driving the day
1. Xi’s big push on “rule of law”
On Monday and Tuesday, Xi Jinping chaired November’s hottest meeting in the capital – the first ever central work conference on overall law-based governance.
The meeting was a big deal: All seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee attended.
Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law featured prominently (Xinhua 1):
- “Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law represents the latest achievement in adapting Marxist theories on the rule of law to the Chinese context, serving as the fundamental guideline for law-based governance in China.”
- “The first reason why the central conference on work related to overall law-based governance is so important is that it clarified the guiding position of Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law.”
Get smart: Some cadres and thinkers in the Party have been referencing Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law for a few years now. But this is the doctrine’s official coronation.
Get smarter: This is the latest example of Xi Thought. The expansion of his personal banner term is but the latest sign that Xi continues to enjoy a strong political standing among the Party elite.
2. Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law
So what is Xi Jinping Thought on the Rule of Law? (see previous entry)
According to Xi, it has 11 elements (Xinhua):
- Party leadership
- A people-centered approach
- No deviation from the socialist path
- The Party and the state’s strict adherence to the constitution
- A law-based approach in handling economic and social issues
- An expansion of legislation
- Law-based exercise of state power
- Scientific lawmaking, strict law enforcement, an impartial administration of justice, and the observance of the law by everyone
- Promotion of the rule of law at home and in matters involving foreign parties
- A quality team of legal professionals loyal to the Party
- A special focus to push senior cadres to follow the law
The emphasis on more legislation involving foreign parties could be a big deal:
- “We will utilize means of legislation, law enforcement, and judication to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, dignity, and core interests.”
What it means: Don’t be surprised when China introduces more legislation in the same vein as the Hong Kong National Security Law or the Export Control Law (see October 19 Tip Sheet).
3. Xi’s got BRICS vows
On Tuesday, Xi Jinping addressed the 12th BRICS summit via videolink.
Some context: BRICS refers to the five developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Xi’s message was a familiar one (Gov.cn):
- “[W]e remain convinced…that the trend toward multipolarity and economic globalization cannot be turned around.”
Xi also said that win-win cooperation was the wave of the future:
- “China will be more vigorous in integrating with the global market and will take greater initiative in deepening international cooperation.”
- “China will create more opportunities and space for global recovery and growth.”
Xi said China stands ready to help Beijing’s BRICS bros secure victory over COVID-19:
- “China has joined the COVAX facility and will actively consider providing vaccines to BRICS countries where there is a need.”
And of course, Xi couldn’t resist taking a barely veiled swipe at the US:
- “Flouting rules and laws, treading the path of unilateralism and bullying, and withdrawing from international organizations and agreements…[some countries] trample on the legitimate rights and dignity of all nations.”
Get smart: As the US has retreated from its leading global role, China has worked to position itself as the multilaterally minded “adult in the room.”
4. Premier Li signals less support
It’s that time of year again.
On Tuesday, Premier Li Keqiang invited economists and businessmen to Zhongnanhai to discuss the economy.
What that means: Li and other top officials are preparing for the annual Central Economic Work Conference (CEWC), which will be held in December. The CEWC sets economic policy priorities and targets for the coming year.
Li reminded everybody that the economy faces myriad challenges (Gov.cn):
- “The current domestic and international [economic] situation remains complex and grim.”
- “[We must] thoroughly prepare to respond to challenges and difficulties.”
Li said that the policy focus must remain on helping firms:
- “[We must] attentively listen to the voices of market entities and the people.”
- “More targeted support should be given to market players, especially small and medium-sized enterprises and individual businesses.”
Get smart: None of this is new. The government has been focused on supporting small businesses since late 2018.
What it means for the economy: We think growth in 2021 could disappoint on the downside. We explain our thinking in our premium China Markets Dispatch.
5. No grain no gain
The State Council took aim at “de-grainification” in a policy document issued Tuesday.
What that means: They want to ensure farmland is used for food – particularly the staple grains that underpin food security.
To this end, the Opinions on Preventing “De-grainification” and Stabilizing Food Production calls to (Gov.cn):
- Improve oversight of farmland that has been specifically set aside for growing grain and other staples
- Ensure food production is prioritized on the rest of China’s limited arable land
- Improve policy support and incentives for grain growers
It also limits some farming activities on “permanent basic farmland,” i.e. land that is permanently zoned for farming by national authorities, including:
- Planting tree farms and orchards
- Digging ponds for aquaculture
- Illegally extracting of soil
- Other activities that harm topsoil
Leaving farmland idle is also prohibited.
Get smart: Food security, like other aspects of national security, has been in the spotlight this year. Ensuring China’s limited arable land is used to grow food – rather than profitable luxuries like flowers or freshwater pearl oysters – is part of that push.
Get smarter: Major rural reforms are underway, aimed at attracting more investment to the countryside. Policymakers are keenly aware that these new stakeholders may not prioritize growing food.
6. You say you’ll change the constitution?
On Tuesday, Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office announced at a legal symposium that officials were working on changes to Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
Some context: The Basic Law is Hong Kong’s mini-constitution and forms the legal basis of “one country, two systems.”
Zhang said the revisions would help to “perfect” the document (Reuters):
- “Zhang said that the work was related to ‘oath optimisation’ and ‘qualification screening’ for civil servants, national education, and judicial reform.”
Unsurprisingly, political loyalty is the authorities’ overriding concern.
Zhang said that:
- “[P]eople who do not recognise the ‘motherland’ or threaten the country’s national security, do not fall in line with the Basic Law.”
- “Only those who are patriotic should be in place, otherwise they should be removed from the system.”
More context: Last week, China’s legislature ruled that any members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council that supported Hong Kong independence or endangered national security would be immediately disqualified from office (see November 11 Tip Sheet).
Get smart: The revisions are designed to cement Beijing’s political control over the city.
Get smarter: Despite Beijing’s claims to the contrary, one country, two systems is dead in Hong Kong.
7. Beijing prepares Taiwan blacklist
Yesterday, SCMP scooped that the central leadership in Beijing is considering a blacklist targeting “diehard Taiwan separatists.”
What it is: Anybody on the blacklist will be subject to criminal prosecution.
The list is in part a response to statements by the US (SCMP):
- “The sources said that although the idea of the list was first floated two years ago, the decision to go ahead with it came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that Taiwan ‘has not been a part of China.’”
Who will be on the list:
- “[T]he targets would be anybody who openly advocated Taiwan independence, pushed aggressively for Taiwan independence or funded separatists generously.”
Look for this in 2021:
- “’The announcement of the list is likely to come after the inauguration of the next president of the United States,’ the source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.”
Get smart: Such a move would heighten cross-strait tensions and further inflame anti-Mainland sentiment on Taiwan. That will push the possibility for peaceful reunification even further into the distance.