driving the day
1. Mission accomplished
It’s official – China has eliminated extreme poverty.
On Monday, the Guizhou provincial government announced that nine previously poor counties had passed a third-party review and been removed from a national list of impoverished counties.
The big deal: They were the last counties on that list.
Guizhou province poverty alleviation office director Li Jian elaborated (Xinhua):
- “Overall incidence of poverty in the nine counties…had been reduced to zero percent, and the satisfaction rate among locals was 99 percent.”
Li also explained the metrics used to define success:
- “The average annual net income of impoverished people in these nine counties has risen to 11,487 yuan (about 1,740 U.S. dollars), well above the 4,000-yuan national poverty line set this year.”
That may not sound like much, but it’s a major milestone, says Gao Gang, a researcher at Guizhou Academy of Social Sciences:
- “Delisting all poverty-stricken counties indicates China has resolved the millennia-old issue of extreme poverty.”
Get smart: Once Xi Jinping declared his intent to eliminate extreme poverty by the end of 2020, there was never much doubt that it would get done.
Get smarter: Goalposts may have been adjusted a little to meet Xi’s promise, but this development still reflects significant investment in social programs by local officials.
2. Season’s greetings
The five-year planning season for all government agencies is now upon us.
Yesterday, The Paper published some thoughts by Yang Weimin, who played a key role in drafting previous five-year plans (FYP), on how local governments should formulate those plans.
Yang said making the plan easy to understand should be a top priority (50 Forum):
- “[The plan] must be clear so market players can see what local governments support and restrict.”
He wants local governments to be realisticabout growth targets:
- “The central government growth target is already close to the potential growth rate [aka maximum sustainable growth].”
- “[Plans] will be difficult to achieve if localities increase their targets further.”
Some context: For decades, local governments have viewed the national growth target as the bottom-line for regional growth. This has led to an all-in growth contest between regions.
Yang also urged local governments to keep exporting.
Some context: One theme of 14th FYP is to shift the economy towards a model driven largely by domestic consumption.
- “If [export dominated] regions, industries, and enterprises all turned inward, then what should we use to buy resources we don’t have, like crude oil, iron ore, and soybeans.”
Get smart: Complete self-sufficiency is a non-starter for policymakers.
Get smarter: For a long time to come, China will still need to maintain a big export sector to fund its imports and overseas investments.
3. Stand by yourself
Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been racking up his telephone bill lately.
In the past week, he made calls to:
- His French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian
- The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell
Wang’s message: Europe should stand on its own two feet.
Some context: Caught between the Trump administration’s “America First” agenda and an increasingly aggressive Beijing, European countries have forged a more independent foreign policy in recent years.
Wang told Le Drian he hopes Europe retains its policy independence (SCMP):
- “China has always upheld the world’s multipolarisation and supported the EU to stand on its own as a pole of the world.”
He then made similar overtures to Borrell, saying (MoFA):
- “China believes that the EU’s strategic autonomy should be embodied in adhering to multilateralism and…to the principle of…independently deciding foreign policy.”
Get smart: With a Biden administration inbound, ties between Europe and the US are set to improve markedly.
- That’s bad news for Beijing, which fears the coalescence of a transatlantic, anti-China bloc.
The bottom line: Chinese leaders utterly failed to capitalize on Washington’s alienation of its traditional allies under President Trump. It’s a missed opportunity that probably won’t come again.
4. Provincial Party boss promotions bonanza
Last week saw a bustle of activity on the personnel front.
The big news: We’ve got four new provincial Party bosses y’all.
First out: Jing Junhai was appointed Party secretary of Jilin.
- Jing is taking over from Bayanqolu, who is stepping down due to having reached retirement age.
A little about Jing:
- Jing is a 78’er, one of the initial cohort of students to enter university after the national entrance exams (gaokao) were reinstated in 1977.
- Jing has spent most of his career in his native Shaanxi province, including serving as vice governor and director of the provincial propaganda department.
- Jing’s big break came in June 2015, when he was appointed deputy director of the Central Propaganda Department.
- He then did a brief eight-month stint as deputy Party secretary of Beijing (April-December 2017).
- Most recently, Jing has served as governor of Jilin since January 2018.
Get smart: Getting promoted at this stage of the political cycle is a big deal. Jing is now in the running for the promotion to the Politburo in 2022.
What to watch: More on the recent appointments coming in tomorrow’s Tip Sheet.
5. Domestic COVID-19 infections pop up in multiple cities
Over the past week, mainland China has seen a resurgence of COVID-19 in several cities.
Since November 17 (Gov.cn):
- Tianjin detected seven confirmed cases among the quarantined close contacts of an initial case discovered on November 8.
- Shanghai reported six confirmed cases linked to Pudong Airport.
- Manzhouli, Inner Mongolia, on the border with Russia, reported two confirmed cases.
In all three cities, the local governments have hastened to stop the spread by:
- Contact tracing and screening
- Widespread testing
- Upgrading epidemic risk levels
A new approach: Different from previous small outbreaks, these have not yet triggered any large-scale citywide testing.
- Shanghai only tested personnel working at Pudong Airport and a local hospital where the positive cases were treated.
- Tianjin only tested residents in Binhai district, where the confirmed cases were initially discovered.
Local governments have been keen to maintain personnel mobility wherever possible:
- Risk levels have been raised on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, instead of on a district level as have been the case before.
Get smart: Given the small number of infections reported and the timely public health response, the outbreaks in these cities are likely under control.
Get smarter: Local authorities are refining their virus response measures to ensure minimal economic disruption.