driving the day
1. March forth united
On Tuesday, Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang made a rare appearance together to hand out awards for promoting military-civilian solidarity.
Some context: This is the second such ceremony since 2016, when the Party launched these awards. They’re intended to encourage good collaboration between the armed forces and civilian organizations.
Surprisingly, Xi chose not to speak this time.
- We’re not sure why.
But since Premier Li doesn’t have authority over the military, the remarks coming out of the meeting were a fairly one-sided message of civilian support for the troops (Xinhua):
- “Li called on all localities and departments to support strengthening national defense and the armed forces and to continue to help military personnel and their families overcome difficulties.”
- “Noting that it is more difficult to stabilize employment this year than in previous years, Li urged efforts to provide veterans with more targeted and timely services to help them find jobs, start their own businesses or get vocational training.”
- “Fiscal spending on benefits and services for military personnel must be guaranteed, Li said.”
Get smart:Xi enjoys a high degree of loyalty from the military, partly because he managed to raise their benefits and elevate the social status of soldiers.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) held a press conference to discuss their 13th five-year plan (FYP) results.
MEE vice minister Zhao Yimin offered a sobering assessment of status quo:
- “It must be clearly recognized that the present condition of the environment is far from meeting people’s expectations for a good life.”
- “[T]hree factors have not yet been changed. These are: an industrial structure dominated by heavy and chemical industry, an energy structure dominated by coal, and a transportation structure dominated by roads.”
Then, the vice minister said “greater determination and strength” is required to achieve new emissions targets and a carbon neutral vision.
Some context: Xi Jinping announced that China aims to peak emissions early and be carbon neutral by 2060 at a speech to the UN General Assembly in late September (see the October 14 Tip Sheet).
Next, Zhao rattled off a bunch of future plans for addressing climate change, but two really caught our eye:
- Kicking off a campaign to achieve the 2030 emissions peak – a new effort
- Speeding up launch of a national carbon emissions trading market – an initiative that has already beenseeing renewed efforts
Get smart: These efforts are likely to feature prominently in the 14th FYP.
3. A chill pill for semiconductor fever
Yesterday, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) helda press conference to warnlocal governments about their investments in the semiconductor industry (Gov.cn):
- “[Local officials] who support semiconductor projects will also be held accountable should major losses and risks occur.”
The message was loud and clear: Don’t be irresponsible.
Some context:Under pressure from the threat of decoupling, Beijing is pushing to develop the semiconductor industry. Local governments vying for a piece of the pie are rushing out new semiconductor projects.
- Some have already suffered great losses (see September 23 Tip Sheet).
But the NDRC is on top of the issue:
- “We have noticed that…some places blindly install projects with low quality and redundant capacities…resulting in a waste of resources.”
And they want local governments to back off:
- “[Local governments should] adhere to the independent decision-making of enterprises and financial institutions.”
Get smart: Beijing is well aware that too much government meddling in an industry’s development will backfire, but it’s still not sure how to fix the problem.
Our question: Over-investment by the provinces in industries supported by the central government is a perennial problem. Can this time be different?
4. Biosecurity is national security
On Saturday, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed China’s first-ever Biosecurity Law.
- The law will take effect on April 15, 2021.
The Law aims to:
- Prevent and respond to biological threats
- Promote the sound development of biotechnologies
- Protect biological resources and the ecological environment
It significantly raises the priority of biosecurityby:
- Designating biosecurity as an important aspect of national security
- Placing national security authorities in charge of inter-ministerial efforts on biosecurity
The law also sets out mechanisms for biosecurity protection, including:
- A provincial-level coordination mechanism for ensuring regional biosecurity
- A monitoring and early warning system to prevent and control major outbreaks of infectious diseases originating in animals or plants
- A cross-agency information sharing system
- A public-facing information publishing system
- A set of biosecurity standards
- A biosecurity review system for major incidents impacting national security
Get smart: This law was finalized quickly,due to heightened awareness of biosecurity risks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Get smarter:Expect a deluge of related regulations in the coming months.
5. Vaccines on the way!
On Tuesday, the State Council held a multi-agency press conference to report progress toward a COVID-19 vaccine. Don’t worry, it’s all good news.
Vaccines under clinical trial are showing promising results:
- The Ministry of Science and Technology said the four vaccines under phase III clinical trials have been administered to 60,000 people.
- So far, no serious adverse reactions have been reported.
Once a winning vaccine candidate is selected, authorities will ensure fast and vast supply:
- The drug approval agency (NMPA) said it will use a special approval process for the winning vaccine(s).
- The health authority (NHC) projected China’s COVID-19 vaccine production capacity will reach 610 million doses annually by the end of 2020.
- State-owned Sinopharm Group said it will strive to ensure capacity to produce over a billion vaccine doses in 2021.
Vaccine access will be prioritized for two groups of people:
- High-risk groups, including frontline medical, border, and public transportation staff
- Highly vulnerable groups, like the elderly, children, pregnant women, and patients with chronic diseases
Get smart: This is a major signal of confidence from the central government that COVID-19 vaccines will be ready soon.