1. Propaganda push to focus on COVID control
On Thursday, Xinhua reported that the Office of the Central Guidance Commission on Building Spiritual Civilization (CGCBSC) had issued a notice to promote a civilized, healthy, and green lifestyle.
In plain English: The Party is launching a healthy lifestyle PR campaign.
Some context: The CGCBSC was founded in 1997. Tasked with making the population more “civilized,” it is one of China’s most important ideological steering bodies.
Combatting COVID-19 is top of mind (Xinhua):
- “[A]ctivities popularizing epidemic prevention and control knowledge should be widely carried out.”
- “[This is] especially [important]…in rural areas during winter and spring.”
Everybody needs to get on board:
- “Media at all levels [should] promote and do in-depth reporting on the purpose and practice of living a civilized, healthy, and green lifestyle.”
- “[We must] mobilize a vast number of volunteers and voluntary service organizations to carry out targeted activities.”
Such activities include:
- Publishing health-related information
- Undertaking epidemic investigation and inspection work
- Offering care services and mental health counseling
Get smart: After having put a damper on travel for the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday, the Party wants to make sure that the average Zhang stays committed to the pandemic prevention cause.
2. How much does a polar bear weigh?
On Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang spoke via videolink at a Chinese New Year event held by the 48 Group Club.
History lesson: The 48 Group Club is a British non-profit devoted to promoting trade between the UK and China.
- The club is named for the delegation of 48 British businessmen – colloquially known as the icebreakers – who travelled to China in 1954 to reestablish trade relations following the founding of the PRC.
Li paid tribute to the original icebreakers (Gov.cn 2):
- “Sixty-eight years ago, far-sighted personages from the British business community…open[ed] the door to trade between China and the UK.”
Li also expressed his hope that their spirit would live on:
- “The UK is China’s important partner in Europe, and China values Sino-UK relations as always.”
- “It is expected that the two sides can stick to…win-win cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and equality [and] expand the positive aspects of cooperation.”
This is awkward: Sino-British relations have become increasingly strained in recent months.
- The latest blow came a day after Li’s speech, when the UK pulled Chinese broadcaster CGTN’s broadcasting license over its ties to the Party.
Get smart: Rather than enjoying a spring thaw, ties between Beijing and London look set for a deep freeze.
3. Food safety committee meets ahead of CNY
On Thursday, Executive Vice Premier Han Zheng convened a meeting of the State Council’s food safety committee.
Han’s message: Food safety requires the strictest possible governance.
Some context: There’s always a food safety enforcement push in the run-up to Chinese New Year (CNY) each year. That’s because holiday celebrations involve a lot of feasting.
- Food prices hit their annual peak around CNY as consumers stock up and splurge on holiday treats
The problem: The high food prices can incentivize some to cut corners on safety.
Han made it clear who will bear responsibility for food safety screw-ups (Gov.cn):
- “For violations…accountability will fall on business owners and legal persons.”
Han also linked food safety work with another high-profile public health battle, calling on officials to:
- “Study the experience and methods from combatting COVID-19.”
- “Continue making people’s lives, safety, and physical health the top priority.”
Get smart: Public satisfaction with the government is high after authorities managed to beat back the coronavirus.
- Leaders are starting to test out how to take advantage of this success in new arenas – like the long-fought battle for public trust on food safety.
4. Zhenhua’s back, alright!
On Thursday, the South China Morning Post reported that Xie Zhenhua had been reappointed as China’s special climate envoy, according to sources.
A little about Xie:
- He was previously China’s head climate diplomat for over a decade and was involved with the negotiation of the Paris Agreement.
- He stepped down from the post in early 2020 and has since served as a senior advisor to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and dean of Tsinghua University’s Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development.
And check this: Xie’s also worked with the US’s newly appointed climate czar, John Kerry.
Xie is an interesting choice given his age:
- At 71, Xie is well past the retirement age for officials of his rank.
- Only a select few heavy hitters are brought back off the bench post-retirement.
Get smart: Bringing a seasoned climate wonk and negotiator out of retirement sends a signal that China is getting (even more) serious about tackling climate change.
Get smarter: Under the Obama administration, climate was the sweet spot for Sino-US relations. Xie’s (re-)appointment indicates that Beijing wants to rekindle this aspect of the relationship.
5. More people get jabbed
No surprises for you on the corona front.
On Thursday, China added:
- 5 confirmed cases and 3 asymptomatic cases in Heilongjiang
- 2 asymptomatic cases in Jilin
- 1 confirmed case in Shanghai, linked to previous cases
Also on Thursday, the State Council COVID-19 Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism held a press conference and announced some good news on vaccination progress:
- As of February 3, China had administered 31.236 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Some context: As of January 26, China had administered 22.7 million doses of vaccines. By January 31, that number went up to 24 million (see February 1 Tip Sheet).
A bit of quick math: Since January 26, it looks like China has administered around a million vaccine doses per day, on average.
Get smart: The numbers may look big, but keep in mind that China has 1.4 billion people to vaccinate, and each individual needs two doses of vaccine to be fully protected against COVID-19.