File photo of Subramanian Swamy | Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg
File photo of BJP MP Subramanian Swamy | Photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan | Bloomberg
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Chinascope — The Week Behind The Wall is a round-up about China that digs into the minds of Chinese leaders, scholars, thinkers, business tycoons and people. Your weekly power-packed curation about China – and the world.

China over the week

Xi Jinping’s ‘common prosperity’ campaign dominated the news over the past week. Xi’s campaign wants to refashion China’s economy by redistributing wealth and philanthropic activity, among other policy areas.

On 30 August, Xi Jinping held a high-level meeting in which he is said to have “approved a series of guidelines” on anti-monopoly, common prosperity, fighting pollution and intellectual property rights.

Read: China’s Xi Had a Very Busy Week. Here’s What He Said and Did – Bloomberg

Common prosperity has a history in the Communist Party’s thought.

The first article using “common prosperity” in a headline in the People’s Daily was published on 12 December 1953, part of a series in the paper called ‘Promoting the General Line to the Peasants’, wrote David Bandurski in China Media Project.

The concept didn’t find much support during Deng Xiaoping’s era. Xi Jinping made common prosperity a central theme of his speech at the 2017 party congress. He referred to the idea in 2012 before becoming the General Secretary of the party.

Beijing hopes to shake the private sector and reorient its focus to common prosperity through a series of regulatory actions and the promotion of philanthropy.

Read: A History of Common Prosperity – David Bandurski

As the pitch on ‘common prosperity’ rises, many companies are trying to stay in the good books of the State. China’s Alibaba has announced that it will donate 100 billion yuan towards promoting “common prosperity”. In June, Meituan founder Wang Xing announced a donation of $2.27 billion worth of his shares after the company came under regulatory scrutiny.

But not everyone is sold on the idea of redistributing wealth with a heavy-handed State-led approach.

“If we lose our faith in the market and introduce more and more government intervention, China will only go into common poverty.” Zhang Weiying, an economics professor at Peking University, wrote in an article.

Read: Xi Jinping’s graft busters are probing Jack Ma’s home city and a rising star of Xi’s Zhejiang clan – Sup China

“The series of rectification actions by the People’s Republic of China tell us that China is undergoing major changes, from the economic, financial, cultural, and political fields to a profound change, or we can call it a ‘profound revolution’,” said a commentary by Li Guangman, which was widely shared by Chinese State media.

Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of Global Timesdisagrees with the ‘profound revolution’ framing by Li Guangman.

“I think the article described the situation inaccurately, used exaggerated language, deviated from the country’s policy direction, and was misleading,” Hu Xijin wrote in his social media post. His post was briefly blocked on WeChat from being shared and described as too controversial.

Read: Chinese Essayist Revives Worries About a New Cultural Revolution – Wall Street Journal

Xi Jinping also announced the opening of a stock exchange in Beijing at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS). The stock exchange will act as a platform for small and midsize enterprises. The 2021 CIFTIS is currently underway in Beijing.

But the decision has further raised questions about the impact on Hong Kong’s bourse. China Securities Regulatory Commission has said there would be a 30 per cent price limit on the new stock exchange.

Read: Four Things to Know About Beijing’s New Stock Exchange for Small Companies – Caixin

Not just ‘common prosperity’ and economy, Xi also has his eye on the everyday lifestyle of people.

China will restrict teenagers below 18 from playing too much video games by curtailing the number of hours spent on it – now they can play only from 8 pm to 9 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. A total of three hours per week will be allowed.

Beijing also isn’t happy about the dominant influence of ‘effeminate men’ on the Chinese entertainment industry and popular culture. This week, the National Radio and Television Administration issued an eight-point plan to curb arts and entertainment shows. One point mentions boycotting “sissy idols” and recommends following “traditional Chinese culture, revolution culture, socialist culture”.

Big business and financial regulation are under the scanner too.

According to Chen Yulu, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, China’s financial regulators will tighten supervision of the financial services industry.

“We will enhance the effectiveness and professionalism of financial regulation, build all kinds of firewalls to resolutely prevent systemic risks,” Chen said.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that the City of Beijing may look to bring ride-hailing company Didi under state control. Didi Chuxing has denied the story.

Read: An Insider Details the Chinese Communist Party’s Disdain for “Expendable” Entrepreneurs – Wall Street Journal

China’s services industry contracted for the first time in 16 months, according to Caixin.


Also read: Beijing’s support for Taliban is dividing Chinese social media


China in world news

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told US Climate Envoy John Kerry via video link that overall US-China relations would need to improve for cooperation on climate change. President Joe Biden has in the past indicated the US would seek cooperation on climate change with China despite worsening of ties.

Instead, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Politburo and China’s highest-ranking diplomat, told Kerry that China is open to dialogue on a broad range of issues including “climate change, pandemic control and economic recovery”.

Beijing’s message to John Kerry was contradictory.

Meanwhile, the Japanese defence ministry has requested a budget of $50 billion with an eye on worsening ties with China.

And China continues to link Asia to its benefit. It has its eyes on the Indian Ocean, Afghanistan and Taiwan.

China has finished the railway project connecting Chengdu with the Indian Ocean via Myanmar, The Irrawaddy reported. The rail line will allow China to move cargo from Singapore port to the mainland via Myanmar.

“As a common neighbour of Afghanistan, China and Iran need to strengthen communication and coordination and play a constructive role in achieving a smooth transition and peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan,” Wang Yi told new Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in an annual report to lawmakers that China can neutralise Taiwan’s air-and-sea defences with “soft and hard electronic attacks,” reported Bloomberg.


Also read: Russia and China have more in common than communism. They have same enemies and ambitions


Deep dive

Hyping China’s regulatory crackdown as a profound ‘revolution’ risks a vicious circle – Wang Xiangwei

Nationalization Is Coming to China’s Data Centers – Tim Culpan

China’s ‘Very Tricky Situation’ – Timothy McLaughlin

Where America Can Push Back Against China – Kim Ghattas 

Xi Is Forgetting the Very Thing That Made China Great Again – Michael Schuman

How Much Does Beijing Control the Ethnic Makeup of Tibet? –  Andrew Fischer

Social talk

The announcement of a new stock exchange in Beijing was the top trend on Baidu and the most-read story on Xinhua News Agency.

A hashtag “Phoenix Satellite TV stationed in Kabul special correspondent Wang Quan” trended on Weibo. The hashtag was based on Wang Quan, a Chinese reporter in Kabul, reporting for Phoenix Television. Wang was seen mingling with the Taliban and taking pictures with them on the streets of Kabul.

Experts this week

Chinese experts talked about India’s caste monopoly and its NGOs this week.

“Finally, one of the main purposes of the Indian government’s economic development is to maintain and consolidate the interests of the Banya caste monopoly consortium represented by Modi and Shah….The Modi government’s economic ‘de-sinicization’ policy does not just cater to domestic nationalist sentiments but has a deeper domestic and international political and economic logic. Therefore, although India’s economy is currently facing difficulties, its economic ‘de-sinicization’ policy may be difficult to revert completely,” wrote Liu Zongyi, Associate Research Fellow at the Institute for International Strategic Studies and Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies.

“India is a country with a very active ‘civil society’, but from my field visit, a considerable number of NGOs in India are triads, just using the name of an NGO. I went to the slums of India to observe that there are all kinds of so-called ‘civil society’ NGOs in the slums, which control all aspects of people’s lives in the slums,” wrote Zhang Weiwei, Dean and Distinguished Professor of China Research Institute, Fudan University.

Zhang Weiwei has advised the Chinese government about ‘countering’ certain narratives by the Western media.


Also read: China’s CoronaVac found to prevent Covid in 66% of fully-immunised people: Chile study


India in China

An Indian who made news in China over the past week was Subramanian Swamy. The BJP leader’s recent remarks about potentially going to war with China if it doesn’t vacate the occupied land in Eastern Ladakh was widely read and discussed on Chinese social media.

Business street

Evergrande bond trading halted on growing fears of cash crunch – Financial Times

JD.com Unit to Take Over China Logistics in $2.1 Billion Deal – Caixin

Podworld

The last meeting of Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek – China Stories

The Impact of Covid-19 on China’s Military: A Conversation with M. Taylor Fravel – CSIS

Upcoming Watch

On 12 September, China’s Macao Special Administrative Region will hold legislative assembly elections. The candidates who can contest the elections will be pre-approved.

The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist. He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. He tweets @aadilbrar. Views are personal.

This is a weekly round-up that Aadil Brar will write about what’s buzzing in China. This will soon be available as a subscribers’-only product.

(Edited by Neera Majumdar)

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