Tracking People’s Daily — Dec. 7, 2020

Pages 1 & 2: A couple of reports to note on both pages. On the first page, there was a piece about the regional development strategy. If you’ve not been following, there’s been a focus in China to carry out coordinated development of large clusters. This piece talks about the achievements of this approach through the 13th-FYP period. Here are some data points from the report:

  • “In 2019, the regional GDP of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area have reached 8.5 trillion yuan, 23.7 trillion yuan and 11.4 trillion yuan respectively.”
  • This perhaps is as close as one will get to an acknowledgement of unbalanced development. “The eastern region continues to play its leading role, the central region’s economic strength is significantly enhanced…the western region has made significant progress in the construction of infrastructure and ecological environment, and poverty alleviation has achieved remarkable results.” Here’s the positive side of things, however. “In 2019, the GDP of the central and western regions increased by 7.3% and 6.7% respectively over the previous year, 1.2 and 0.6 percentage points faster than the whole country.”

On the second page, there’s a piece essentially detailing economic data from the first three quarters to argue that “the great ship” of the Chinese economy “experienced a baptism of wind and rain” in 2020 and “will surely be able to ride the wind and waves, travel steadily and make a good start for the comprehensive construction of a modern socialist country” in 2021.

Oh, and this says that in the first 10 months of the year, China created 10.09 million new jobs, essentially meeting the annual job target ahead of schedule. Not denying the economic recovery that’s taking shape in China, it’s useful to keep in mind that these top-line numbers (whichever country they may belong to) don’t tell the full story but are critical to create narratives. First, think about what gets counted as a job — that defines what gets counted and what doesn’t. For instance, there were new occupation categories approved earlier this year by the government, which would have assisted numbers. In March, there was official recognition of 16 new professions to keep pace with economic and technological development. These included intelligent manufacturing technicians, industrial internet technicians, virtual reality technicians, supply chain managers, artificial intelligence trainers, all-media operators, and respiratory therapists. Then in May, there were another 10 new occupations, which were classified under emerging industries such as livestreaming, block chain, online learning and 3D printing.

Page 3: A couple of pieces to note. First, a report showcasing positive international coverage of China’s economic recovery and the plans put forward after the recent plenum. A report about celebrations in German town of Wuppertal, North Rhine-Westphalia, to celebrate the 200th birth anniversary of Friedrich Engels. Evidently, ideology matters. Here’s a bit from the piece: “The city of Wuppertal also held a special exhibition commemorating the 200th anniversary of Engels’ birth. Exhibits such as the correspondence between Engels and his close friend Marx in different periods, a group photo of Engels with the Marx family, and the first page of the manuscript of the “Communist Manifesto” written by Marx have attracted much attention. Among them, the first page of the “Communist Manifesto” written by Marx is the only page of the “Communist Manifesto” that exists in the world.”

Page 4: A couple of reports. First, propaganda chief Huang Kunming’s visit to Shanxi province. He talked about focusing propaganda effort drawing from the recent 5th plenum. He wants cadre to “adhere to the combination of online and offline, and carry out in-depth publicity and publicity work of news, theory, literature and art, and promote the spirit of the plenary meeting to enter the mind.” Also note this: “Huang Kunming pointed out that cultural heritage carries the historical memory of a nation and is a valuable asset that we must cherish. We must always put protection in the first place, strengthen basic research, strengthen systematic protection, and focus on the use of new technologies and methods to improve protection capabilities, so as to better inherit and continue historical context.” Crafting historical narrative is one of the most critical aspects of Party propaganda work. As Mao had said: make the past serve the present. Also, Huang wants more diversified propaganda:

“It is necessary to thoroughly study the ideological characteristics and behavior habits of different social groups such as enterprise employees, farmers, young students, improve innovative working mechanisms and methods, expand coverage, increase affinity, and further stimulate the enthusiasm, initiative, and creativity of the cadres and the masses.”

Page 17: Just a measure of the immense propaganda value of China’s poverty alleviation campaign: there’s a page full of four commentaries by foreign experts talking about how China’s poverty alleviation campaign has energised the global fight against poverty. Here are some samples:

James Lynch, Director of the East Asia Department of the ADB: “The poverty alleviation development model of the Chinese government presents distinctive Chinese characteristics, especially the extensive mobilization of social forces to participate in poverty alleviation. This method fully demonstrates the advantages of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.” He also says: “The Chinese government has also shared many innovative and effective poverty reduction practices with other countries in the world. By building a “Chinese and foreign poverty reduction case database and online case sharing platform”, and launching a global poverty reduction case award collection event, China shares information on poverty reduction projects with policymakers from various countries and practitioners in international organizations, so that all parties can adapt to local conditions.”

Lina Dengrudanessen, editor-in-chief of the Belgian Flemish edition of China Today magazine: “Poverty is a worldwide problem. China’s poverty reduction achievements can be called a world miracle and a feat of mankind, which fully embodies the people-oriented governance philosophy of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Luis Paulino, professor of economics at the State University of Sao Paulo: “China’s achievement of this achievement in a short period of time is undoubtedly a great practice unprecedented in the history of human poverty reduction. China’s achievements in poverty eradication must first be attributed to the superiority of the socialist system. The Communist Party of China takes the overall situation, coordinates all parties, and always takes the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people as the foundation, and is able to advance the resolution of medium and long-term problems such as poverty in a planned way.” This is just an excerpt, but Luis Paulino’s entire comment hits every known cliche in Chinese propaganda.