1. CPPCC gets to work (report)
The Two Sessions officially got underway Thursday with the opening of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) annual sessions.
- The CPPCC kicked things off with an annual work report delivered by none other than CPPCC Chairman and 4th-ranked Party official Wang Yang.
Some context: The CPPCC is somewhat akin to the House of Lords in the UK – it feeds into government policy and legislation, but has no real authority.
More context: The CPPCC is supposed to provide a channel for non-Party groups and individuals to contribute to the policymaking process.
- In practice, the CPPCC acts more as an instrument for getting the Party’s message to non-Party groups.
Wang highlighted a couple of the CPPCC’s accomplishments in 2020:
- They organized nearly 100 study sessions on fun themes like “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era” and “building a strong sense of community among the Chinese nation.”
- They also upped their digital game, claiming over 60 million visits to a website devoted to the Civil Code, which was passed in May last year.
Get smart: In Xi’s China, the space for differing points of view has narrowed considerably.
2. CPPCC report reflects tougher line on HK, Taiwan
We paid extra-close attention to what Wang Yang had to say about Hong Kong and Taiwan in today’s CPPCC work report (see entry above).
Some context: As the Party’s key channel for liaising with non-Party groups, the CPPCC is deeply involved in policy towards Hong Kong and Taiwan.
On Hong Kong, Wang said that the CPPCC will:
- “Firmly support the full implementation of the principle of ‘patriots ruling Hong Kong’… [and] conduct research and consultation on strengthening patriotic education for the youth of Hong Kong and Macau.”
When it comes to Taiwan, the CPPCC will:
- “Unite the sons and daughters of China at home and abroad to jointly promote the great cause of national reunification.”
What wasn’t mentioned: One country, two systems.
Get smart: Xi Jinping has taken a tougher line on both Hong Kong and Taiwan.
- On Hong Kong, he appears to have succeeded in bringing the city to heel.
- In Taiwan, the approach has backfired, and peaceful reunification looks like an increasingly distant possibility.
What to watch: Premier Li Keqiang is also expected to discuss Taiwan briefly in his Government Work Report tomorrow. Last year he “forgot” to say that the Party wants “peaceful” reunification. Will he make the same slip this year?
3. CPPCC holds pre-Two Sessions presser
On Wednesday, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) held a press conference ahead of the Two Sessions (see previous two entries).
CPPCC spokesperson Guo Weimin explained the rationale for this year’s shorter event (Sina):
- “[It] summarizes the experience of last year’s [shorter] meeting [and] takes into account the requirements of epidemic prevention and control.”
- “Last year, we reduced staff, simplified documents, and combined online and offline events. [It proved] very successful.”
Some context: The Two Sessions will last just 6.5 days this year, as opposed to the usual 10 days.
Guo also offered his thoughts on China’s tanking image in the west:
- “I think the reasons are complicated, some foreigners don’t know about China and some are misled by anti-China politicians.”
- “This has created a negative impact on some…westerners.”
Guo’s solution: More foreign exchange, more cooperation – and more foreign tourism to China.
Our question: Do Chinese leaders really believe that China’s poor public image in the west is only due to a few hardliner anti-China politicians?
- If so, they’ve missed genuine concern about detentions in Xinjiang, repression in Hong Kong, and insulting wolf warrior diplomacy.
4. Industrial chain gang
On Monday, the Ministry of Commerce (MofCom) announced that – for the first time – it would develop a dedicated Five-Year Plan on utilizing foreign investment.
The ministry’s objective: Boosting innovation by setting up a metric buttload of foreign-funded RD centers (MofCom):
- “We will lower the threshold for foreign RD centers [to enjoy preferential policies]…and guide foreign investors to increase investment in scientific and technological innovation in China.”
That’s because MofCom thinks foreign capital can help China stabilize its supply chains.
- Under the plan, major multinationals that are critical to global supply networks can expect VIP treatment.
But MofCom isn’t rolling out the red carpet for just anybody.
- “Major foreign-funded projects in key fields should conform to the national industrial development plan, and go through relevant procedures…so as to avoid blind investment and repeated construction.”
Get smart: Both US sanctions and calls for increased domestic consumption under the Dual Circulation Strategy have left policymakers obsessed with securing China’s supply chains and becoming technologically self-sufficient.
Get smarter: Attracting foreign capital is one thing. Ensuring that it’s invested effectively to achieve national objectives is quite another.
- Such efforts will put foreign companies in a tight spot with their increasingly China-wary home governments.
5. China’s slow pace of vaccination starts to worry health experts
Chinese health experts are becoming increasingly concerned about the country’s vaccine rollout.
That was the message from a virtual event where experts spoke with the DC-based Brookings Institution on Monday.
The key stat (Caixin):
- By late February, less than 4% of China’s population had received a dose of vaccine.
- That compares with 30% in the UK and 22% in the U.S.
The pace is picking up, but not quickly enough (Reuters)
- China should be able to fully vaccinate 40% of the population by late July.
Some context: Zhang Wenhong, director of the infectious disease department at Shanghai’s Huashan Hospital, estimates that China needs to vaccinate 70% of the population to reach herd immunity.
What to watch: Now that China has officially approved four total vaccines – one of which requires just one dose – things will speed up.
- The huge population means China needs around 1.7 billion doses of vaccines to reach herd immunity.
- We still don’t see that in the cards for China this year.
Get smart: China is doing well ramping up vaccine production – but getting jabs in arms is another story.
Get smarter: Since China’s COVID control system is still working well, a slow vaccine rollout has less severe implications than in other countries.