And we are back from vacation. Rome was wonderful. The first issue after a break is usually a bit ragged. No doubt I missed some things, I will try to fill in the gaps over the next few days.
The biggest domestic news last week was the announcement of the October dates for the Seventh and final Plenum of the 19th Party Congress and the 20th Party Congress a few days later, along with the ongoing Covid-related lockdowns. Reports that Li Zhanshu is traveling overseas this week, the first time a Standing Committee member has left the country since January 2020, and that Xi will travel to Central Asia next week, are feeding hope that the maybe these trips are more signs that the conclusion 20th Party Congress could mark a shift in the dynamic zero-Covid policy.
Summary of today’s Essential Eight
Covid lockdowns - Tens of millions of people are in lockdown again, including in Chengdu, Guiyang and parts of Shenzhen. The Mid-Autumn Festival this weekend is going to be very restrained economically, and expect theOctober 1 National Day Holiday week will also be quite restrained, which will likely further hit tourism and services revenue for what in the pre-Covid Era was a gangbuster week. And real estate sales will also be further damaged, as the “金九银十 Golden September, Silver October” real estate sales period, which used to be a housing sales boom period, looks to be depressed again. The October 9th start for the 7th Plenum of the 19th Party Congress means that we should expect Beijing to start limiting arrivals to and departures from the city fairly soon, to prevent any risk of an outbreak during that Plenum and then the 20th Party Congress that begins a week later.
Announcement of the 20th Party Congress - The October date for the meeting is in line with expectations, what I found most interesting in the announcement was “mobilize all Party members and people from all ethnic groups across the country to firm up confidence in history, strengthen historical initiative” and “pushing forward common prosperity for all”.
History revision - A revisionist article on Ming/Qing isolationist policies by the influential and increasingly obviously quite leftist Chinese Academy of History sparked a lot of concern. It did not appear in a vacuum, and given the bits in the Party Congress announcement about history I think this merits a lot of attention. Perhaps the Ming/Qing policies were just dual circulation from a different era, in this revision?
Propaganda work for Xi ahead of the 20th Party Congress - People’s Daily, Xinhua and CCTV all seemed to have launched new series titled “Navigating China 领航中国” that praise the progress and policy successes since the 18th Party Congress under the leadership. And in the last couple of weeks the head of China Media Group and the the head of Xinhua have both articulated the importance of propagandizing Xi and his accomplishments.
Overseas travel for Xi and Li Zhanshu - Li is going to Russia, Mongolia, Nepal and South Korea, and Xi is likely going to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Will Li meet with Putin, in part to prepare for a Xi-Putin meeting at the SCO meeting next week? And if Xi does go, consider this a very strong sign that he is very confident in his position and the planning for the 20th Party Congress.
Ying Yong likely to be next top prosecutor - Ying Yong, an official who worked under Xi in Zhejiang and who moved from Party Secretary of Hubei to a post at the National People’s Congress that made it look like he "been retired", is now the first deputy head of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, making him the clear frontrunner to take over as head of the SPP. This is another marker in Xi's successful efforts to take complete control over the political and legal affairs 政法委 system, just like he controls the PLA system.
Xi calls for a new system for making core tech breakthroughs - Xi presided over the 27th meeting of the Central Commission for Comprehensively Deepening Reform today, among the topics was “guideline on improving a new system for mobilizing the resources nationwide to achieve breakthroughs in core technologies in key fields”. It sounds like the lesson from the review earlier this summer of the semiconductor development efforts, which showed lots of problems and triggered investigations, is that the efforts need stricter leadership by the Party and more centralized decision-making. Will the job be given to one of the technocrat officials who was involved in the space program?
Disclosing an alleged hack by the NSA - The National Computer Virus Emergency Center and 360 have issued reports, nicely timed with National Cybersecurity Propaganda Week, accusing the NSA of hacking Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi’an and named lots of names of the alleged perpetrators, mirroring some of the recent US accusations of PRC cyber espionage activity. Will the PRC indict these people as the US has indicted alleged PRC hackers?