Taiwan elections, Xi's anti-graft campaign, and US-China military talks
+ China further eases visa rules
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PHOTO OF THE WEEK
The rebranding of Xinjiang
CBS News recently joined a tour arranged by the Chinese Information Office, which hired the buses, set the itinerary, and provided the translators and the staff who have accompanied us every step of the way. They showed us everything from agricultural machinery to ancient ruins, to e-sales of local plums on TikTok.
In Urumqi's bazaar we found Uyghur Imamu Meimeti Sidike, who told us he'd been in a re-education camp for seven months. His crime: being overly religious. "I wouldn't even let my wife work," he said. And now? He responds with the party line: "I learned I'd been breaking Chinese laws, and reformed."
But with surveillance cameras watching, and our official guides nearby, how free was he to speak? We'll never know.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
Xi vows ‘no mercy’ in graft fight
Australian Financial Review
The Chinese leader singled out the finance, energy, pharmaceutical and infrastructure sectors, as well as state-owned enterprises, as targets of fresh scrutiny at a meeting of the Communist Party’s anti-graft agency on Monday, according to state media.
China watchdog doubles down on vow to heed Xi's anti-graft drive
The Straits Times
In a communique on Wednesday, the CCDI promised "relentless efforts" to implement Xi's call for ruling party officials to constantly check themselves for possible misconduct.
The CCDI also pledged to "focus on political loyalty and political security" and "remove hidden political dangers in a timely manner".
Xi views his anti-corruption drive as a key political achievement, but critics say the campaign has been used to purge his political opponents and does not address the root causes of graft, such as low wages and the unchecked powers of party-appointed state officials.
The ruling party does not open itself to external audits or investigations and critics say the judiciary is not independent.
China Says Ex-PBOC Official Took ‘Massive’ Bribes to Help Firms
A former senior official with China’s central bank took large bribes to help businesspeople, according to a state media documentary on Beijing’s anti-graft efforts.
Fan Yifei, ex-deputy governor at the People’s Bank of China, accepted “massive” amounts of money from company executives to facilitate loans and grant other favors, state broadcaster China Central Television said in a documentary.
The series is being broadcast as President Xi Jinping deepens his decade-long anti-corruption campaign, especially in resource-rich sectors such as finance.
China's air force 'burned missile fuel to make hotpot': ex-officer
Rampant corruption and funding shortfalls are eating away at the People's Liberation Army's ability to equip its own forces, according to a former People's Liberation Navy Lieutenant Colonel, who described air force personnel taking away chunks of solid missile fuel to use as fuel for meals of traditional Chinese hotpot during his time as a serving officer.
PLA Navy Lt. Col. Yao Cheng, a former staff officer of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force Command who fled to the United States in 2016, said corruption is rife throughout the Chinese military, and is often driven by a lack of adequate supplies or equipment.
"The budget for dinners and gifts is taken from the equipment department," Yao told RFA Mandarin, responding to a recent report from Bloomberg blaming ruling Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping's recent purge of the People's Liberation Army rocket chiefs on their failure to keep the nation's missiles fueled and at the ready.
Xi Jinping Is Quietly Making Cai Qi One of China's Most Powerful Officials
When President Xi Jinping held talks in California with his US counterpart Joe Biden in November, seated to his right was a man who is quietly emerging as one of China’s most influential politicians.
Cai Qi wields unusual clout for China’s No. 5 official. Not only does he sit on the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, China’s most powerful body, but he also serves as Xi’s chief of staff — making him the first person to hold both positions since the Mao Zedong era.
Cai’s role as China’s No. 5 also makes him the highest ranked official on a body in charge of convening the Politburo, and gives him responsibility for party ideology, including implementing Xi’s doctrines on everything from education to culture.
Enforcing the CCP's Media Leadership
China Media Project
Last week, the Chinese Communist Party held its National Propaganda Ministers Work Conference (全国宣传部长会议), an annual gathering of top media control officials that lays out key priorities and sets the agenda for the coming year. This year, as last year, the main address to the conference was delivered by Cai Qi (蔡奇), the fifth-ranked member of the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee.
China Media Project
The point of tension lies in how the China Communist Party (CCP) leadership wishes to characterize its dominance of the country’s political system, which even today its constitution identifies as a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” The Party wants to have its cake and eat it too: to be all-powerful but also to be seen as representative; to be feared and to be loved — avowedly — throughout the world.
Do Chinese Citizens Conceal Opposition to the CCP in Surveys? Evidence from Two Experiments
Cambridge University Press
Using two survey experiments and a sample balanced on the most recent census, we show that respondents overstate CCP support in direct questioning, on average, by 25.5 percentage points, double the 14 percentage point average in autocracies found by Blair, Coppock and Moor, and nearly three times greater than Frye and colleagues find in Russia. Our list experiments put support for the CCP at between 50 per cent and 70 per cent. This, we caution, is an upper bound, since list experiments may not fully mitigate preference falsification owing to residual concerns about online surveillance. We show that fear of government repression keeps some 40 per cent of Chinese citizens off the streets. We find no evidence that the wealthy, educated and urban are the CCP’s primary detractors. To the contrary, opposition is more uniform. While these results suggest some support for the CCP, they are far from the overwhelming support that constitutes the conventional wisdom.
China’s Workforce Is More Educated, but Earns Less From It: New Study
A new study on the distribution and development of human capital in China shows a rise in the average years of education in the country’s labor force between 1985 and 2021. The study also indicates a decline in the financial benefits of education, with diminishing returns for each extra year of schooling.
Weak economy, COVID rampage likely shrank China's population again in 2023
China's population likely dropped for a second consecutive year in 2023 due to a surge in COVID-related deaths after the country abruptly ended strict lockdowns, while weak confidence in the economy's prospects keeps birth rates depressed.
Demographers estimate population data on Jan. 17 to show the number of new births in 2023 falling below the 9.56 million in 2022 as long-standing issues such as gender inequality and high childcare costs remained largely unaddressed. China's birth rate has been declining since 2016.
University of Michigan demographer Zhou Yun said next week's data may underreport the population decline to hide the magnitude of the COVID impact and project optimism.
"Population data reporting in China is as much a demographic issue as it is a political event," she said.
The population dip comes as China grapples with the challenge of a rapidly ageing demographic. The number of people older than 60 years is expected to increase from around 280 million currently to over 400 million by 2035 - more than the population of the United States.
Understanding China’s Food Priorities for 2024
The continued role of Xi, China’s “core leader,” in promoting efforts to safeguard food security should not go unnoticed. In 2021, he emphasized that China’s challenges and risks should be addressed with the country’s strategic needs in mind while also calling for more robust measures to guarantee stable agricultural production and supply and steady growth in both the industry and in rural areas. “The food of the Chinese people must be made by and remain in the hands of the Chinese,” he was quoted as saying by state broadcaster China Central Television. Xi has also called for efforts to safeguard grain acreage and protect farmland to encourage domestic production.
While highlighting the necessity of ensuring food security, in 2022, Xi provided reassurances to the public and international community that China will not face imminent risk of grain shortages. The Chinese government publicly pointed to the country’s bumper grain harvests and massive grain reserve systems. Although China has not released details regarding its stockpiles, officials from the country’s National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration noted that the supply in the domestic grain market is “fully guaranteed,” while grain reserves are at a “historical high level.”
Most recently, in his 2023 New Year Address, Xi declared, “Despite a global food crisis, we have secured a bumper harvest for the 19th year in a row, putting us in a stronger position to ensure the food supply of the Chinese people.”
China’s revised charity law lacks incentives to spur donations despite ‘common prosperity’ drive
As natural disasters and public health emergencies frequently occur, the new law also includes a new section on emergency charitable efforts.
It encourages organisations and volunteers to collaborate with local governments to better allocate funds, and improve transparency in the event of an emergency.
But with the trend for Beijing’s greater scrutiny over civil society and tighter control over the economy, it would be hard for the philanthropic sector to see robust growth, according to Jia Xijin, deputy director of Tsinghua University’s Institute for Philanthropy.
“Charity is completely integrated with a market economy. It can grow only when a society is more open, when there’s more social participation and development of the private sector, and when there’s a more vigorous market economy,” she said.
“In current circumstances, I don’t see any more room for charity – there’s been some progress in organisational functions [for philanthropic organisations], but not fundamental, systematic innovations.”
Xi’an Woman Defrauds Restaurants Across the Country With Food Safety Complaints
A woman in Xi’an in the northwestern Shaanxi province has been arrested for pretending to find foreign objects such as flies and screws in her food deliveries and then extorting the restaurants involved, successfully receiving compensation of over 500 yuan ($70) each time.
In China, restaurants are very sensitive to negative complaints due to fierce competition. Reviews affect merchants’ scores on food delivery platforms, which are used as a reference by customers when choosing restaurants.
Students, Migrant Workers to Get Early Train Ticket Access This Spring Festival
For the first time ever, China Railway has launched preferential channels for students and migrant workers to book their train tickets for the upcoming Spring Festival travel rush, the world’s largest annual human migration.
Since Wednesday, students and migrant workers have been able to request tickets for trains scheduled to depart at least 17 days later on a special page within the official 12306 ticketing platform.
2023’s Most Notable Censored Articles (Part One: A4 Protests, ChatGPT, Unanimous Elections, Stand-up Comedy, Infographics)
China Digital Times
This post introduces five (of ten) high-profile articles and essays that were targeted for censorship during 2023, on topics as varied as the “White Paper” protests, ChatGPT, Xi Jinping’s rubber-stamp reelection as president, stand-up comedians, socioeconomic inequality, migrant worker poverty, media quiescence, new restrictions on VPN use, Li Keqiang’s death and political legacy, and heightened censorship of economic analysis.
The articles and essays below represent only a small fraction of the online content that disappears each day from the Chinese internet, either through targeted deletion by platform censors, or via deletion (sometimes under duress) by the individual who posted it.
Inside the Battle to Become China’s ‘King of Teas’
Every year, as fall turns into winter, tens of thousands of tea producers, traders, and drinkers gather in Wuyishan to see, sample, and critique each other’s teas. These events, known as doucha hui, or “tea battles,” are meant to determine the year’s best varieties.