精神深入人心、落地生根.

Page 5: We have the fifth piece in the series on Xi Thought today. The first question is about the basis on which one can say that China’s principal contradiction has changed. The response to this is that over time with the growth in the economy, the concern has shifted from “backward social production.” Now the issue is the people’s “yearning for a better life.” This entails “higher requirements for material and cultural life, but also increasing desire for democracy, rule of law, fairness, justice, security, and a better environment.”

It adds:

“Development is a dynamic process. Insufficiency and imbalance will always exist, but when it reaches a certain stage, when inadequacy and imbalance become the main aspect of the main social contradiction, it is necessary to work to understand it, solve it, otherwise it will limit the overall development. The changes in the main contradictions of our society have not changed our judgment of the historical stage of our socialism. Our country is still and will be in the primary stage of socialism for a long time. Our basic national conditions have not changed, and our international status as the world’s largest developing country has not changed.” 发展是动态过程,不平衡不充分是永远存在的,但当发展到了一定阶段,不平衡不充分成为社会主要矛盾的主要方面时,就必须下功夫去认识它、解决它,否则就会制约发展全局. 我国社会主要矛盾的变化,没有改变我们对我国社会主义所处历史阶段的判断,我国仍处于并将长期处于社会主义初级阶段的基本国情没有变,我国是世界最大发展中国家的国际地位没有变.

The piece also says that given China’s rise, some have hyped up perspectives like the China Threat Theory and China Responsibility Theory. After this, the author tells us that China’s per capital GDP is still much lower than say the US’; urbanisation rate at 60.6% is much lower than that in Western countries; technological developments still faces many bottlenecks and core technology dependancies persist; ergo: “there is still a long and arduous journey ahead to achieve the goal of building a modern and powerful socialist country in an all-round way.”

The next chunk talks about regional developmental imbalances. “To correctly understand and grasp the ‘change’ of the main social contradiction and the ‘unchanged’ of the primary stage of socialism, we are required to continue to promote development on the basis of efforts to solve the problem of unbalanced and insufficient development, and better promote the overall development of people and social progress.”正确理解和把握社会主要矛盾的“变”与社会主义初级阶段的“没有变”,要求我们在继续推动发展的基础上,着力解决好发展不平衡不充分问题,更好推动人的全面发展、社会全面进步.

And this, the piece tells us, puts new requirements in terms of the tasks that the Party and state need to perform.

The next question is about why socialism with Chinese characteristics is described as the “choice of history and the people’s choice.” Here the answer is essentially the Party’s historical narrative that we’ve read so often throughout this year. And therefore, I am not repeating it. But it is framed in the context of performance legitimacy.

“What kind of doctrine a country implements depends on whether this doctrine can solve the historic issues facing the country.”

I guess that’s it for today. I didn’t find anything particularly new, interesting or noteworthy on the other pages. We do, however, have special coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. I guess this will sustain.