Tracking People’s Daily — Dec. 8, 2020

Manoj Kewalramani
8 min readDec 8, 2020


Page 1: A couple of key stories to note on the page. First, let’s look at trade data. I am going to highlight the data from Xinhua English and People’s Daily. China’s “foreign trade expanded 7.8 percent year on year last month, with exports jumping 14.9 percent year on year in yuan terms. Imports dipped 0.8 percent from a year ago, the General Administration of Customs said. In the first 11 months, China’s foreign trade of goods totaled 29.04 trillion yuan (about 4.44 trillion U.S. dollars), up 1.8 percent year on year, accelerating from an increase of 1.1-percent in the first 10 months.”

China’s imports this year were 12.91 trillion yuan, a decrease of 0.5%; the trade surplus was 3.22 trillion yuan, an increase of 24.6%. Xinhua reports that mechanical and electrical products took the lion’s share of the country’s exports, with their export value reaching 9.57 trillion yuan in the first 11 months, up 5.4 percent year on year. Textile exports including masks surged 33 percent year on year during the period.

Total trade value between China and ASEAN was 4.24 trillion yuan, an increase of 6.7%, accounting for 14.6% of China’s total foreign trade value. China-EU trade stood at 4.05 trillion yuan, an increase of 4.7%, accounting for 13.9% China’s total foreign trade.

Next up, we have the full text of the State Council’s new Implementation Outline for the Construction of a Society Ruled by Law. Here’s a cheat sheet (machine translated with edits/summaries):

  • The key characteristic of socialist rule of law entails adherence to the construction of a country ruled by law, a government ruled by law, and a society ruled by law; cultivate and practice core socialist values, promote the spirit of the socialist rule of law, build a socialist rule of law culture, and enhance the enthusiasm and initiative of the whole society to enforce the rule of law.
  • There are two overall goals. The first is for 2025 and the final goal is for 2035.
  • The document calls for maintaining the “authority of the Constitution.” It then calls for “in-depth study and publicity of Xi Jinping’s thought on the rule of law, in-depth publicity of the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics with the Constitution as the core, and extensive publicity of laws and regulations closely related to economic and social development and the interests of the people, so that the people consciously respect, believe in, and abide by the law.”
  • One section sheds light on the legislative agenda for the leadership. Along with improving legislation in areas like “education, labor and employment, income distribution, social security, medical and health, food and medicine, safe production, road transportation, poverty alleviation, charity, social assistance…” the Party also wants to “improve the legal policy system that promotes the core values ​​of socialism, and strengthen legislation in such areas as acting bravely, respecting heroes and martyrs, volunteering, filial piety and loving relatives.”
  • There’s a chunk in there on social credit. It says: “Improve the law-abiding credit records of citizens and organizations, and establish a unified social credit code system based on citizen ID numbers and organization codes. Improve the long-term mechanism of integrity building, complete the credit investigation system covering the whole society, and establish and improve the punishment system for untrustworthiness. Establish a credit restoration mechanism and an objection system based on the actual situation, encourage and guide untrustworthy entities to actively correct illegal and untrustworthy behaviors.”
  • There’s a lot written about rights and protecting rights of citizens and social entities. But this phrasing is worth noting: “Adhering to the unity of rights and obligations, social entities must perform legal obligations and assume social responsibilities.”
  • On use of technology: “Promote the deep integration of scientific and technological innovations such as big data and artificial intelligence with judicial work, improve the Internet + litigation model.
  • On human rights: It’s interesting that the paragraph doesn’t talk about specific rights. It talks about people’s livelihood and legitimate rights and interests of the people. It talks about consumer rights protection, access to lawyers, prevention of illegal evidence collection, and essentially improving efficiency of the judicial system. “By 2022, a modern public legal service system covering urban and rural areas, convenient, efficient, and equal and inclusive will be basically formed to ensure that the people receive timely and effective legal assistance.”
  • The next section talks about improving social governance. This essentially focuses on lower levels of government, where tasks for local authorities have been outlined. The objective is to nip what could be stability challenges at the local levels. So for instance, it calls for “uphold(ing) the party’s leadership over social organizations, strengthen(ing) the party building of social organizations, and ensur(ing) the correct political direction for the development of social organizations.” Another example is this bit: “Effectively resolve social conflicts and disputes in accordance with the law. Adhere to and develop the “Maple Bridge Experience” in the new era.”
  • “Formulate an “Internet + Public Security” action plan before the end of 2020. Promote normalization of the eradication of gangsters, severely crack down and punish illegal and criminal activities such as violent harm to medical staff, destruction of wildlife resources, violent terror, pornography, gambling, illegal abduction, high-tech crimes, cyber crimes, etc., to deter and prevent serious crimes occur. Strengthen the construction of an emergency response system to improve the ability of epidemic prevention and control, disaster prevention, reduction and disaster relief.”
  • On Cyberspace: Some useful bits: 1. “Adhere to the combination of the rule of law and the morality of the Internet, and promote the main theme of the times and the positive energy of society.” 2. “Resolutely crack down on the spread of rumors, obscenity, violence, superstition, cults and other harmful information in cyberspace in accordance with the law, and establish and improve an integrated acceptance and disposal system for Internet illegal and harmful information reports.” 3. “Strengthen the protection of the legal rights and interests of cyberspace communication secrets, business secrets, personal privacy, reputation and property rights. Strictly regulate the collection and use of personal information such as user identity and communication content, and increase the punishment for illegal and criminal acts of illegally obtaining, leaking, selling, and providing citizens’ personal information.”

Third, we’ve got Li Keqiang’s comments at the meeting of the national leading group on science and technology. Here’s the English version of the story. As per People’s Daily, Li said that while the “pace of building an innovative country has accelerated. At the same time, we must also be soberly aware that China’s scientific and technological development is large but not strong, basic research and original innovation are weak, and some key technologies are in urgent need of breakthroughs.” Or as Xinhua English reported, he said that “it is necessary to be aware that China remains weak in fields such as basic research, indigenous innovation, and some key technologies…He asked for more efforts in strengthening basic research and its application, stimulating vitality of innovators through reforms, and making research results better serve the economy and support the country’s high-quality development. While making optimal use of government funds, universities, research institutes, enterprises, and private sectors should also be encouraged to increase investment in basic research.” The report adds: “The premier called for a clear understanding of the gap between China’s sci-tech innovation and the world’s advanced level in the fields of basic research and applied basic research, and urged international exchanges and cooperation.”

Page 3: A few stories to note. First, Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a video exchange with the delegation of the US-China Business Council’s Board of Directors. Wang said that “the urgent task at the moment is that the two sides should work together to remove all kinds of interference and resistance to achieve a smooth transition of Sino-US relations. At the same time, in a direction that conforms to the common interests of the two countries and the two peoples, strive to restart the dialogue, return to the right track, and rebuild mutual trust in the next stage of Sino-US relations.” Second, a report on BRI projects that have continued to be pursued amid the pandemic. This is projected as “Chinese-funded enterprises in Africa actively support the local fight against the epidemic and resume work and production.” Third, you have a piece by Carlos Aquino from the National University of San Marcos in Peru, talking about the learnings that can be drawn from China’s COVID-19 containment efforts. He writes: “Why was China able to control the epidemic and restore economic and social order in a short time? I believe that national governance capabilities and the application of information technology are key. The strong governance and efficient mobilization capabilities of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government are the fundamental guarantee for China’s effective prevention and control of the epidemic.”

Page 9: A piece by He Yiting, Vice President of the Central Party School. He writes that “the biggest difference between the 14th Five-Year Plan period and the previous five-year planning period is this big change that has not been seen in a century facing my country’s external environment…Specifically, the new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation are important driving forces for the great changes. The profound adjustment of the international balance of power, especially the rise of the east is the main direction for the development of the major changes. The global pandemic of the novel coronavirus pandemic is aggravating the major changes.” He talks about “turbulent change” coming ahead. Yet he believes that “peace and development are still the theme of the times.”

He adds that “Western monopoly on international affairs is unsustainable, and the international affairs of emerging market countries and developing countries. Their status and right to speak continue to improve…Some developed countries, represented by the United States, are unwilling to lose their dominance and control of the international system. They frequently use their monopoly financial and technological power to contain developing countries and adjust international economic and trade rules to protect their own interests. The international economic and political landscape is volatile, global governance issues are becoming increasingly complex, and global crises continue to challenge human society.”

But he’s rather confident about China’s potential amid all this, something that he argues was evident in the fight against the pandemic. China’s strengths, he says, are: 1. “It has the world’s most complete and largest industrial system, strong production capacity and complete supporting capabilities, and has more than 100 million market players.” 2. He says that China “has huge human capital and human resources, the demographic dividend still exists, and the talent dividend is becoming increasingly apparent.” 3. The third is the vast market space. In 2019, my country’s per capita GDP exceeded US$10,000, and household deposits were 81.3 trillion yuan. Looking to the future, a high-income country with a population of 1.4 billion will surely become the world’s largest consumer market.In particular, we have the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, the scientific guidance of Xi Jinping’s thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, and the significant advantages of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and the national governance system.”

In terms of challenges, he says that “some US politicians will step up containment against us; the adjustment of the global governance system provides conditions for China to play a greater role in the international community, but there is also a risk that the world will fall into collision and confrontation between the old and new governance systems…The epidemic has strengthened the world’s recognition of China’s system, culture and governance, but there is also the risk of some Western politicians discrediting China.”

Then this: “China has never been so close to the center of the world stage as it is today, and the Chinese nation has never been so close to the goal of great rejuvenation. This is a great achievement won through so many struggles and sacrifices, hardships and sufferings, and must be cherished. Realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on the basis of socialist modernization is in the highest interest of the party and the people, and we must unswervingly and overcome all difficulties to make continuous progress toward this established goal. Any major risk challenge that may delay or interrupt the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation must be unambiguously prevented and properly resolved.” This sounds like an endorsement of the current round of aggressive diplomacy.