driving the day
1. Xi-ndiana Jones and the Graft Crusade
On Friday, Xi Jinping spoke at the annual plenary session of the Party’s anti-corruption watchdog – the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).
These meetings are a big deal: All seven Politburo Standing Committee members were in attendance.
Like every year, the meeting focused on the need to continue the fight against corruption (Xinhua 1):
- “For 2021, efforts should be made to ensure that officials don’t dare to, are unable to, and have no desire to commit acts of corruption.”
We thought that this excerpt touched on an important theme (Xinhua 3):
- “We should constantly promote the building of a clean and honest culture within the Party and fight against corruption.”
- “[We must] give full play to the leading…role of comprehensively and strictly administering the Party, and ensure the implementation of the goals and tasks of the 14th Five-Year Plan period is conducted with strong political supervision.”
Get smart: Xi’s anti-corruption crusade is not just about purging rivals and consolidating power. It’s about improving the Party’s governing capabilities.
2. Premier Li meets with business community to discuss 14th Five-Year Plan
On Friday, Premier Li Keqiang chaired a symposium with a few industry experts and business leaders.
The goal: Gather input on the drafts of two key documents.
- The 2021 Government Work Report (GWR)
- The 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) outline
Some context: Between now and the time when the documents are finalized at the Two Sessions in March, top policymakers will be gathering feedback from key government and business stakeholders.
Who attended the symposium:
- Mo Rong, director of the Chinese Academy of Labor and Social Security
- Shao Yu, chief economist of Orient Securities
- He Dongdong, CEO of the cloud computing platform RootCloud
- Ma Jianrong, chairman of clothing manufacturer Shenzhou International Group
- Gao Dengbang, chairman of cement producer Anhui Conch Holdings
What they discussed:
- Boosting employment
- Improving effectiveness of financial policies
- Developing the industrial Internet
- Upgrading traditional industries
Get smart: Stabilizing employment and further supporting small companies will be two of Beijing’s top priorities in 2021 (see the next entry).
3. Premier Li calls for more support for small businesses
Premier Li Keqiang added his two fen during his rap sesh with business leaders (see previous entry).
Li brought up one of his favorite topics: Getting small businesses the support they need.
The premier said it’s all about getting businesses the lifelines they need to avoid going under (Gov.cn 1):
- “If we preserve market entities, we can preserve jobs, and if we preserve jobs, we can stabilize the fundamentals of the economy.”
- “[We] should guide financial institutions to further reduce costs for companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.”
Li called on policymakers to:
- Maintain the continuity, stability, and sustainability of macro policies
- Preserve appropriate fiscal and monetary policies
- Promote scientific and technological innovation
Get smart: None of these policy suggestions are new. Beijing is signaling it will stick to the playbook as it looks to keep small businesses afloat.
What to watch: We’ll know more about what specific measures the government will take after the 14th Five-Year Plan and the 2021 Government Work Report are finalized at the Two Sessions in March.
4. Xi calls Laos party chief
On Thursday, Xi Jinping made a phone call to Thongloun Sisoulith, general secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP).
Some context: Like China, Laos is a one-party state dominated by the communist LPRP.
Xi congratulated Sisoulith on his election to Laos’ top spot earlier in January, saying (MoFA):
- “Upholding the leadership of the communist party and adhering to the socialist orientation are the essential features of China-Laos relations.”
Xi also hailed the rosy state of relations between Beijing and Vientiane:
- “At present, the China-Laos relationship is at its historical best.”
- “China is willing to work with Laos to further strengthen high-level exchanges, enhance strategic communication and deepen experience sharing in governing the Party and country.”
- “The two sides should steadily advance the construction of such large projects as the China-Laos Economic Corridor and the China-Laos Railway.”
During the call, the leaders jointly announced the China-Laos Friendship Year program which will feature a series of unspecified celebrations.
Get smart: At a time when much of Southeast Asia is ambivalent about China, Laos is a strategically important and friendly neighbor.
Get smarter: China is less shy than it used to be about touting its development model abroad, especially to countries with similar political systems.
5. Legislature empowers the coast guard
The national legislature (NPCSC) concluded a three-day session on Friday.
Some context: The NPCSC has started meeting more frequently in order to tackle an ambitious legislative agenda (see Thursday’s Tip Sheet).
The NPCSC passed three laws:
- A revised Animal Epidemic Prevention Law
- A revised Administrative Penalties Law
- Coast Guard Law
The Coast Guard Law has garnered a fair amount of attention.
That’s because it implies that China’s coast guard could become a lot more assertive (NPC Observer):
- “The Coast Guard] is further authorized to “take all necessary measures, including firearms,” to stop foreign organizations or individuals from violating, or posing “an imminent danger” of violating, China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdictional rights.”
That’s not all (Reuters):
- “The bill allows coast guard personnel to demolish other countries’ structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and to board and inspect foreign vessels in waters claimed by China.”
Get smart: China’s coast guard is a relatively new organization. This law helps to clarify its authority.
Get smarter: The new law gives the coast guard wide latitude to employ force.
The bigger picture: China has ongoing maritime disputes with A LOT of countries, in the East and South China Seas. A more assertive coast guard will exacerbate tensions with China’s neighbors – and the United States.
6. New cases drop, demand for tests explodes
The weekend was (relatively) quiet on the corona front.
On Sunday, China added:
- 117 domestically transmitted cases and 29 asymptomatic cases
It appears the recent spread of COVID-19 is nearly under control:
- Hebei, the province worst hit by the recent outbreak, has seen its number of new cases steadily decline.
Meanwhile, the State Council’s new travel rules have sent demand for nucleic acid tests to new highs:
ICYMI: The rules require people traveling to rural hometowns for Chinese New Year to present negative test results (see January 21 Tip Sheet).
Public hospitals and third-party testing agencies are scrambling to meet demand (Caixin):
- “The number of orders [for nucleic acid tests] has increased 40-fold.”
Get smart: As long as local outbreaks remain small and containable, we won’t see hard travel restrictions – just a few extra safety measures.
Get smarter: Those extra safety measures mean lots of testing, so demand for nucleic acid tests will remain high.