Tracking People’s Daily — July 15, 2020

Page 1: A few pieces to note on the page:

First Xi Jinping’s calls with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong. The Xinhua English stories cover the details well. With Prayut Chan-o-cha, Xi talked about Covid, BRI, the China-Thailand railway project and trade. The Thai PM spoke about the “family-like profound friendship between the two countries.” He also added that “Thailand firmly sticks to the one-China policy and firmly supports China’s efforts to safeguard its core interests.” With Lee, there was no such mention of core interests. But they talked about Covid and work resumption. This was interesting:

“China, Xi said, will continue to deepen reform and opening-up and improve the domestic business environment, and hopes that the Singaporean side will provide sound conditions for Chinese enterprises doing business in the country. China stands ready to work with Singapore to overcome distractions and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability, added the Chinese president.”

Here’s what Lee said: “Singapore looks forward to deepening cooperation with China in such areas as vaccine and medicine research and development, and working with China to continuously make good use of the ‘fast-track lane’ and advance the building of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, so as to steadily resume work and production and restore economic development. Singapore stands ready to work with China to safeguard free and open trade and keep supply and industrial chains in the region running smoothly, he said, adding that his country welcomes participation of Chinese enterprises in its economic construction.”

China’s H1 trade data came out this week. Foreign trade rose 5.1 percent on a yearly basis in June, with exports up 4.3 percent and imports growing 6.2 percent. June trade data has also been upbeat. Exports rose by 0.5 percent from a year earlier in June, a sharp improvement on May’s minus 3.3 percent slump. Chinese imports rose by 2.7 percent from June 2019’s levels. The PD piece basically argues that:

  • Behind the numbers are a “series of policy measures that have taken root and provided strong support for stabilizing foreign trade.”
  • Behind the numbers “is the obvious trend of diversification in the trade market, and the road of foreign trade development is getting wider and wider.”
  • Behind the numbers “is the rapid development of new formats (business models), and new momentum to stabilize foreign trade is stronger.”

Some more trade data on Page 2. This one informs that:

  • ASEAN became the largest trading partner, replacing the EU. Customs statistics show that in the first half of the year, the total import and export value of China and ASEAN was 2.09 trillion yuan, an increase of 5.6% year-on-year, accounting for 14.7% of China’s total foreign trade value.
  • When analyzing the reasons why ASEAN became China’s largest trading partner, Li Kuiwen said that as part of the global electronics manufacturing industry chain, China imported from ASEAN in the first half of this year Integrated circuits reached 226.81 billion yuan, an increase of 23.8%, accounting for 24.2% of the total value of imports from ASEAN. Export of integrated circuits to ASEAN was 89.68 billion yuan, an increase of 29.1%, accounting for 7.8% of the total value of exports to ASEAN.
  • But the international situation is still “not optimistic.” So what they plan to do going ahead is this: “Improve the efficiency of customs clearance and continue to optimize the business environment; support the expansion of imports and increase the protection of agricultural products and food imports; support the construction of open platforms such as free trade pilot zones, free trade ports and comprehensive bonded zones.”

There’s another piece on a regulation to ensure timely payments to small and medium-sized enterprises. The regulation has been put together “in order to promote government agencies, institutions and large enterprises to pay SMEs in a timely manner, safeguard the legal rights and interests of SMEs, and optimize the business environment.”

Page 2: A few pieces to note on the page:

  • First, this one’s about the country’s auto market: “According to statistics from the Ministry of Public Security, as of June 2020, the number of motor vehicles nationwide reached 360 million, including 270 million cars; 440 million motor vehicle drivers, including cars 400 million drivers. The number of new energy vehicles was 4.17 million, an increase of 360,000 compared with the end of last year, an increase of 9.45%.”
  • A new notice which is calling for the opening of cross-provincial tourism, with some restrictions.

Page 3: There’s a lot of noteworthy reports on the page.

First, MoFA’s response to Mike Pompeo’s remarks on the South China Sea. It’s interesting that Zhao went to clarify Yang Jiechi’s 2010 remarks, saying: “countries, big or small, are all equals; relevant disputes should be resolved peacefully through negotiation and consultation by parties directly concerned based on the merits of the issue.” It took Beijing a decade to clarify these remarks? Really?

Second, a commentary on the South China Sea. It argues: “The activities of the Chinese people in the South China Sea have a history of more than 2,000 years. China first discovered, named, developed and utilized the South China Sea islands and related sea areas, and exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over the South China Sea islands and related sea areas in the earliest, sustained, peaceful and effective manner. China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and related rights and interests in the South China Sea have been established during a long historical process, have sufficient historical and legal basis, and comply with international laws including the United Nations Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

Alas, here’s what the PCA had concluded in 2016: “the Tribunal concluded that, to the extent China had historic rights to resources in the waters of the South China Sea, such rights were extinguished to the extent they were incompatible with the exclusive economic zones provided for in the Convention. The Tribunal also noted that, although 2 Chinese navigators and fishermen, as well as those of other States, had historically made use of the islands in the South China Sea, there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources. The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

The commentary then talks about talks on the new Code of Conduct and attacks the US for being an extra-regional actor, provoking troubles.

A report on the sanctions on Lockheed Martin. Another on China Human Rights Research Association hosting various human rights research institutions to discuss the pandemic and human rights.

A commentary that is very critical of the US on the Iran nuclear issue. It says: “The United States is arbitrarily manipulating the Iranian nuclear issue, apparently not to maintain regional peace and security as it claims, but to serve its own internal election politics and the geopolitical strategy of containing Iran out of its own selfish interests.”

And there’s this warning:

“Overbearing trips will bear evil consequences. The gradual pressing of the United States against Iran has led to the continuous escalation of the US-Iranian confrontation. Iran uses “extreme resistance” to counter the “extreme pressure” of the United States. The Iranian nuclear issue is returning to the old way of confrontation. If the United States is allowed to force Iran into the corner, and the comprehensive agreement is completely destroyed, it will definitely undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation mechanism, trigger a new round of turmoil in the Middle East, and damage the common interests of regional countries and the entire international community.”

Finally, a report on political parties’ dialogue, led by the United Russia Party and CCP’s Song Tao. The report doesn’t identify who attended but says: “political parties and dignitaries from more than a dozen countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe attended the meeting.”

Page 4: This page is largely focussed on the floods that are devastating large parts of the country, with the focus being on state response. The other piece to note is this one about HKMAO’s statement on the primaries in Hong Kong.

“Yan Zheng pointed out that this move is an illegal manipulation of the elections of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The open challenges of the Basic Law of Hong Kong and the National Security Law of Hong Kong, and expressed support for the solemn attitude expressed by the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, relevant government departments and the spokesperson of the Central People’s Government Liaison Office in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and firmly support the investigation and punishment of relevant violations in accordance with the law.”

Page 8: International stories on this page:

  • First, a long piece by the China Human Rights Research Association on income inequality and poverty in the US, casting it as a human rights issue. The full English article is available here.
  • Second, report on lawsuits filed in the US against the new regulations for international students.

Page 15: The State Council approved the investigation report into the March 7 hotel collapse in Quanzhou in Fujian. This was a quarantine facility. The incident had led to 29 deaths and 42 injuries. The report talks about official efforts at setting up a detailed inquiry and then outlines the findings. 23 people have been charged now. Here’s an English report by China Daily, which covers the details. Apart from the 23 charged with criminal charges, 49 Fujian officials have been held accountable for the collapse. “Of those 49, seven have been transferred to the judiciary, including Lai Kaizu, former head of the Quanzhou bureau of land and resources, and Zhang Hanhui, deputy head of the Licheng public security bureau. The other 42 officials, including Wang Yongli, mayor of Quanzhou, received ‘Party discipline and administrative punishment.’”

There’s another story about the Supreme People’s Procuratorate conducting a clean-up of non-public economic complaints. I am not entirely sure what these entail, because the translation is very fuzzy. So if you have any leads, please do share.