driving the day
1. Model workers meetup
On Tuesday, Xi Jinping spoke at a massive ceremony to honor model workers held at the Great Hall of the People.
Xi’s message (People’s Daily):
- “Model workers are the elite of the nation, models for the people, and heroes of the republic.”
Some context: Model workers are workers who have made a significant contribution to the country through their work. The Party has been honoring them since 1950.
More context: Since 1995, these ceremonies are held every five years. In 2015, the already high honor was elevated further – now all Politburo Standing Committee members attend the proceedings.
Xi highlighted the role of skilled workers in China’s development:
- “Skilled workers are the…foundation that supports China’s manufacturing and creation.”
- “We must prepare the working class and the laboring masses…[for] a new journey.”
He said the Party remains committed to China’s workers:
- “It is necessary to give the work of stabilizing employment a higher priority.”
- “[We must] increase the income of workers, gradually establish a multi-level social security system, and improve labor safety and health conditions.”
Get smart: Stable employment, rising incomes, and an upskilled work force are prerequisites for hitting the Party’s 2035 growth goals.
2. Premier Li promises “reasonable” growth
On Tuesday, Premier Li Keqiang met via video with the heads of the:
- World Bank
- International Monetary Fund
- World Trade Organization
- International Labor Organization
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
- Financial Stability Board
Some context: The so called “6+1 roundtable” has been held on an annual basis since 2016.
This comment by Li is what’s getting all the attention (Gov.cn 3):
- “He said China is confident in reaching positive economic growth this year, and expressed expectations for the economic performance to come back into a reasonable range next year.”
Get smart: Li has said multiple times in recent weeks that he expects growth in 2021 to be in a “reasonable range.” That has raised expectations for strong growth next year.
Reality check: Li has also been signaling that the government will dial back its supportive measures next year, but nobody seems to be paying attention to those statements.
Our take: Observers are overly optimistic about China’s growth prospects in 2021.
3. Xi speaks with Merkel
On Tuesday, it was Xi Jinping’s turn to make nice with Europe.
In a phone call with German chancellor Angela Merkel, Xi called for continued EU-China cooperation (SCMP):
- “China and the EU should strive to be mutually respectful and grasp the main themes of dialogue and win-win cooperation.”
Fun scheduling fact: The call happened just hours after European leaders spoke to US President-elect Joe Biden, promising to rebuild the transatlantic partnership.
Xi shared his concerns on a potential European crackdown on Chinese SOEs:
- “’We hope that Germany and the European Union will remain open to Chinese companies,’ Xi told Merkel.”
And reiterated earlier promises:
- Xi vowed to spare no effort to finish the EU-China investment treaty (CAI) by the end of 2020.
Merkel sounded a bit less enthusiastic:
- “She congratulated China on signing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)…adding that she hoped to ‘put in more efforts’ to conclude the investment deal between the EU and China.”
Get smart: CAI has been under negotiation for years and several thorny issues are still left unsolved, including on ICT standards, trade unions, and human rights.
Get smarter: Overcoming increasing European skepticism and promise fatigue and getting this deal over the finish line before year-end would be a gargantuan feat for Xi and co.
4. Wang Yi walks the Tokyo tightrope
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Tokyo for a meeting with his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi.
Some context: The state of Sino-Japanese relations is…complicated.
The two countries have plenty of points of contention including:
- Disputes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands
- Japan’s alignment with the increasingly anti-China “Quad” along with the US, Australia, and India
- Japanese alarm over China’s human rights crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang
But there’s also quite a lot of common ground, including:
- Deep economic ties between Beijing and Tokyo, including mutual membership in the recently inked Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
- A shared commitment to becoming carbon neutral by the middle of the century
And then there’s the known unknown:
- Wang wants to find out how Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s new prime minister, will approach bilateral relations.
So far, Wang has opted to emphasize the good and downplay the bad (Reuters):
- “[Wang and Motegi] agreed to cooperate on trade and fighting the coronavirus, but maintained their stances on territorial disputes.”
Get smart: Sino-Japanese relations have thawed somewhat in recent years, only to be set back by China’s aggressive handling of territorial claims.
Get smarter: Beijing doesn’t want Tokyo drawn into Washington’s anti-China orbit, so it’s prepared to play nice for now.
5. No granny left behind
On Tuesday, the State Council released a policy aimed at encouraging the public sector to improve tech accessibility for senior citizens over a three-year period from 2020-2022.
Some context: As daily processes move into the digital and mobile realms, a widening digital knowledge gap is leaving China’s elderly behind.
The policy specifically focuses on areas where the elderly may struggle to use digitized basic services, including:
- Emergency services
- Medical treatment
- Financial services
- Sports and culture
- Government services
Fun fact: It isn’t only the government that has recognized the growing need to accommodate senior users. Alibaba released a series of senior citizen features – including shared digital wallets and an “ask my kids” chat feature – for its popular ecommerce app Taobao earlier last year.
Get smart: China is facing a demographic crisis. By the year 2050, an estimated 35% of Chinese citizens will be over the age of 65.
Get smarter: Over the next three decades, businesses operating in China will increasingly need to optimize customer-facing products for accessibility.
6. Hunan gets a new Party boss
Remember those four provincial Party secretary appointments we got you all excited about yesterday (see yesterday’s Tip Sheet)?
Here number two: Last week, Xu Dazhe was appointed Party boss of Hunan.
- Xu is taking over the job from Du Jiahao, who is stepping down due to having reached retirement age.
A little about Xu:
- An aerospace engineer by training, Xu has worked in the aerospace industry for most of his career.
- Xu headed the China National Space Administration between December 2013 and August 2016.
- Since September 2016, Xu has served as governor of his native Hunan.
- Xu is one of three recently appointed provincial Party bosses to have made the leap from the aerospace industry to provincial politics.
Some context: Aerospace industry veterans Zhang Guoqing and Yuan Jiajun got promoted earlier this fall (see September 2 Tip Sheet).
Get smart: China’s military-industrial complex is playing a more important role in politics under Xi Jinping.
Get smarter: The promotion puts Xu in contention for a Politburo seat in 2022.