1. Marginal improvement in unemployment data
On Tuesday, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) published August unemployment data.
Broadly, things don’t look too bad (Caixin):
- Nationally, unemployment fell to 5.6%, not too far above last year’s 5.2%.
- Only 4.8% of workers between 25-59 years are unemployed.
Officially, this is good news:
- “‘The employment situation has remained basically stable. Judging from the new employment situation, it is continuing to increase.’ said NBS spokesperson Fu Linghui.”
But a few things are concerning:
- 7.8 million new jobs have been created since January – 2 million fewer than last year.
- Urban unemployment is at 5.8%, a historic high.
- Unemployment among 20-24 year old recent graduates is still rising.
And some efforts to boost employment, such as retraining programs, aren’t going as planned (FT):
- “‘China’s government-backed professional training system is a waste of public resources’, said a government adviser in Chengdu […] ‘The job should be left to the private sector.’”
- “‘The course didn’t teach us marketable skills,’ said Ms Li [acourse participant].’”
Get Smart:Tackling unemployment is a top policy priority. Not only is employment critical to stability, but income is a necessary prerequisite for boosting consumption as per the new Dual Circulation Strategy.
2. Tough crowd, huh?
On Monday, Xi Jinping sat down for a long-awaited China-Germany-EU leaders’ meeting via videolink.
Opposite Xi were:
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel
- European Council President Charles Michel
- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
On the agenda:
- Trade and economic issues
- Climate change
- COVID-19 recovery
- Human rights
Xi kicked things off with a call for deeper ties (Xinhua):
- “It is…imperative for China and the EU to…promote the sound and stable development of [a] comprehensive strategic partnership.”
But EU leaders have doubts.
Michel’s reply was guarded (DW):
- “We have to recognize that we do not share the same values, political systems, or approach to multilateralism.”
And von der Leyen was blunt in her assessment of bilateral market access (France 24):
- “The European market is open, and European companies must have fair and equal access to the Chinese market in return.”
- “It’s not just a question of meeting halfway, but it’s a question of rebalancing the asymmetry.”
Still, it wasn’t all bad. The two sides agreed to:
- Set up “high-level dialogues” on climate change and digital issues
- Speed up progress of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment
Get smart: Beijing has failed spectacularly to capitalize on rifts within the Western world. Europe is increasingly united in its mistrust of China.
3. Wang Yang heads to Qinghai
Wang Yang, head of the political advisory body (CPPCC) and #4 in the Party hierarchy, just completed a two-day tour of Qinghai.
Wang’s mission: To spread the gospel of the Central Tibet Work Conference (CTWC), which was held on August 28-29.
Some context: TheCTWC is a big deal . Attended by all the top leaders, the meeting is held every five years and sets policy toward Tibetan regions.
The CTWC’s focus: Promoting ethnic unity and combatting separatism.
What that means: Beijing is increasingly pushing an assimilationist agenda in its ethnic minority areas.
That’s not going too well. Recent protests in Inner Mongolia show that dissatisfaction among ethnic minoritiesis notconfined to Xinjiang and Tibet.
Get smart: China’s hardline approach to ethnic minorities is more likely to breed resentment thanconformity.
The bigger picture: China’s treatment of Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Mongols is increasingly complicating China’s relations with neighboring countries – and the West.
4. Closed for a private Party
On Tuesday, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee issued a document entitled Opinions on Strengthening the United Front Work of the Private Economy in the New Era.
What’s United Front work?
- We’re glad you asked!
United Front Work refers to the Party’s efforts to influence non-Party organizations to achieve policy goals and cement the Party’s power.
The new regs aim to strengthen the Party’s grip over the private sector (People.cn):
- “Strengthening United Front Work within the private sector is an important way to realize the Party’s leadership over the private economy, an important step to develop and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
The document included suggestions on how to get private industry into sync with the Party, including:
- Strengthening political guidance for private sector personnel
- Improving communication mechanisms between private businesses and the government
- Strengthening Party-building in private enterprises
Get smart: Party leaders knowthat the private sector is the driver of the economy.This is their answer to how to expandthe private sector without relinquishing control over the economy.
Get smarter:Companies like Huaweiand ByteDance have encountered probles abroad because foreign government believe they are under the thumb of Beijing. These new guidelines will only make it harder for them to argue that they operate independent of Party influence.
5. Leave farmland alone
On Tuesday, the General Office of the State Council issued a notice on stopping the de-agriculturalization of farmland.
The document reminds officials to carefully adhere to existing regulations, which restrict(Gov.cn):
- Occupying farmland for greening and reforestation projects
- Creating excessive green belts and corridors along roads, railways, and bodies of water
- Building artificial rivers, lakes, and wetlands
- Building or expanding nature reserves across ‘permanent basic farmland’ red lines
- Occupying farmland for non-agricultural construction
- Approving development projects that are not in accordance with national land use and spatial plans
To ensure compliance:
- The notice calls for national inspections of the above listed issues, and hints at both public oversight mechanisms and heavy punishments for officials who fail to comply.
Some context:This is the latest in a long series of efforts to protect arable land.
- China first set a “red line” of 120 million hectares of farmland in 2007 – considered the minimum necessary to ensure food security.
- This year, the Ministry of Natural Resources has been hard at work on a database that identifies every plot of “permanent basic farmland” nationwide (The Paper).
More context:Rural land reforms are a key part of Vice Premier Liu He’s broader factor reform agenda. Current pilot efforts are integrating rural and urban land markets, and allowing farmland to be used as collateral for loans.
Get smart:Local officials are walking a tightrope as they attempt to deliver both rural development and food security goals. Pretty tourist sites may bring in cash, but Beijing expects farming to remain the top priority.
Get smarter:This list of restrictions is not new. But it’s a clear signal that existing regulations will see stricter enforcement.