1. No policy cliff ahead
Policy support for China’s economic recovery will continue in 2021.
- That was the message from Yan Pengcheng, director of the National Development and Reform Commission’s general office, on Tuesday.
Yan elaborated that ongoing support would be focused in two key areas:
- Supporting small and medium-sized businesses
- Boosting consumption
- Increase the number of license plates available to encourage auto sales
- Incentivize households to upgrade their electrical appliances
- Develop the rental market for housing
- Promote the quality of aged care, childcare, and housekeeping services
- Promote online services like games, sports, and healthcare
- Improve rural areas’ access to e-commerce
Get smart: Promoting consumption is central to Xi Jinping’s dual circulation strategy for putting the economy on a sustainable trajectory.
Get smarter: Don’t read too much into Yan’s comments. Beijing remains committed to extricating itself from the emergency stimulus measures it rolled out to deal with the pandemic. That process will be gradual.
Get super smart: Pandemic support measures are on the way out, but pro-consumption measures are on the way in.
2. United we work
On Monday, heads of United Front Work Departments (UFWD) from across the country met up in Beijing.
Some context: The UFWD liaises with non-Party groups to make sure they are down with the Party agenda. Such groups include businesses, religious organizations, ethnic minorities, and overseas Chinese.
Present at the meeting was Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Yang.
Wang reminded everybody of the importance of united front work (Xinhua 2):
- “[We need to unite] all possible strengths and pooling all possible elements in the country’s united front work to ensure a good start for fully building a modern socialist country.”
Then Wang got down to business:
- “He urged forging a strong sense of community of the Chinese nation to do a good job in the work on ethnic affairs, and providing better guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society.”
Get smart: How to deal with ethnic tensions in Xinjiang, Tibet, and other areas of western China are some of the most pressing issues facing the Party.
Get smarter: Wang’s remarks underline a shift in Beijing’s ethnic minority policy. The focus is now on assimilating ethnic minorities instead of granting them greater autonomy.
3. State Council automates business name registration
On Tuesday, the State Council issued revised regulations on registering business names.
- The updated rules will come into effect on March 1.
Why it matters: The old process to register a company name was a minor exercise in masochism.
- You’d have to get an approval of the name before you even started to register the company itself, taking loads of effort and time.
The revised regs replace the old procedure with a more automated system.
- Applicants can now submit their business name to an online “business name application system” and get instant approval.
- Having a registered name is no longer a precondition for applying for business registration.
Some context: The change to a better system started in 2018.
Don’t get too excited. Some names are off-limits (Gov.cn):
- “Business names are not allowed if they hurt the country’s dignity or interests; go against social and public interests or order; discriminate based on ethnicity, race, religion, or gender; violate good morals…; or are likely to deceive the public or cause misunderstandings.”
Get smart: This is part of Premier Li Keqiang’s larger initiative to make it easier to start a business.
4. NPCSC to meet more
Avid Tip Sheet readers know that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) holds a legislative session once every two months.
That’s about to change:
- According to a post on the NPC’s WeChat account on Tuesday, more frequent sessions are to be the “new normal.”
Some context: The NPCSC is legally allowed to hold additional sessions when “special circumstances” arise.
More context: In 2020, NPCSC held three such additional sessions – including the one to approve the national security law for Hong Kong (see June 22 Tip Sheet).
Here’s how the NPCSC explains their new schedule (NPC WeChat Account via The Paper):
- “Although the NPC’s work has its own rhythm, it is not set in stone.”
- “With a sense of urgency, [we] will proactively implement the decisions from the Party center and better respond to people’s new expectation for a beautiful life.”
Get smart: The legislature has an ambitious legislative agenda. Meeting more makes a lot of sense.
Get smarter: It’s easy to dismiss China’s legislature as a mere rubber stamp, but their influence is growing (see also January 11 Tip Sheet).
5. COVID-19 containment efforts refocus on Beijing
On Tuesday, new COVID-19 cases were on the decline in most provinces.
- Hebei added 19 confirmed cases and 5 asymptomatic cases.
- Heilongjiang added 16 confirmed cases and 31 asymptomatic cases.
- Jilin, where cases finally declined slightly, added 46 confirmed cases and 7 asymptomatic cases.
But Beijing recorded seven new confirmed cases – the highest daily number since December 28.
- Six of the seven new cases are in Beijing’s Daxing district.
Local authorities acted fast, implementing “precision” controls:
- In five neighborhoods with confirmed cases, residents are now prohibited from leaving their homes.
- In areas immediately surrounding these five neighborhoods, office buildings, factories, public facilities, and restaurants were shuttered.
- Across Daxing, all residents are being tested, public spaces are subject to a 50% capacity cap, public transit is capped at 75% capacity, and schools have switched to online teaching.
- Beijing subways and buses are instructed to pass through the infected areas without stopping.
Get smart: The measures implemented in Daxing exemplify what the central government has been asking all local authorities to do – control any local COVID-19 outbreaks with strict, but precise, measures.
Get smarter: Minimizing disruptions to the economy is (almost) as important as controlling the epidemic.