1. COVID keeps spreading in China
The COVID-19 outbreaks in multiple Chinese cities show little sign of receding.
On Monday, China reported (NHC):
- 61 new domestically transmitted symptomatic cases – up from 55 on Sunday.
- 23 new domestically transmitted asymptomatic cases – down from 44 on Sunday.
The good news: The outbreak isdying out in Nanjing, where this round of infections first started.
The bad news: COVID is ramping up in other regions.
Of the 84 total new infections on Monday, there were:
- Five in Nanjing, Jiangsu
- 40 in Yangzhou, Jiangsu
- Three in Zhuzhou, Hunan
- One in Xiangtan, Hunan
- Four in Zhangjiajie, Hunan
- Eight in Wuhan, Hubei
- One in Huanggang, Hubei
- 16 in Zhengzhou, Henan
- One in Shangqiu, Henan
- Two in Ruili, Yunnan
- One in Xiamen, Fujian
- One in Beijing
- One in Shanghai
This is positive: As of Monday, China had administered a total of 1.69 billion vaccine doses – up from 1.56 billion doses a week ago.
- That means last week’s daily administered doses averaged 17.54 million – up from the average of 14.08 million the week before.
But, but, but: That may not mean anything given most people infected in this round are sick with the Delta variant.
Delta appears vaccine-resistant:
- Although four Chinese COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers recently reiterated that their vaccines are “effective” against the Delta variant, most new cases identified in the early days of the Nanjing outbreak had been vaccinated already.
Get smart: The government remains focused on getting as many people fully vaccinated as possible.
- The big question now is whether they should also start focusing on getting vaccinated individuals booster shots as well.
2. SAMR updates its social credit rules
China’s powerful market regulator is standardizing its own little corner of the Social Credit System (SCS), aka the national blacklist.
On Sunday, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) finalized two documents to update its social credit procedures.
Some context: Under the SCS, each Chinese state agency controls its own blacklist for companies that violate regulations within that agency’s jurisdiction.
- The new documents cover how companies get on – and off – SAMR’s list of “seriously dishonest” entities.
In addition to general violations, the documents list specific violations in the food, pharma, and equipment sectors that will result in blacklisting, including:
- Unsafe or unlicensed food production
- Production and sale of unregistered Class II and Class III medical devices
- Illegal production or sale of drugs (including vaccines)
- Filling and storing pressurized vessels unsafely
The documents also clarify:
- The conditions for restoring bad credit
- Which documents should be submitted for credit repair
They also specify who gets to make blacklisting decisions: County- and municipal-level SAMR branches need approval from higher-level SAMR offices to blacklist companies.
Get smart: The SCS is evolving meet to regulatory challenges as they emerge – such as shoddy COVID vaccines and explosions caused by unsafely stored gas canisters.
- This is what the SCS was built to do.
3. Heads will roll
On Monday, the Henan authorities updated the official death toll from disastrous flooding that hit the province in late July (Xinhua):
- As of noon on Monday, there are now 302 confirmed fatalities.
- 292 of these victims were in provincial capital Zhengzhou.
Henan authorities further announced that:
- 50 people are still missing.
- The province is still providing emergency shelter for 933,800 people.
- Over 14 million people in the province were affected by the flooding.
Our take: Tragically, we expect the death toll may continue to rise as a full accounting of impacts in smaller towns and rural areas becomes possible.
Henan officials are in the hot seat: Within hours of the Henan update, the State Council announced it had set up a team to investigate the disaster – and evaluate local authorities’ response.
The team will (Gov.cn):
- “Summarize disaster response experience and lessons, and propose improvements to disaster prevention and mitigation measures.”
- “Hold [authorities] accountable for dereliction of duty in accordance with laws and regulations.”
Translation: Heads are gonna roll.
Get smart: It’s pretty hard to respond to a “once-in-a-thousand-years” flood.
Get smarter: Most climate models predict extreme weather events like this will grow more common – and Beijing wants to be ready.
4. I don’t know but I been told…to follow the Party
Are you ready for some Politburo study session goodness?
- Well, get ready to chow down.
On Friday, Xi Jinping presided over a study session on “Strengthening National Defense and Modernizing the Army”.
Some context: This topic is a BIG DEAL for Xi. He has made modernizing the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) one of his signature policy initiatives.
The big guy didn’t beat around the bush:
- “We must persist in strengthening the overall planning of war and make preparations for military struggle.” (SCMP)
- “A strong country must have a strong military. Only a strong military can ensure national security.” (People.cn)
In a separate article published in Qiushi – the Party’s leading theoretical journal – Xi said that absolute loyalty was the secret sauce to China’s military modernization:
- “We should…do a good job in arming officers and soldiers with the thought of socialism with Chinese characteristics…and ensure that the army is absolutely loyal, pure and reliable.”
Get smart: As far as Xi is concerned, ideological loyalty is at least as important as modern weapons and tactics.
Get smarter: Facing a more bellicose US, and increased political instability around its borders, China’s military upgrade has taken on added urgency.
5. Procuratorate expands its legal supervision
On Monday, the CCP Central Committee dropped a document called Opinions on Strengthening Procuratorate Organs’ Legal Supervision Work in the New Era.
Stay with us on this one.
Some context: The Supreme People’s Procuratorate acts as prosecutor in China’s judicial system, but has a broader responsibility for legal supervision than in many Western countries.
More context: That means the procuratorate can check on the legality of criminal litigation, civil litigation, administrative litigation, and public interest litigation.
The document aims to give the procuratorate more power to supervise those last three types of litigation. It can (Gov.cn):
- Correct the administration’s illegal exercise of authority
- Get involved in civil cases where plaintiffs or defendants suspect judges are bending the law
- Contest courts’ obviously improper convictions, sentencing and illegal trial procedures
Businesses beware. The procuratorate will bring more public interest cases in areas including:
- Environment and natural resource protection
- Food and drug safety
And they’re looking to expand their power to sue for better:
- Work safety
- Personal information protection
Get smart: Contrary to conventional wisdom, China’s Party-state is not monolithic. There are numerous checks and balances built into the system.
Get smarter: This smacks of a turf war, with the procuratorate clawing back a little more power. Hopefully the public benefits.
6. Wang steps up in Inner Mongolia
Hold on to your horses, grasslanders.
On Monday, Wang Lixia was appointed deputy Party secretary of Inner Mongolia.
That’s not all: With this promotion, she’s slated to take over as chairwoman (i.e. head of government) of this nominally autonomous region.
A little about Wang:
- Wang was born in Liaoning and is of Mongolian ethnicity.
- She started off in academia, at the Xi’an Institute of Statistics (1985-2000).
- After earning a doctorate degree in finance, Wang served at the Shaanxi Statistics Bureau for 11 years (2000-2011), ultimately as director.
- Wang then served as vice governor of Shaanxi (2013-2016) and head of Inner Mongolia’s United Front Work Department (2016-2019).
- In August 2019, Wang became the only female Party secretary of a provincial capital in China (the Inner Mongolian capital, Hohhot).
- Wang is an alternate member of the 19th Central Committee (2017-2022).
Get smart: Wang will replace current chairperson Bu Xiaolin – herself one of only three women to hold a top leadership job in the provinces (the others are in Guizhou and Ningxia).
- Bu has been rumored to have health issues since passing out at a government meeting this year.
Get smarter: This promotion will earn Wang a seat on the 20th Central Committee (2022-2027).
7. Evaluating sci-tech achievements
We’re doing great. But just how great?
On Monday, the State Council released guidelines for the evaluation of China’s sci-tech achievements.
The overarching goal: Boost the commercialization of scientific research.
- But first, the government needs a good evaluation system to decide which sci-tech projects to back.
The problem: The evaluation of sci-tech achievements has been largely led by the government, who may not be the best group of people to make such judgements.
These guidelines look to improve the current system, by:
- Bringing in financial institutions and investors to evaluate economic value
- Allowing industry associations and academic institutions more say
- Increasing the weight of commercial applications
- Setting up a national market for trading intellectual property rights
- Distributing compensation towards researchers making important scientific contributions
Get smart: This evaluation framework is just one component of larger sci-tech reforms. Other initiatives include:
- A new program dubbed “accepting the bounty and taking charge” is designed to recruit high-performing researchers.
- Beijing also wants to give researchers more autonomy in the use of research funding.
Get smarter: China is working hard to find the right mix of planning, funding, and talent to boost its technological capability.