politics & policy
1. Xi praises unsung heroes of water diversion
On Thursday, Xi Jinping continued his visit to Henan (see yesterday’s Tip Sheet).
On the itinerary: Several sites related to the central route of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project.
Some context: The massive South-to-North Water Diversion Project aims to bring water from the Yangtze River in southern China to the water-strapped northern plains through three separate canal systems.
- It’s the largest project of its kind.
After checking out the project’s development, Xi tackled a thornier issue:
- Meeting resettled residents.
More context: One of the problems of the central route has been the forced resettlement of around 330,000 people who were living near the project’s Danjiangkou Reservoir.
In Zouzhuang village, Xi thanked residents for their contribution to the country, saying (Xinhua 1):
- “You gave up your homes to enable everyone to have good water to drink.”
- “Everybody benefitting [from this project] and the whole nation should thank you.”
Get smart: Water resource shortages and uneven distribution are major economic bottlenecks for the development of northern China, and top leaders are banking on this mega water diversion project to serve as a much-needed lifeline.
Get smarter: Spinning the casualties lining the project’s path as unsung heroes is a smart – and necessary – move.
2. China founds new disease prevention body
Time to break out your celebratory biohazard suit!
On Thursday, the government officially established the National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention (NBDCP).
Told you so: As we predicted two weeks ago, the NBDCP is a vice-ministerial organization housed under the National Health Commission (see April 29 Tip Sheet).
Now we got some more deets for ya.
The bureau will perform five basic functions (Xinhua):
- Drafting policies and regulations on matters related to public health
- Guiding the construction of the disease control and prevention system
- Planning and overseeing implementation of epidemic monitoring and early warning systems
- Guiding disease control research efforts
- Supervising the public health system
Get smart: The most pressing mission of the NBDCP will be to identify and fix problems related to epidemic detection – and to sort out coordination of vital early action.
Some context: China actually previously built such a system following the SARS health crisis of 2002-03.
- The system’s failure to operate correctly is thought to have been a key factor in the severity of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan.
The bigger picture: The Party’s legitimacy would be hard pressed to survive another public health disaster. It will be all eyes on the NBDCP to make sure that doesn’t happen.
3. Cuz it feels so empty without Mi
At a press conference on Thursday, Ministry of Commerce (MofCom) spokesperson Gao Feng commented on the removal of Xiaomi from a US government blacklist a day prior.
Some context: Back in January, Xiaomi sued the US government after the Trump administration blacklisted the smartphone maker.
- On Wednesday, a court filing revealed the US Department of Defense (DoD) had reached an agreement with Xiaomi and would remove it from the blacklist.
Gao hailed the development:
- “China has always believed that removing sanctions and restrictions and stopping suppression of Chinese companies will benefit China, the United States, and the world.”
The news prompted a 6% rise in Xiaomi’s Hong Kong listed shares on Wednesday, before falling 2.9% on Thursday.
So that’s the end of US-China tech decoupling, right?
Get smart: The DoD’s decision to reverse the ban was procedural, not political.
- The Biden administration has largely followed through on Trump-era policies excluding Chinese companies from US telecom networks.
Get smarter: The politics around tech still look bleak. American mistrust of Chinese tech is at an all-time high.
4. Hu do you think you’re fooling?
Xiaomi’s unbanning wasn’t the only topic of discussion at Thursday’s Ministry of Commerce (MofCom) press conference (see previous entry).
At the presser, MofCom spokesperson Gao Feng denied a recent report by the Wall Street Journal claiming that Chinese leaders are planning to swap Vice Premier Liu He for Vice Premier Hu Chunhua as Beijing’s top trade envoy to the US.
- For our thoughts on the rumored swap, check out yesterday’s Tip Sheet.
Gao was terse in his response (MofCom):
- “As for your second question, this report is not true.”
But Gao was a little more forthcoming on the state of US-China trade relations.
Seizing on US Trade Representative Katherine Tai’s recent comments that she expected to meet with her Chinese counterpart soon, Gao made a subtle plug for reducing tariffs:
- “Unilateral tariff measures are not beneficial to China, the United States, and the world.”
- “The essence of Sino-US economic and trade relations is mutual benefit and win-win cooperation.”
- “The two sides should address each other’s reasonable concerns through dialogue and consultation on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment.”
Get smart: We’re not convinced by Gao’s denial of the Liu-Hu switcheroo.
- Getting two fresh faces at the negotiating table could (maybe) facilitate some progress on US-China trade issues.
Get smarter: Oh and in case you forgot, Chinese officials still really want those tariffs removed.
5. Swearing is caring
On Wednesday, the Hong Kong’s legislature (LegCo) approved a bill that requires public officers to take an oath to uphold the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini constitution – and to swear loyalty to the Hong Kong SAR.
- The new rule will come into force on May 21.
Here’s the kicker: Those who break their oath – or refuse to take it – will be disqualified from public office.
And there’s more: The new oath-taking requirement pertains to everybody – including members of Hong Kong’s 18 District Councils.
Why that’s a Big Deal:
- After the National People’s Congress torpedoed Hong Kong’s electoral system earlier this year (see March 5 Tip Sheet), the district councils have been seen as one of the last strongholds of the anti-government opposition.
Get smart: This bill effectively puts an end to that.
Get smarter: The big moves by Beijing toward Hong Kong’s opposition were implementing the National Security Law and garroting the electoral process.
- This just plugs up some of the remaining holes.