Tracking People’s Daily — August 20, 2020

Big Picture: This is a really interesting edition of the newspaper. First, there was no coverage of Xi Jinping’s inspection tour of Anhui; second, there’s a report about Peng Liyuan’s first wives diplomacy; third, there’s a commentary that emphasises the CCP’s ability to course-correct after erroneous policies; and finally, a piece that clearly states that China views the confrontation with the US in Cold War terms.

Page 1: I am rather surprised that the front page of People’s Daily today. I’d anticipated Xi Jinping’s visit to Anhui to be front and center. But it doesn’t even get a mention. Instead, Li Keqiang’s conversation with new counselors of the State Council and researchers of the China Central Institute for Culture and History gets a mention. For the former lot, he spoke about the need to focus on development and issues of people’s livelihood. For the latter, he said that “the Museum of Literature and History must adhere to Xi Jinping’s new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics as the guidance…”

Next, there’s a report (English version) about Li Zhanshu speaking at the Fifth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. He stuck to Beijing’s talking points China having “informed the World Health Organization and relevant countries of the epidemic situation timely in an open, transparent, and responsible manner, and unreservedly shared its experience in prevention and treatment.” He added “China has provided anti-epidemic assistance to more than 150 countries and international organizations, and pledged to provide 2 billion U.S. dollars of international assistance within two years.” And then he had three proposals: first, no politicisation; second, safeguard multilateralism with the UN at the core; third, work together for timely economic recovery.

There’s a report on China’s rice output; another on Tian Peng, First Secretary of Xizhuangzi Village in Gansu — another piece in line with earlier ones about local officials inspired by Xi to deal with poverty. And finally, a report on the role of financing in supporting the real economy.

Page 2: Lots of focus on the page with regard to doctors in China, given August 19 was the third Physician’s Day. First, a report on the total number of doctors in China and related data points. Li Keqiang and Sun Chunlan also spoke at meetings praising doctors and talking about their efforts during the Covid-19 outbreak. There’s also apparently a series that’s being done about remembering the work of doctors during the epidemic. The first of those is here, talking about a bunch of different doctors who played a key role, at different times, in tackling the outbreak in Wuhan.

Page 3: Another interesting bit about today’s paper apart from not covering Xi’s Anhui visit is this piece on Peng Liyuan. The report says that she wrote letters to the rotating chairman of the African First Ladies Development Association and the wife of the President of Congo (Brazzaville), along with other first ladies of other African countries, thanking African countries for working together in dealing with the pandemic and committing greater support. A short report mentioning Yang Jiechi’s visit to South Korea and Singapore.

Third, a piece by Tao Wenzhao from CASS. This is really interesting because Tao seems to be acknowledging that a Cold War like situation is developing. He goes back to the 1950s and 60s talking about the challenges of communication between China and the US during the Cold War. He then says:

  • “At present, there is an urgent need for a new dialogue between China and the United States. Now China and the United States are more likely to use various channels of dialogue to open up the core interests and strategic intentions of both sides. China made it clear that the door to China’s dialogue is open. As long as the US is willing, China can restore and restart dialogue mechanisms at all levels and in all fields at any time. There may be quarrels in the dialogue, it does not matter, the important thing is that the two parties have to talk in good faith.”
  • “Today, the two sides must also conduct rational and objective analysis of fundamental issues such as international order and global governance, and avoid pan-ideological problems in the relations between the two countries. Once ideological factors are allowed to dominate the relationship between the two countries, it will distort the truth of the matter and cause serious damage to the relationship between the two countries.”
  • Finally, this: “We must continue to constructively manage differences, abide by the principles and spirit of the three Sino-US joint communiqués, and respect each other’s core interests and major concerns.”

Next, a report based on US and UK publications, which are arguing against a Cold War. And then Wang Yi’s conversations with counterparts in Morocco and Kenya. Finally, MoFA’s remarks on Belarus. Zhao Lijian said that “China respects the Belarusian people’s choice of development path based on the country’s national conditions, as well as their efforts to uphold national independence, sovereignty, security and development. We noticed there have been some complicated factors in the country’s domestic situation. As a good friend and partner, we don’t wish to see chaos in Belarus. We oppose the attempts of foreign forces to trigger division and disturbances in Belarus. China hopes and believes Belarus can maintain political stability and social tranquility with its own efforts.

Page 4: There’s much on the page about the campaign to curb food waste. Here’s a report about the work being done by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. It mentions different TV networks in the country and what they are doing.

Page 5: The next in the series of commentaries about the Party and people. This one’s about the Party’s ability to self-correct. It says: “one of the important reasons why the Chinese Communist Party is great, successful, and full of forge ahead lies in its rejection of complacency, Never stand still and maintain the spirit of self-revolution.” The piece mentions the “Yan’an rectification movement” and “correcting the “Cultural Revolution” errors with great political courage” along with reform and opening up.

Here’s an interesting paragraph: “Self-revolution is like picking up a scalpel to perform an operation on yourself. It is painful and difficult to treat with the blade inward and scraping the bones. This is undoubtedly painful and difficult. Therefore, it requires a high degree of self-reflection in thought and a high degree of consciousness in action. Why can the Communist Party of China do this? General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out profoundly: “The reason why our party has the courage to revolutionize itself is because our party does not have any special interests of its own except for the interests of the country, the nation, and the people.” As the so-called “selfless people are fearless”, the greatness of the Chinese Communist Party It does not lie in not making mistakes, but in never shying away from diseases, daring to face problems directly, having the courage to revolutionize ourselves, upholding the truth and correcting mistakes for the benefit of the people.”

The next part of the piece talks about the anti-corruption campaign, linking it once again to Mao’s Yan’an rectification. And then says: “In the face of complex and changeable domestic and foreign situations, we will still encounter various unforeseen risks and challenges, but as long as we always adhere to the people-centered and always maintain the courage and actions of self-revolution, our party will always be vigorous.”

My bubble: It’s really interesting that this theme was chosen at this point of time, given the rumblings about the criticism against Xi’s complete control. But I am not sure how much one can read into this from that point of view, particularly when a rectification campaign is underway focused on legal and security organs. This could be a message about the pain that’s going to be delivered in that context.

Page 7: The 16th piece in the series about the Chinese system focuses on consolidating the socialist system. It argues: “How to uphold and consolidate the socialist system with Chinese characteristics is not only a question of ideological understanding, but also a question reflected in policies and laws. It is necessary to persevere and work for a long time, plant it like a seed in the minds of the cadres and the masses, and run through the party’s line, principles, and policies like a red line.”

Here’s some Chinese Cold War mentality for you: “From the day it was founded, socialist China has been under ‘encirclement and suppression’ by capitalist countries. So many years have passed. Whether we are surrounded by strategy or blackmailed by nuclear weapons, whether we are facing an economic blockade or trade intimidation, we have not only failed to fail, but have grown step by step. It is foreseeable that the competition between the two systems will become more profound and intense in the future. Under such circumstances, we must maintain a strong strategic determination, maintain a strong faith and belief, and be sure that the socialist system will not waver, so that this road will become wider and wider.

The next bit focuses on reforming the system continuously, plugging loopholes and learning from experience. This is an under-appreciated aspect of Chinese governance. There’s constant churn. The third section of the piece focuses on translating “institutional advantages” into national governance advantages. This goes back to implementing the decisions of the Fourth Plenary of the 19th Party Congress in November 2019. The piece calls the decision “a political manifesto for advancing the construction of a socialist system with Chinese characteristics in a new era. Studying and implementing the spirit of the plenary session is the primary political task of the whole party and the country.”

Page 9: The theory page today has three pieces, all talking about the centrality of CCP rule to China’s system, and, of course, asserting that this is the people’s choice. I am not going to break these down. The page is linked.

Page 11: A report on the Supreme Court’s Opinions on Deepening the Comprehensive Supporting Reform of the Judicial Accountability System. The document lists 28 supporting measures across five domains led by strengthening the political construction of the court.

Page 17: Finally, here’s what was covered on the international page.