This is a daily thread that I’ve decided to do in order to track the key reports and commentaries from the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper People’s Daily. The objective is to gain insights into the regime’s priorities and narratives, which I believe is important in order to develop effective policy responses.

Big Picture: Pieces on unemployment and Hong Kong are what I found significant today. Comments from Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of HKMAO, inform that the national security legislation will be cleared at the earliest, and it will expand Beijing’s security footprint in HK. Finally, there’s a really interesting piece on tackling formalism and getting the masses involved in assessing cadres. Do make sure you check that out.

Page 1: Nothing that particularly caught my attention. Largely the page had Xinhua reports on Xi’s message to the General Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party Central Committee. There’s a piece about Xi’s article in Quishi on the Civil Code. Li Keqiang attending the virtual opening ceremony of the Canton Fair. The only piece I’d like to highlight is based on economic data put out by NBS on Monday. It begins like this:

“The urban unemployment rate nationwide fell by 0.1 percentage points from last month; the service industry production index has achieved positive growth for the first time this year; the growth rate of investment in high-tech industries and social sectors has changed from negative to positive…” all of which indicates that key economic indicators are continuing to improve. But there’s a warning in there about unemployment.

“Although the unemployment rate in urban surveys has dropped slightly, employment pressure cannot be ignored. The total employment pressure is greater. From January to May, there were 4.6 million new jobs in cities and towns across the country, a year-on-year decrease of 1.37 million. In May, the unemployment rate in the national urban survey was 0.9 percentage points higher than the same period last year.”

Page 2: How important is the employment pressure? On this page, there’s a long piece about how young graduates are facing a “grim employment situation.” Consequently, there’s effort being put into dealing with this with colleges and universities providing assistance and tapping into alumni for support; companies linking with local governments to avail support and subsidies for job creation and online recruitment platforms getting more active.

There’s a piece on the work underway in Beijing to deal with the new Covid outbreak. The tone of the piece is a touch defensive, although it is projecting confidence that the city authorities have things under control. The scale of operations is worth noting. Here’s a snippet from the story. The piece says that there are more than 8,000 people working in one way or the other at the Beijing Xinfadi Agricultural Products Wholesale Market. Nucleic acid tests have been carried out for all and they’ve been “transferred to a centralized observation facility for centralized medical observation.” Similar measures have been taken at the Haidian Yuquandong market where the outbreak was found. At present, 11 communities around Xinfadi and 10 communities around Yuquandong Market are facing some form of quarantine, and nucleic acid testing of 90,000 community residents is in progress.

Page 3: A few pieces to note:

  • First, you’ve got a piece by Tang Songgen, the PRC’s first ambassador to Kiribati. Recall that the two sides established diplomatic ties last year when Kiribati switched support away from Taiwan.
  • A piece on China’s external economic engagement. There’s some useful data in there about trains to Europe and so on. But the broader point is that “China’s economic recovery has strongly supported the supply and development of the world’s raw material market.” Essentially, the effort is to highlight the centrality and reliability of the China link in global supply chains.
  • Finally, a flattering article on the Chinese economy by Noriyoshi Ehara, chief economist at the Japan Institute of International Trade and Investment.

Page 4 & 5: The fourth page has longish reports on the flooding in different parts of the country; the focus, like I had pointed out earlier, is on what the authorities are doing. The next page is the comments page.

There’s this compilation of different views on “new consumption,” i.e., live streaming, online education and “contactless” retail. This sort of stuff underscores the focus on technology development and innovation. As an aside, isn’t it fascinating that the same paper talks about upholding socialism and marxism, along with product innovation and pre and after-sales services, or for that matter about cutting down logistics costs to enhance competitiveness, as this piece does.

Page 6: Two reports worth noting:

First, this piece on an event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of the Hong Kong Basic Law is interesting for some of the remarks of the panelists. Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of HKMAO, says:

  • Getting the natsec law in place is a good way to mark the anniversary.
  • “The central government should retain the power to exercise jurisdiction over crimes in Hong Kong that seriously endanger national security under extremely special circumstances. This will not affect the independent judicial power and final adjudication power enjoyed by the Special Administrative Region under the Basic Law.” It obviously will if this is to be the case.

Chen Dong, deputy director of the Liaison office in HK, says: “After the relevant legislation is completed, political viruses that affect the development of Hong Kong will be effectively eliminated, and Hong Kong will surely usher in a broader development prospect.”

Zhang Yong, deputy director of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, basically says that there is “solid legal basis” for the NPC enacting this law for HK.

The second is a report about China’s Defense Ministry reacting to a US military jet’s recent flight over Taiwan.

Page 17: Two stories of note on the international page today. First, a report on the protests in Atlanta after the recent police shooting of a black man. The report says: “the demonstrators set fire to the fast food restaurant near the place where the black man was shot and burned the surrounding cars. The police used tear gas and flash bombs to disperse the demonstrators.”

Second, a report on a statement on racism by 20 senior officials in the UN who are African or of African descent.

Page 19: A piece on tackling formalism in the bureaucracy through supervision from the masses. This is a really interesting piece, which gave me a chuckle. But it also highlights why thinking about China as a top-down dictatorship is limiting and problematic. There’s much more nuance to the governance in the country.

The piece discusses how often the motivation of cadres is to convince their superiors that they are doing a good job, rather than actually doing a good job. It then calls for some sort of assessment from the people they serve, without proposing a model. It says: “At present, some places are exploring and improving the disclosure of government affairs information, and welcome the supervision of the masses, but this kind of supervision still stays at a limited level, and needs to be further deepened into institutionalised and legalised routines.”

What gave me a chuckle was this paragraph about how lower level cadres tend to fool their superiors: “In some places, the bald mountains are painted with green paint in order to meet the superior’s inspection. In some places, the exterior of the houses along the street is renovated and the inside is still tattered, while some places are only installed in the ‘Toilet Revolution.’ The toilet does not install sewer pipes…”