Tracking People’s Daily — August 14, 2020

Page 1: The front page today carries the routine poverty-alleviation-linked story, i.e., how Xi inspired a local official. And then there’s a long piece about the rising importance of environmental protection. The story begins with remarks by Xi 15 years ago, highlighting the need for construction of China’s ecological civilization. So it’s tracing back the political prioritization of environmental protection to Xi’s early vision. The rest of the piece identifies how Xi has played a role in impacting policy and outcomes in this domain.

Third, a commentary about the decision to postpone the elections in Hong Kong. It says that the decision is “constitutional, legal and reasonable, and consistent with international practices…and provides “a solid guarantee for Hong Kong to overcome the epidemic as soon as possible, restore the economy and improve people’s livelihood. Without a safe election environment, there can be no fairness and justice in the elections; if the spread of the epidemic is not contained as soon as possible, there is no way to restore the economy and improve people’s livelihood.” And then the piece goes on to criticise “some Western forces” for “politicising” the epidemic.

Page 2: First, the State Council Information Office held a press conference on foreign trade (English report). The piece highlights:

  • China’s import and export trade volume totaled 17.2 trillion yuan (2.48 trillion U.S. dollars) in the first seven months of 2020, posting a drop of 1.7 percent.
  • “exports to emerging markets account for 49% of my country’s exports. ASEAN has become my country’s largest trading partner. Private enterprises have become a stabilizer of foreign trade. The export of private enterprises increased by 6.4%, and their proportion increased to 54.5%.”
  • “From January to July, the country’s actual use of foreign capital was 535.65 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 0.5%, a 1.8% increase from January to June, from negative growth to positive growth; in July, the country’s actual use of foreign capital was 63.47 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase 15.8%, achieving a positive increase in foreign investment in a single month for 4 consecutive months.”
  • “from January to July, the actual use of foreign capital in the service industry was 414.59 billion yuan, an increase of 11.6% year-on-year, accounting for 77.4% of China’s absorbed foreign investment; the high-tech service industry increased by 27.4% year-on-year, of which information services, R&D and design services, and professional Technical services and technological achievements transformation services increased by 22.2%, 57.6%, 166.8% and 15.6% respectively year-on-year.”
  • On BRI, there’s a focus on “high quality.”

Next, an interview with Guo Shuqing, Secretary of the Party Committee of the People’s Bank of China and Chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission. Some excerpts here:

  • “As of the end of the second quarter, the total assets of my country’s financial industry were approximately 340 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 10%. Among them, the total assets of the banking industry increased by 9.7% year-on-year to 309 trillion yuan, RMB loans increased by 13.2% year-on-year, and corporate bond investment increased by 28.5% year-on-year. The total assets of the insurance industry were 22 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 12.7%, of which bond investment increased by 16.5% year-on-year, long-term equity investment increased by 18.2% year-on-year, and the proportion of short-term investment declined.”
  • He added: “However, it should also be noted that some potential risks in my country’s financial industry are still relatively large. It is necessary to stay sober, calmly study and judge, bottom line thinking, and take precautions. First, the existing risks have not been completely resolved. Some financial institutions have a heavier historical burden, with a large capital and provision gap, and operating risks become more prominent under the impact of the epidemic. Second, rising pressure on non-performing assets is increasing, and risks are likely to accelerate. Third, market chaos is prone to rebound under the background of loose funds, and some high-risk shadow banking businesses have come back with new looks. Fourth, the epidemic has accelerated the adjustment of the global economic and financial structure, uncertainties and unstable factors have increased, and external input risks have increased.”
  • “At the end of June, the broad money supply M2 increased by 11.1% year-on-year, and the scale of social financing increased by 12.8% year-on-year. The growth rate was significantly higher than the same period last year. In the first half of the year, new RMB loans cumulatively increased by 12.09 trillion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 2.42 trillion yuan.” Also note that: “Research and technology loans increased by 26.95% year-on-year, and new manufacturing loans reached a record high.”

Page 3: A few pieces to note. First, a report on the new US China Business Council survey and then this one based on MoFA’s comments about it. Among many things, the survey says that “as a result of this long-term confidence in the China market, 87 percent of companies reported no plans to shift production out of China. Only four percent have shifted or plan to shift operations to the United States, and this is largely due to lagging consumer demand in China. The other 11 percent reported recent or planned production shifts to other parts of the world, with Thailand and Mexico as the leading alternative destinations.” MoFA’s Zhao Lijiang basically responded saying this is indicative of confidence in China’s market.

Next, a report based on a discussion arranged by the Human Rights Research Center of Fudan University. The focus was on the right to health as a human right, juxtaposing it with notions that social distancing and other steps taken by governments to deal with the pandemic have impacted freedoms. While the premise is interesting, the piece doesn’t do much else than priase China’s policies.

Next, MoFA’s comments on Germany and France ending extradition agreements with HK. “Germany and France, by wrongfully politicizing judicial cooperation with Hong Kong, have damaged the foundation for such cooperation and deviated from its purpose of upholding justice and rule of law. Therefore, China has decided that the HKSAR will suspend the implementation of the SFO agreement between the HKSAR and Germany and shelve the SFO agreement between the HKSAR and France.”

Finally, a report on China handing over 1000 ventilators to Pakistan.

Page 4: There are three stories on the page about the campaign to stop food waste, after Xi’s recent remarks. First, the China Hotel Association has a new initiative asking restaurants to crack down on waste by promoting “civilized dining and frugal consumption.” Likewise in Chengdu the Chengdu Catering Industry Association and the City Consumers Association have launched an initiative. In the city, party and government agencies, catering companies, hotels, schools, hospitals canteens, etc. to vigorously carry out the plan by guiding diners to order meals on demand, rationally order meals, proactively provide packaging services, and create an economical and civilized dining environment. And finally, a commentary about living frugally, avoiding ostentatious displays when it comes to food. And of course being civilised by doing so. It’s strange that the year China alleviates absolute poverty, it’s talking about living frugally.

Page 7: Continuing with excerpts from a book on the Chinese system. Today the focus is on the PLA — more specifically party control over the PLA. Here are some excerpts:

“For more than 90 years, it is precisely because the gun has always been in the hands of the party that the People’s Army has guaranteed that the People’s Army will resolutely carry out the party’s political tasks in all periods, fight bloody revolution, escort construction and reform, and become the party’s and national undertakings.”

“Facing the future, our country is getting closer to the center of the world stage. The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has entered a critical stage. The maintenance of national sovereignty, security and development interests has never been more important than today. From an international perspective, the world’s security situation is not optimistic, the uncertain factors that trigger war risks have increased, and military competition between countries has become increasingly fierce…Only by adhering to and making good use of the party’s absolute leadership over the people’s army can we ensure that the building and use of military forces can better respond to the risks and challenges in the advancement, and provide strong strategic support for the nation’s rejuvenation and China’s globalization.”

Going forward, “it is necessary to firmly establish the guiding position of Xi Jinping Thought on Strengthening the Army in national defense and army building, build a socialist military policy system with Chinese characteristics, comprehensively promote national defense and military modernization, ensure the realization of the party’s goal of strengthening the army in the new era, and build the people’s army in an all-round way.”

And then more on the need to strengthen Xi’s control through the implementation of the chairman responsibility system of the Central Military Commission. “The Chairman of the Central Military Commission is responsible for the overall work of the Central Military Commission, leading and commanding the national armed forces, and deciding all major issues of national defense and army building. The whole army must strengthen the “four consciousnesses”, strengthen the “four self-confidences”, achieve the “two safeguards”, implement the military committee chairman responsibility system, and ensure that all actions follow the command of the Party Central Committee, the Central Military Commission, and Chairman Xi Jinping.”

Then the piece goes on to dismiss three strands of thoughts — the non-partyization of the military, depoliticization of the army, and nationalization of the army — challenging this fundamental feature of the PLA, i.e., the CCP’s control over it. It says that “these three wrong arguments, no matter how they change their appearance, their sinister intentions are a vain attempt to divorce our army from the party’s leadership. We must maintain a high level of vigilance against the political conspiracy in the bones of the hostile forces, keep our eyes open, refute wrong political views with a clear and straightforward attitude, and always remain theoretically clear and politically firm.”

Page 8 & 16: On page 8, there’s a piece about the future of railways development in China. It says that the China National Railway Group Corporation recently announced the “Outline of the Advanced Railway Planning for a Powerful Country in the New Era. It says that by 2035, China will build modern, safe and high-quality rail services. China’s railway network will reach about 200,000 kilometers, including about 70,000 kilometers of high-speed rail. By 2050, a higher level of modern railway power will be fully built. Just a sense of where China is at currently: As of the end of July this year, railway operating mileage has reached 141,400 kilometers, and high-speed railway operating mileage is 36,000 kilometers.

The lead international story on Page 16 basically uses reports in the American media and remarks by experts in the US to highlight the political failure in containing the Covid outbreak in the US. Here are the rest of the stories on the page.