1. Party launches history education campaign
On Saturday, Party officials launched a brand spankin’ new governance campaign.
- The campaign’s aim: fostering study of Party history.
Some context: The campaign is part of the buildup to the Party’s 100th anniversary this summer.
- This is a big deal: All seven Politburo Standing Committee members attended the campaign’s kick-off meeting.
For Xi Jinping, the campaign is all about reviving faith in Party ideology:
- “We must educate and guide the whole Party in understanding how, through the extraordinary experiences of the Party, Marxism has profoundly changed China, and profoundly changed the world.”
Quelle surprise!Xi’s also using the campaign to promote his political agenda:
- “In particular, it is necessary to deeply study and understand the Party’s theoretical innovations in the new era in the light of the historical achievements and changes in the cause of the Party and the state since the 18th Party Congress.”
In case you forgot: Xi took over the Party at the 18th Party Congress in 2012.
The campaign also aims to enable better governance outcomes:
- “If we win the trust and support of the people, the Party will be able to overcome any difficulties and be invincible.”
Our question: How will the campaign treat contentious areas of Party history like the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution?
2. Xi links new development concept to reform
On Friday, Xi Jinping chaired a meeting of the Central Committee for Comprehensively Deepening Reform (CCCDR).
Some context: The CCCDR was established amid the massive institutional reforms that took place in March 2018. It’s the Party’s most important policymaking body.
Xi took the opportunity to stress the importance of reform (China Daily):
- “[He] underlined the key role of comprehensively deepening reform in fostering the country’s new development paradigm.”
More context: Xi began fleshing out the “new development concept” in 2015 as his overall approach to economic development.
In response, the CCCDR approved seven policy documents on (CPC People):
- Improving price control mechanisms for commodities that are important to people’s livelihoods
- Promoting high quality development of public hospitals
- Strengthening pharmaceutical sector supervision capacity
- Establishing a promotion system for management roles at institutions below the county-level
- Exploring market-based, sustainable ways to value ecological products
- Preventing the emergence of overreaching local officials
- Strengthening governance of pre-trial conflict mediation systems
Get smart: Focusing on issues close to the heart of the average citizen – like the price of necessities, the quality of healthcare, and cracking down on local corruption – will boost enthusiasm for the new development concept…and the Party.
3. Steady as Xi goes
At the CCCDR meeting on Friday (see previous entry), the commission also discussed and approved a document outlining reform priorities for 2021.
Key areas for reform highlighted at the meeting include:
- Pursuing high-level independence in scientific innovation
- Expanding domestic demand
- Pushing for high-level financial opening
- Promoting the shift to green development
The readout also outlined steps to improve successful implementation of reforms:
- Reform systems must be better integrated into the overall policymaking process
- There must be a sense of innovation to promote a more efficient and inspiring reform environment
Get smart: None of the areas for reform outlined at the meeting are new.
- Beijing is happy with its current policy direction and is now focusing on execution.
What to watch: What the CCCDR discusses today becomes policy tomorrow.
4. Party commemorates Hua Guofeng
Speaking of Party history (see entry #1), CCP bigwigs paid tribute to a controversial former leader over the weekend.
On Saturday, the Party hosted a symposium commemorating the 100th birthday of the late CCP Chairman Hua Guofeng.
The event was a big deal: (Xinhua 2)
- Wang Huning and Han Zheng – China’s fifth and seventh highest ranking officials, respectively – both attended.
A little about Hua:
- Hua was Mao’s chosen successor, and became the head of the Party after Mao died in September 1976.
- Although he officially remained head of the Party until 1981, he was effectively sidelined after Deng Xiaoping reasserted control over the Party in 1978.
- His biggest contribution to China’s political development was ending the Cultural Revolution.
- Given his short and turbulent tenure, official Party narratives rarely mention Hua.
Get smart: The Party has strict rules about which officials should attend former top leaders’ centenary birth commemorations.
- As former leaders go, Hua’s lineup of eulogists was less impressive than many.
Even so, Wang Huning wanted cadres to learn at least one thing from Hua (Xinhua 1):
- “Loyalty to the Party is the number one requirement at all times.”
Editors note: Wang’s message doesn’t seem particularly unique to Hua’s commemoration.
Get smart: History doesn’t repeat itself, though it often rhymes…but only if the Party tells it to.
5. 2021 No. 1 Document on rural policy released
On Sunday, the Party Central Committee and the State Council released the No. 1 Document for 2021.
The topic: Promoting rural development and modernizing the agriculture sector.
That’s no surprise: For nearly two decades, the first policy document drafted each year has focused on rural development – reflecting the Party’s prioritization of the issue.
Top of the 2021 agenda: Transitioning from the successful poverty alleviation campaign (see December 4 Tip Sheet) into a longer-term “rural revitalization strategy.”
- Rural revitalization aims to prevent people backsliding into poverty by developing rural industries.
Other highlights from this year’s No. 1 Document include:
- Boosting rural consumption – an initiative linked with broader efforts to expand domestic consumption
- Improving agricultural breeding research – a theme that first popped up at the Central Economic Work Conference in December (see January 4 Tip Sheet)
Get smart: The Party’s rural development priorities have been clear for a while – implementation is the tricky part.
That’s why this jumped out at us: The document proposes evaluating officials’ performance using rural revitalization benchmarks.
- A similar system was used to evaluate poverty alleviation results.
Get smarter: Local officials tend to work hardest on what will improve their chances of a promotion – so the new evaluation system should bolster rural revitalization efforts.
6. Pretty NARRly
Did you hear that? It’s the sweet, sweet sound of a minor government restructuring.
What we’re on about: Sometime in the past few weeks, the central government set up a new body called the National Administration of Rural Revitalization (NARR).
Here’s the facts:
- The February 16 issue of Qiushi, the Party’s top theoretical journal, published an article authored by the NARR Party group, marking the new agency’s official debut.
- A documentary about poverty alleviation co-produced by NARR has been airing on state television since last Thursday.
- Several NARR officials made appearances in the documentary.
There hasn’t yet been any official word on the scope of the body’s remit, but here’s what we know:
- NARR is basically a repackaged version of the State Council’s Leading Group on Poverty Alleviation and Development.
- NARR is a vice-ministerial level body directly under the State Council, which puts it on par with agencies like the National Healthcare Security Administration.
- MARA, the agricultural ministry, will oversee it on behalf of the State Council, given NARR’s focus on rural issues.
- Wang Zhengpu, the Party’s former chief HR cadre in Sichuan and a veteran agricultural official, could head NARR.
Get smart: NARR’s creation is no surprise. The Party has been signaling for four years that rural revitalization would be the successor to the poverty alleviation campaign.
7. Gov means never having to say you’re sorry
On Monday, Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered an address on US-China relations.
The title of Wang’s speech: Righting the Wrongs and Committing to Mutual Respect and Win-win Cooperation.
No points for guessing who Wang pinned the “wrongs” on (MoFA):
- “The root cause [of bilateral tensions] was that the previous U.S. administration…seriously distorted China’s future path and policy, and…took various measures to suppress and contain China.”
Not to worry, Wang proposed several steps to repair relations, including:
- Non-interference in each other’s internal affairs
- Managing differences through dialogue
- Seeking cooperation on key areas like COVID-19, climate change, and global economic recovery
- Resuming people-to-people and other forms of bilateral exchange
Wang also had several specific asks of US policymakers, including to:
- Stop undermining China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Taiwan
- Remove unreasonable tariffs on Chinese goods and restrictions on Chinese technology companies
- Lift restrictions on Chinese cultural groups and media outlets operating in the US and on Chinese students studying at American universities
Get smart: Though framed as a call for reconciliation, Wang’s speech sounds more like a list of conditions for Washington to meet to get back in Beijing’s good graces.
Get smarter: The Biden administration ain’t biting.