What China Is Reading
Issue 97 – December 1, 2021
In This IssueThe articles shared here do not necessarily reflect the views of China Newsletter or Dialogue China. All articles sourced from WeChat public accounts unless otherwise noted.
I. Dialogue China Select
1. The Peng Shuai Incident is Not So Simple
2. Comments on the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
3. “The Past Three Generations of Chinese Leaders [Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao]” and Their Ideologies Have Not Been Rejected! The Struggle Between the Deng and Xi Political Lines Continues
4. Many People Argue Over the Definition of “Common Prosperity,” But This Obscures the Overall Vision
5. On Western Perceptions of and Responses to China’s Soft Power
6. Many People Cheered the Release and Return to China of Meng Wanzhou,
But Still Misunderstand the Essential Nature of Huawei
IV. Finance and Business
7. China Income Distribution Report 2021: Current Situation and International Comparison
8. Evergrande Seems to Have No Shortage of Money – Why Has a Debt Crisis Been Initiated?
China Briefing – Revised EditionEditorial Board – China Briefing – December 1, 2021
Since its inception in 2017, China Briefing is entering its fifth year of publication with our readers. For more than four years, we have been collecting, collating, and translating articles that best reflect the mainstream viewpoints within the Great China Firewall, and combining them with in-depth commentary from different perspectives from the Chinese-language world outside the Great Firewall to provide a reliable source of information for people who have long been interested in China’s current affairs, and who understand the difference between the values inside and outside Communist China.
Our founding philosophy: “Talking About China Now” is to persist in telling the story of China inside the Great Firewall, while at the same time working to convey suggestions for interpreting the asymmetry of information about China inside and outside the Great Firewall. For more than four years, against great odds we have been publishing this content for free, in order to provide the world outside of authoritarian China with a simple and quick way to learn the truth about China in an age of complex and confusing social media.
In October 2021, after we published an open letter about the reform of China Briefing, we received a lot of feedback and encouragement from our readers, who gave us great suggestions and support from the selection of materials, layout, fundraising and other aspects. Although we were touched, we had to face the competitive ecology of social media and the dilemma of declining operating funds, but we were still unwilling to give up our thoughts and consideration of both ideals and reality. Therefore, we have decided to continue to provide China Briefing bi-weekly in English and Chinese for free.
However, in order to better adapt to the new situation between China, the United States, and the world – as well as the real-life problems faced by China Briefing – the following major adjustments and changes will be made to its content selection and operation mechanism.
1. As a major project of Dialogue China Think Tank, China Briefing will significantly increase the number of current articles in its editorial section and change “Editorial” to “Dialogue China Special Selection” so that it can fully express the views of the Chinese-language world outside the Great Firewall, and also provide strong policy advice on China to the world’s democratic institutions.
2. The original articles from mainstream media within China’s Great Firewall have been streamlined from a relatively broad 10 articles to a more representative five. However, we will still focus on the latest social, political, and economic developments and in-depth commentary within China’s Great Firewall.
3. We will continue to offer China Briefing as a bi-weekly publication and free of charge, while ensuring quality Chinese-language editing and English translation. However, we will be adding a crowdfunding program with a link to donate to the China Dialogue think tank in each issue to make it easier for readers to support our development, and thus allow us to better serve readers who are concerned about the current situation in China.
In summary, no matter what China Briefing will remain true to our original mission: “Talking About China Now.” Whether debating the present or the past, we are always here and we will never give up.
Thank you all!
China Briefing Editorial Board【Back to Top】
Dialogue China Select1.
The Peng Shuai Incident is Not So Simple
Wang Dan – Radio Free Asia – November 8, 2021Not long ago, Chinese female tennis star Peng Shuai reported on social media that former Chinese Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her for a long period of time. Although her Chinese-language blog post was quickly deleted, the news was so shocking that it was reported by mainstream Western media, including the New York Times. Many commentators, including myself, believe that this incident is connected to the power struggle within the Chinese Communist Party. Some commentators believe that this is a conspiracy theory, and that the case is not that complicated. It is just a new case of a woman being violated by a powerful political official, and they interpret it solely from the perspective of the popular #metoo movement. I cannot agree with this interpretation without subjecting it to critical thought.
First of all, I do not deny that this is a typical case of female victimization, and there is no doubt a #metoo movement angle here. But is it possible to confine this case to the feminist movement alone? I do not think it is that simple.
Some people think that Zhang Gaoli was the last member of the 18th Politburo Standing Committee, and did not have that much power and has no influence after his retirement. There is no need for Xi Jinping to take advantage of such an out of date person. What is wrong with this view is that in all the power struggles in history, the person who was directly purged was not necessarily the real target of the power struggle. And the Chinese Communist Party’s internal power struggles excel at “killing the chicken to frighten the monkeys.”* Zhang Gaoli may not be the most influential Chinese Communist Party leader, but as the most powerful member of Jiang Zemin’s Shanghai faction, to have Zhang Gaoli’s fortune and honor broken would be to embarrass the entire Jiang Zemin patronage system and its leaders – Jiang Zemin and Zeng Qinghong – or to give them a warning. People who understand the characteristics of the Communist Party’s internal power struggles will not use a person’s official ranking to determine whether he or she will become a casualty of the Communist Party’s internal power struggles.
* Kill the chicken to frighten the monkeys 殺雞儆猴 is an old Chinese idiom. It refers to making an example out of someone in order to threaten others. According to an old folktale, a street entertainer earned a lot of money with his dancing monkey. One day, when the monkey refused to dance, the entertainer killed a live chicken in front of the monkey and then the monkey resumed dancing. A historical anecdote relates that, at the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty (1046-221 BC), Jiāng Zǐyá was asked by his king to find him an adviser. Jiāng Zǐyá asked a scholar who lived on a mountaintop. When the scholar refused multiple times, Jiāng Zǐyá killed the scholar knowing that the next scholar he asked to join the kingdom would fear the same fate, and thereby accept the invitation.
Some people also think that if there was a political background to the Peng Shuai incident, Peng’s posting would not have been deleted from the internet within 20 minutes. This view is also an oversimplification of the issue. Given the intensity of the Chinese Communist Party’s network surveillance, the name of a former Politburo Standing Committee member like Zhang Gaoli is a highly sensitive target for surveillance, and it is generally impossible to post it on China’s Sina Weibo social media. This is evident from the substantial coverage in the international media and the buzz on overseas networks about Peng’s social media posting afterwards. Now that the objective has been achieved, there is no need for the authorities to allow Peng’s article to remain on the Internet, as that would be inconsistent with the usual Internet control measures and the traces of internal political power struggles would be too obvious. Such delicate and deep intentions, similar to imperial palace intrigues and internal party power struggles, cannot be explained by simple thinking.
It is also important to note that if the Peng Shuai incident was simply a matter of reported sexual assault, it would not explain the strange silence of the authorities until now. Such a serious accusation against a former Politburo Standing Committee member by a person of a certain level of celebrity online has never been made before. As a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli’s image is inextricably intertwined with the overall image of the top echelon of the Communist Party of China. And the Communist Party of China should have made some clarification through the mouth of an outside spokesman like Global Times’ editor Hu Xijin. This is what is most intriguing: has Zhang Gaoli been abandoned? The fact that the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda agencies have not come forward to dispel the rumors about Zhang Gaoli is enough for us to make the judgment that the Peng incident is not so simple.
Some people say that there is no evidence of political background in the Peng Shuai case, and therefore it is only a conspiracy theory. This is even more out of touch with reality. The Chinese Communist Party is used to operating in a black box, which means that direct evidence of their internal power struggles is not always easy to obtain. We can only make political judgments about what is going on inside the Chinese Communist Party based on our long experience observing “spider webs and hoof prints” [i.e. clues]. If we have to have concrete evidence before we can say anything, then we can only keep silent about the Chinese Communist Party’s issues.【Back to Top】
Dialogue China Select2.
Comments on the Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Hu Ping – Radio Free Asia – November 12, 2021
The Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Communist Party of China Central Committee closed with a communiqué and a press conference the next day.
The highlight of the Sixth Plenary Session was the consideration and adoption of the long-awaited Resolution of the Communist Party of China Central Committee on the Major Achievements and Historical Experiences of the Party’s Centennial Struggle. But the meeting has closed, the press conference has been held, and the Resolution has not yet been issued. Don’t you think it is strange?
Actually, I don’t blame them. Because the Chinese Communist Party has its own hardships. This is the third historical resolution in the 100-year history of the Chinese Communist Party. The other two are the Resolution on Certain Historical Issues adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the Seventh Communist Party of China Central Committee in 1945, and the Resolution on Certain Historical Issues of the Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic adopted by the Sixth Plenary Session of the 11th Communist Party of China Central Committee in 1981. In order to write this third resolution, it is necessary to mention the first two resolutions. The first resolution is easy to handle, but the second resolution presents difficulty.
It is popularly said that the first resolution established Mao Zedong as the core leader of the Chinese Communist Party, the second resolution established Deng Xiaoping as the core leader, and the third resolution established Xi Jinping as the core leader. This is problematic because the second resolution did not establish Deng Xiaoping as the core leader of the Chinese Communist Party. The second resolution focused on criticizing the Cultural Revolution and Party Chairman Mao Zedong. Its main lessons are the threat of a cult of personality, the dictatorship of the individual, the overriding of Party Central authority, the over-centralization of individual power, destruction of democratic centralism, destruction of the principle of collective leadership and so on. The second resolution contains the important phrase “prohibiting any form of cult of personality.” This does not highlight any individual, neither including nor excluding Deng Xiaoping. Except for a few mentions of Deng Xiaoping when describing the history of the Mao era, there is not a single mention of Deng Xiaoping when talking about the present and the future.
This is where the trouble lies. If the third resolution refers to the second resolution and reaffirms the content and spirit of the second resolution, then the mere phrase “prohibiting any form of cult of personality” would be enough to take Xi Jinping down. Xi dares not mention this. On the other hand, if the third resolution openly rejects the principle of opposing a cult of personality, Xi dares not mention this either. In any case, if the third resolution mentions the second resolution, Xi will be feinting attack to deceive his enemy to try to avoid the charge of creating a cult of personality.
Xi Jinping’s reactionary policies are manifested in many ways, starting with the restoration of the cult of personality. In this respect, Xi Jinping’s approach is directly comparable to that of the Kim family dynasty in North Korea. The cult of the individual is the most vile manifestation of the Communist Party’s single-party dictatorship. It is not only a great calamity for the Chinese people, but also a great threat to world peace and freedom. We must resolutely oppose it!【Back to Top】
Dialogue China Select3.
“The Past Three Generations of Chinese Leaders [Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao]” and Their Ideologies Have Not Been Rejected! The Struggle Between the Deng and Xi Political Lines Continues
Akio Yaita – ET Today News Cloud – November 12, 2021
The Sixth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China has ended.
The long-awaited Third Historical Resolution of the Communist Party of China was considered and passed. In the resolution, although there are many words of praise for Xi Jinping, there are no fewer positive words for Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
A Communist Party veteran I interviewed many years ago told me the secret of reading Communist Party documents: “It doesn’t matter what is added; it only matters what is removed. What is affirmed is unimportant; what is rejected is most important.”
That is to say, this kind of document is the result of the compromise of various factions. If everyone’s positions are stuffed onto a big platter, it means that the document has little significance. If some ideas disappear, it means that a faction has lost its influence. If some ideas are rejected, then it means that a faction has lost the ability to fight back and rise again.
The First Historical Resolution of the Chinese Communist Party was passed in 1945, when Mao Zedong established a localist line centered on himself after defeating the pro-Soviet Wang Ming and his allies in the party. The resolution criticized Chen Duxiu, Li Lisan, Qu Qiubai and Wang Ming by name. The Second Historical Resolution was passed in 1981, after Deng Xiaoping fully consolidated power and began to reject Chairman Mao’s political line entirely. In the resolution, the mistakes of Mao Zedong were also mentioned repeatedly.
This time, so much effort was spent on the Third Historical Resolution, the intention of which was to negate the “The Past Three Generations of Chinese Leaders [Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Deng Xiaoping Theory, Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents and Hu Jintao’s Scientific Outlook on Development]” that had influenced China for many years. But in this Historical Resolution, “The Past Three Generations of Chinese Leaders” made multiple appearances and were basically unaffected. This shows that Xi’s ideas were strongly resisted by opposition within the Party.
The Shanghai Gang, Communist Youth League faction, and some of the princelings are among those in the Communist Party who have major conflicts and differences with Xi Jinping, although they are all beneficiaries of China’s economic reform and opening up. The full retention of the “Three Generations of Chinese Leaders [Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao]” and their ideologies has preserved a theoretical basis and opportunity for a future political counterattack. Even if Xi Jinping is re-elected as Communist Party General Secretary at the 20th National Congress next year, the struggle between the Deng and Xi political lines within the Communist Party will continue. I wonder if there will be a Fourth Historical Resolution of the Chinese Communist Party in the future. If so, I do not think it is very likely that Xi Jinping will be evaluated positively.【Back to Top】
Many People Argue Over the Definition of “Common Prosperity,” But This Obscures the Overall Vision
Zhang Wen – Beijing Cultural Review – August 20, 2021
Why Read This?
In the summer of 2021, a big social discussion on “How to define Common Prosperity” quietly emerged. Recently, the tenth meeting of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission studied the issue of “solidly promoting Common Prosperity” and for the first time elaborated on the concept of “Common Prosperity” and related policy guidelines. However, the current discussion still lacks overall imagination regarding creating a society of common wealth. So, in the ancient and modern imagination of Chinese people, what kind of state provides common prosperity for all?（Read the full text）
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On Western Perceptions of and Responses to China’s Soft Power
Zhou Ying – Current International Relations Analysis – November 6, 2021
Why Read This?
Since the beginning of the 21st century, Western countries have paid special and continuously close attention to the enhancement of China’s soft power. They have paid particular attention to the causes and effects of China’s soft power development, and analyzed and summarized its strengths and weaknesses as well as its constraints. Although the West as a whole has not yet reacted strategically, some anti-China forces have started to take relevant measures in terms of policy and strategy, not only to create an unfavorable international public opinion environment for China to enhance its soft power, but also to criticize and set limits on China’s correlative measures, thus creating a situation of international soft power competition.（Read the full text）
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Many People Cheered the Release and Return to China of Meng Wanzhou,
But Still Misunderstand the Essential Nature of Huawei
An Lei – Beijing Cultural Review – September 25, 2021
Why Read This?
In a short speech delivered after her release, Meng Wanzhou said: “I want to thank my motherland and its people for their support and assistance. This is the strongest pillar of support that has brought me to this day!” Many people were happy about this, and the news began to spread around the country. Behind this specific incident, the question that needs to be asked is: “What does Huawei mean to China and the world’s industrial system?” After the “Meng Wanzhou Incident,” what new challenges will Chinese companies face with Huawei as their representative?（Read the full text）
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Finance and Business7.
China Income Distribution Report 2021: Current Situation and International Comparison
Ren Zeping – Zeping Macroview – September 17, 2021
Why Read This?
In recent years China has placed great emphasis on income distribution, with precise poverty alleviation included in the three major campaigns. Common Prosperity is included in the 14th Five-Year Plan, and Zhejiang Province selected as a model zone for Common Prosperity. Why is there a shift in focus from efficiency to equity? What is the current status of income distribution in China? What international experiences are worth learning from? How should Common Prosperity be realized?（Read the full text）
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Finance and Business8.
Evergrande Seems to Have No Shortage of Money – Why Has a Debt Crisis Been Initiated?
The Ninth on Finance and Economics – Sanlian Life Weekly – August 26, 2021
Why Read This?
Evergrande’s debt crisis continues to escalate. Adequate vigilance at the regulatory level was triggered. On August 19, 2021, the People’s Bank of China and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission interviewed Evergrande executives and asked Evergrande to “actively resolve the debt risks and maintain the stability of the real estate market and the financial sector.” This means that Evergrande’s debt crisis is no longer just a problem of the enterprise itself, but has risen to the height of China’s real estate and even financial market stability. Evergrande will encounter the most terrible bank run crisis. Once a massive run occurs, it is difficult for a strong company to make a comeback.（Read the full text）
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