1. Dialing down the temperature
On Monday, Executive Vice Premier Han Zheng chaired the first meeting of the hina-EU High-level Environment and Climate Dialogue with Executive Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans.
Some context: The two sides decided to create the new dialogue in September.
More context: China is set to host the international Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming later this year.
Han made China’s commitment to a healthier planet – and multilateralism – clear (Gov.cn):
- “We should…hold up green cooperation as a bright spot and an engine of China-EU strategic cooperation.”
Timmermans was all for it (Xinhua):
- “He expressed a willingness to expand and deepen EU-China dialogue and cooperation in the field of environment and climate.”
2. Government facilitates labor mobility
On Monday, the National Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA) announced that 15 more provinces will allow cross-provincial settlement of outpatient bills.
- That means that a total of 27 out of 31 provinces now allow cross-provincial settlement or outpatient bills.
- 12 of the 27 provinces have been trialing cross-provincial settlement of outpatient bills since 2018.
- Since 2016, the government has also allowed cross-provincial settlement of inpatient bills.
What it means: People who live or work outside of the city in which they pay their public healthcare insurance can get reimbursed for healthcare bills.
Why it matters: This makes it easier for people to work in cities outside their home province.
And there’s more (Gov.cn 2):
- The Party’s latest action plan to build a better market (see Monday’s Tip Sheet) pledged to make it easier for people to get hukou in cities with a population under five million people.
More context: The hukou system decides a person’s access to public services. It’s a major factor in people’s decision on where to work.
Get smart: For China to sustain economic growth, they must increase macroeconomic efficiency. Creating a better labor market is an important piece of the puzzle.
3. Hu Chunhua extolls virtues of poverty alleviation survey
On Tuesday, Vice Premier Hu Chunhua chaired a meeting of the National Poverty Alleviation Survey Leading Small Group.
Some context: The leading small group was set up last summer to check up on poverty alleviation results and make sure that local officials are telling the truth.
Hu was pleased with their findings, andwants the poverty alleviation story told (Gov.cn):
- “We need to quickly release the survey to… enhance the persuasiveness of our victory against poverty.”
The data collected will also be useful going forward (Gov.cn):
- “We should make full use of the survey to…consolidate and expand poverty alleviation accomplishments.”
- “We must use the survey results as a reference in transitioning areas from poverty alleviation to rural revitalization, to promote effective linkage of supportive policies, funding, and projects.”
Get smart: Following Xi’s declaration of victory over poverty in December 2020, the Party has shifted its focus to rural revitalization (see December 4 Tip Sheet).
4. New Party regs seek to stamp out funny business in local Party elections
On Tuesday, three central authorities (CCDI, COD, and NSC) issued a notice calling for strict supervision of local Party committee elections.
Some context: The Party issued a similar notice in April 2016 (ahead of the 19th Party Congress) after media reports on several local election scandals.
Like last election cycle, officials are explicitly forbidden from (Xinhua 1):
- Forming cliques to seek personal interests
- Vote canvassing and buying
- Lobbying for official posts
- Individual decisions (instead of collective decisions) on appointments
- Using connections to meddle in other organizations’ election work
- Employing people against election procedures
- Leaking election information
- Fabricating personnel documents
What’s new this year (Xinhua 2):
- “[T]he document calls for efforts to guard against obstruction from domestic and overseas hostile forces.”
Get smart: This marks the start of the power transition. Between now and July 2022, Party committees at all levels will be reshuffled – paving the way for the transition at the very top of the Party at the 20th Party Congress in the autumn of 2022.
The bottom line: The Party center doesn’t want anyone – except itself – to have undue influence over the elections.
5. Data dump – the Chinese internet
On Wednesday, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) released its 47th Statistical Report on Internet Development in China.
Some context: The report is released every six months by the CNNIC. It’s the most authoritative source for basic stats on domestic networks and internet users.
- As of December 2020, there are 989 million internet users in China. Based on current growth trends, that number is likely to reach 1 billion by the end of 2021.
- 782 million (79.1%) of those users shop online.
- In 2020, online retail sales reached RMB 11.76 trillion, an increase of 10.9% over 2019.
- The internet penetration rate is 70.4%. That means 29.6% of Chinese citizens still don’t have reliable internet access.
- 900 million people — 91% of the internet-connected population — are using China’s digital health code app for epidemic tracking and control.
- The epidemic accelerated the adoption of remote education and healthcare, with internet access in primary and secondary schools reaching 99.7% nationwide, and 100% of county-level hospitals now supporting telemedicine services.
Get smart: China isn’t just using the internet to fight COVID-19. It’s leveraging epidemic prevention efforts to push forward long-standing tech policy agendas, such as closing the urban-rural digital divide.
6. Don’t screw up – you may be disciplined for COVID-19 overreaction
Domestic COVID-19 outbreaks appear to be under control with only a handful of cases reported.
On Tuesday, China added:
- 15 confirmed cases and five asymptomatic cases – up slightly from 12 confirmed cases and seven asymptomatic cases the day before
Now, Beijing is urging local authorities to avoid excessive epidemic control measures.
- These measures hit the economy and aggravate the public.
On Tuesday, the Party’s watchdog (CCDI) called for strict discipline of overreactions to COVID-19 (CCDI):
- “It’s necessary to…not only ensure that epidemic measures are in place, but also to minimize the impact of epidemic control on people’s quality of life and maximize the stable operation of the economy and society.”
Some context: The CCDI plays an important role in evaluating local officials’ performance. That means that when the CCDI speaks, officials listen.
Get smart: Local officials have consistently been punished and reprimanded for under-reacting or covering up COVID-19.
- Authorities now want to make sure local officials know that overkill is also off-limits.
Get smarter: Overuse of too-strict containment measures hurts local economies and annoys the public. Beijing doesn’t want to burn through popular support for epidemic control before vaccination is complete.