Better than expected economic data; Xi and Lukashenko; 2nd Plenum and upcoming reforms; Bao Fan; Canada-PRC
Summary of the Essential Eight:
Better than expected economic data - The exit from Covid was faster than expected and now it looks like the economy is picking up faster than expected as well. So much faster in fact that, according to Bloomberg, officials were surprised and the official messaging will be to downplay talk of need for significant stimulus.
Xi and Lukashenko meet in Beijing - Xi held his first meeting with the President of Belarus I believe since relations were upgraded to an “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership”. From the CCTV readout on the discussion around Ukraine: “The core of China's position is to promote peace talks and urge for a political solution. We should adhere to the direction of political settlement, abandon all Cold War thinking, respect the legitimate security concerns of all countries, and build a balanced, effective, and sustainable European security architecture. Relevant countries should stop politicizing and instrumentalizing the world economy and politics, and truly do things that help stop the war and promote a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Lukashenko stated that Belarus fully agrees with and supports China's position and proposition on the political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, which is of great significance for defusing the crisis.”
2nd Plenum - Xinhua has issued full English translations of the Plenum communique and the readout of the Standing Committee’s meeting with non-CPC types to discuss the Plenum outcomes. On the upcoming reforms, I am very curious what exactly is meant in the Communique by "consider strengthening the centralized and unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee as the pivot 以加强党中央集中统一领导为统领". More power for Xi? Another title for him? From the consultative readout, this may be especially intriguing "improving the coordinating institutions for the Party Central Committee's decision-making on and deliberation of state affairs, and optimizing the allocation of staffing resources for Party and state institutions 完善党中央决策议事协调机构，优化机构编制资源配置".
Two sessions and Party reforms speculations - A higher military budget, moving Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) from under the State Council to under the Central Committee, and the possible replacement for Chen Xi has head of the Organization Department.
US-China - Sorry, at a loss for words, so a gif will have to suffice…
Bao Fan and financial sector corruption - The Wall Street Journal has some more details on what has happened to Mr Bao, head of the China Renaissance Holdings investment bank. They also report, as Caixin did last week, that his case is connected to Cong Lin, a former senior banker at ICBC International Holdings who then worked under Bao. As the newsletter has discussed several times, there is a significant corruption crackdown underway in the financial sector, one the top leadership is signaling will intensify, and it is quite possible Bao is caught up in this, in which case he may be in for a while. Given that, as the WSJ reports, investigators spoke to Bao several times over the last few months about Cong, you have to wonder how stressed Bao was getting, what if any disclosure he made to the board of Hong Kong-listed China Renaissance about the questioning, and why he was not able to satisfactorily answer investigators’ questions without being detained to assist an investigation?
PRC political interference scandal in Canada - Canadian media reporting, based on leaks in part from the Canadian intelligence service, has stirred up quite a scandal over the possibility of PRC interference in recent elections. I do not understand Canadian politics, so will ask readers who do how serious are the allegations, and what are the domestic politics behind them, and how might it affect the Trudeau government?
Russian nuclear fuel for PRC breeder reactors - Is the PRC’s fast-breeder reactor on Changbiao Island, or is it a key part of PRC plans to significantly enlarge its arsenal of nuclear weapons?
Earlier today I published this week’s episode of the Sharp China podcast - Empty Rhetoric on Ukraine; The Judiciary Under Xi; When Congress Investigates Covid Origins; Updates on Bao Fan. As it is the first episode of the month it is outside the paywall. You can listen to it here. From the show notes:
On today's show Andrew and Bill begin with reactions to the PRC’s 12-point plan for a peaceful settlement of the Russian war in Ukraine, including why feigning neutrality fell flat with the international community, continued warnings from U.S. officials regarding weapons assistance, and a visit to Beijing from Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. From there: the Central Party Committee and State Council release new guidelines for legal education, examining the Chinese legal system under Xi, and thoughts on the implications of a Congressional investigation into the origins of Covid-19. At the end: Updates on Bao Fan, the crackdown on corruption in the financial sector, PRC currency ambitions, the shift to conducting life via mobile apps, and a word about gray hair.
You can also listen it in the excellent Substack app, which can double as a podcast player: