Fourth Plenum set; Hong Kong; US-China; New Party propaganda and rural work regulations

Good morning, today is a holiday in the US and the last day of summer vacation for our kids, so the newsletters is short and sweet. Regular programming returns Tuesday.

Hong Kong saw another weekend of protests, arrests, police brutality, violence and vandalism. School starts this week and there are no signs of any path towards a peaceful resolution. It is heartbreaking to watch, and I fear that the core protestors do believe “If we burn, you burn with us”, as Joshua Wong and Alex Chow wrote in their New York Times Saturday OpEd “The People of Hong Kong Will Not Be Cowed by China”.

The October 1st celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC is 27 days away. As Wong and Chow wrote:

We know that the Chinese government wants grand celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the birth of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1; it wants to put history on its side by rewriting the memory of the people. But Hong Kongers won’t let it commemorate that day without a fight.

The Party has finally set a time for the Fourth Plenum. Xinhua announced after last week’s Politburo meeting that the Plenum will “be held in October in Beijing” and

the CPC Central Committee will hear a report from the Political Bureau on its work, and discuss important issues concerning how to uphold and improve the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics and make progress in modernizing China's system and capacity for governance.

The early Third Plenum last year focused on the Party eating the State bureaucratic reforms and the term-limit issue. It is interesting that so far in the 19th Party Congress there has not been a Plenum focused on the economy.

As to the speculation that the Fourth Plenum was somehow delayed because of internal strife, I am not seeing any public evidence that is the case. The Party is required to hold a plenum once every calendar year, and with the Fourth scheduled for this Fall the schedule is back on track. Since the Third Plenum Xi has convened two extraordinary meetings of all the top Party, State and Military leaders. That convening ability, along with the early the Third Plenum last year, sure look like signs of the power and authority of the “People’s Leader”.

The official release did not give a specific date for the plenum but it is reasonable to guess it may be soon after the October 1 celebrations, as the attendees will likely all be in Beijing anyway and security will already be in place.

The latest round of tariffs from the US and China went into effect this weekend. Last week I wrote that there is talk Liu He and team will visit the US the week of September 16. There seems to be hope that he will come in September but now I am hearing that it may be hard for him to leave Beijing so close to the October 1 celebrations, so either he would come before the 16th or not until October. That is not confirmed, and there are too many rumors and moving parts around the trade talks, but even if he does come in September a breakthrough seems unlikely.

Thanks for reading.

The Essential Eight

1. Hong Kong

Riot Police Officers Spread Across Hong Kong in Wake of Violence - The New York Times

The Hong Kong authorities had previously rejected a mainland official’s description of “signs of terrorism” in characterizing acts of violence by some protesters. But John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, changed that stance on Monday, as the local government escalated its criticism of the monthslong demonstrations.

“The extent of violence, danger and destruction have reached very serious conditions,” Mr. Lee said. “Radical people have escalated their violent and illegal acts, showing elements of terror.”

Special Report: Hong Kong leader says she would 'quit' if she could, fears her ability to resolve crisis now 'very limited' - Reuters

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of businesspeople.

At the closed-door meeting, Lam told the group that she now has “very limited” room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China amid rising tensions with the United States...

Lam suggested that Beijing had not yet reached a turning point. She said Beijing had not imposed any deadline for ending the crisis ahead of National Day celebrations scheduled for October 1. And she said China had “absolutely no plan” to deploy People’s Liberation Army troops on Hong Kong streets.

Commentary: Violence in Hong Kong must end now - Xinhua

Behind the violence and chaos in Hong Kong is an elaborate scheme of the rioters and their patrons whose real intent is clearly exposed now. They tried to stir up unrest in Hong Kong and compromise the "one country, two systems" principle, before spreading the "color revolution" into the Chinese mainland.

However, their attempt to "kidnap Hong Kong" and press the central authorities is just a delusion. No concession should be expected concerning such principle issues.

There are three bottom lines which must not be crossed: no one should harm the national sovereignty and security; no one should challenge the power of the central authorities and the authority of the Basic Law of the HKSAR; no one should use Hong Kong to infiltrate and undermine the mainland.

Chaos on Hong Kong’s MTR network as police chase protesters into station and arrest 63 | South China Morning Post

Two of Hong Kong’s busiest subway stations in Kowloon, Mong Kok and Prince Edward, remained closed throughout Sunday following a night of vandalism and shocking violence as radical anti-government protesters clashed with riot police.

Video of the violence at Prince Edward station:

'A catastrophe': Hong Kong police say 159 arrested during weekend chaos, 16 charged with rioting | Hong Kong Free Press HKFP

According to police figures, the total number of people arrested during the protest movement has risen to 1,117. On Saturday, police fired 241 tear gas canisters, 92 rubber bullets, one beanbag bullet, 10 sponge rounds and two live rounds as warning shots.

Hong Kong police deploy in force at MTR stations and outside schools on first day of planned strike | Hong Kong Free Press HKFP

Police officers were spotted at multiple railway stations and schools on Monday morning, as pro-democracy protesters planned to obstruct MTR operations and boycott classes.

At around 7:30am, protesters began their civil disobedience action at MTR stations, using objects to prevent platform doors from closing at Kowloon Tong station and pressing the emergency stop buttons inside carriages. The protesters then travelled along the railway lines to cause disruption at different stations.

Hong Kong MTR closes airport and Tung Chung lines as protesters vandalise station and scramble to leave Lantau | Hong Kong Free Press HKFP

Amid crisis, China rejected Hong Kong plan to appease protesters - sources - Reuters

The Chinese central government rejected Lam’s proposal to withdraw the extradition bill and ordered her not to yield to any of the protesters’ other demands at that time, three individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

China’s role in directing how Hong Kong handles the protests has been widely assumed, supported by stern statements in state media about the country’s sovereignty and protesters’ “radical” goals.

The High School Course Beijing Accuses of Radicalizing Hong Kong - The New York Times

The mandatory civics course known here as liberal studies has been a hallmark of the curriculum in Hong Kong for years, and students and teachers say the point is to make better citizens who are more engaged with society.

But mainland Chinese officials and pro-Beijing supporters say the prominence of the city’s youth at recent mass protests is the clearest sign yet that this tradition of academic freedom has gone too far, giving rise to a generation of rebels.

“The liberal studies curriculum is a failure,” Tung Chee-hwa, a former leader of Hong Kong, said in July. “It is one of the reasons behind the youth’s problems today.”

China is using Kublai Khan’s methods to quell protests in Hong Kong - Chaguan

Mainland institutions that once shunned the spotlight, notably the central government’s Liaison Office, are increasingly open in their lobbying. Dennis Kwok, a pro-democracy politician and barrister who represents the legal constituency in LegCo, notes that particular controversy surrounds elections within professional bodies that allow for proxy voting. Junior members of law firms are routinely told to hand over proxy votes to partners, charges Mr Kwok. Then at election time, firms “get calls from clients, or from the Bank of China”, urging block-voting for candidates favoured by the Liaison Office. Time and again, China-friendly “Reds” are driving out old-school conservatives, says Mr Kwok. The authorities in Beijing “want people who are absolutely loyal”.

Senior Chinese leaders lay down the law in southern China amid ongoing protests across the border in Hong Kong | South China Morning Post

Vice-President Wang Qishan emphasised the Communist Party’s connection to Chinese history during a weekend visit to Guangdong

Officials also stress the importance of fighting ‘foreign subversion’ amid ongoing clashes between Hong Kong police and protesters

2. Fourth Plenum

Xi Focus: 19th CPC Central Committee to hold fourth plenary session in October - Xinhua

The fourth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) will be held in October in Beijing, according to a decision made at a CPC Central Committee Political Bureau meeting on Friday...

Friday's meeting reviewed three Party regulations about how the Party should formulate and review its internal regulations and clarify the responsibilities for their implementation, the statement said.

习近平主持中共中央政治局会议 决定召开十九届四中全会-新华网


After Lengthy Delay, China’s Communist Party to Meet in October - WSJ

Not holding a plenum, some experts say, has allowed Mr. Xi and his inner circle to keep dictating policies without consulting the broader party elite. Unusually, none of the Central Committee meetings since Mr. Xi was reanointed leader for a second term in late 2017 have focused on economic change, defying convention and despite the persisting economic slowdown.

Most experts don’t dispute that Mr. Xi, the party’s general secretary as well as the country’s president, remains firmly in charge, and they note the absence of any clear rival or organized resistance to his authority.

Red Flags: Why Was China’s Fourth Plenum Delayed? | Center for Strategic and International Studies - Jude Blanchette and Mingda Qiu

This announcement comes after months of speculation that the plenum’s delay—the longest in the post-Mao era—stemmed from internal power struggles between General Secretary Xi Jinping and other political elite. However, when looked at in the broader context, the plenum’s seemingly peculiar timing stems from an adjustment to the plenary schedule made in early 2018. In short, Xi may well be facing opposition within the Party leadership, but the delayed plenary session is likely not evidence of such unrest.

Comment: Interesting first note from the new Freeman Chair at CSIS

3. US-China

Hawkish Trump officials plot national security actions against China - Axios

Trump himself still views China primarily through an economic prism. But the angrier he gets with Beijing, the more receptive he is to his advisers' hawkish stances toward China that go well beyond trade.

The big open question remains whether Trump's anger with China — especially its flooding of the U.S. with deadly fentanyl and its backtracking on promises to make huge agricultural purchases — will ever grow to such a point that he wants to move in a tougher direction on national security and human rights. If he gets to that point, his advisers will have plenty of hawkish policy ideas waiting for his green light...

Senior administration officials have also contemplated selling another tranche of advanced weaponry to Taiwan, beyond the recent F-16 fighter jet sale, according to 3 sources briefed on the sensitive internal conversations. A senior administration official cautioned that these talks may go nowhere and that Trump would probably hesitate to expand his fight with China to include Taiwan.

Trump administration officials have also discussed terminating the State Department's self-imposed restrictions on contact with Taiwanese officials. A policy under discussion would let Taiwanese officials attend meetings at State Department headquarters and send direct letters to State

Comment: The 2017 National Security Strategy that reframed the official view of China set all relevant departments on a path to creating much tougher policies in their areas towards China. The fact is that President Trump and his focus on economic issues is actually a brake on a much more rapidly deteriorating US-China relationship. 

US-China trade war: Beijing takes cautious steps with new tariffs - CNBC

China pushed ahead Sunday with increased duties of between 5% to 10% on a variety of major American exports, including soybeans and crude oil.

However, the proportion of tariffs that took effect this weekend only account for about one third of the more than 5,000 products lines listed in the latest announcement.

人民日报人民要论:理性看待和应对中美经贸摩擦---人民网 - 金灿荣 孙西辉

Jin Canrong and Sun Xihui write on page 8 of Monday's People's Daily on "rationally viewing and responding to US-China trade fictions", say that weakly conceding will get noting for China (软弱退让换不来同情) , reminds readers that just after the PRC was established, when China was poor and weak, it still took the fight to the American imperialists when they attacked at China's door (North Korea) and through the fight created the "38th Parallel", so how could today's China allow anyone to bully it? They go on to criticize those they say are "afraid of America and worship America", and to argue that conceding to America's hegemonic pressure would be a historical mistake. They conclude with the point we keep hearing that China is the protector of the global system,, and that ultimately will emerge the victor, and stronger in the world for it

China lodges WTO complaint against US over Trump tariffs

China has lodged a case against the United States with the World Trade Organization over U.S. import duties, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Monday.

Comment: Monday's People's Daily ran a Zhong Sheng commentary saying China has lived up to is WTO commitments and calling on the US to do the same 履行世贸组织规则,中国言出必行(钟声)

China's top legislator meets U.S. senators - Xinhua

Top legislator Li Zhanshu met with a delegation led by U.S. Senator Steve Daines and Senator David Perdue here on Monday...

He said history has proven that China and the United States stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation and a healthy China-U.S. relationship meets the common interests of both countries and the world.

China is committed to the road of peaceful development and upholds an opening strategy featuring mutual benefit and win-win results, said Li, adding that the NPC is ready to work with the U.S. Congress to enhance cooperation and to properly handle differences and sensitive issues through dialogue and constructive means.

A report on the meeting was the number 4 item on the Monday CCTV Evening News 栗战书会见美国联邦参议员

4. New Party regulations for rural work

CPC issues regulations for rural work - Xinhua

The regulations were designed to uphold and strengthen the Party's overall leadership over rural work, facilitate the implementation of the rural vitalization strategy and to improve the Party's capacity to lead the country's rural work in the new era.

The regulations laid out six basic principles of the rural work, including upholding the Party's overall leadership and a people-centered approach.

Major tasks of the CPC's rural work are to strengthen the Party's leadership in economic development, socialist democracy, socialist cultural and ethical issues, social and ecological development, as well as to improve Party building in rural areas, according to the regulations.

The regulations - 中共中央印发《中国共产党农村工作条例》


Page 1 People's Daily commentary on the new rules, says extremely significant for consolidating the Party's governing foundation in villages, deepening the implementation of the rural revitalization strategy and accelerating agriculture and rural modernization.


5. New Party regulations for propaganda work

Comment: Information controls are will continue to tighten as the Party also ramps up efforts to produce properly "Socialist" content, art and literature while at the same time intensifying external propaganda efforts. 

A few years ago they changed the official translation of 宣传 from "propaganda" to "publicity", though the Chinese term did not change, nor did the policies and actions of the 宣传 system, so I still translate it as "propaganda".

Party issues regulation on publicity work, emphasizing ideology, soft power - Global Times

The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee has issued a regulation on the Party's publicity and communication work, emphasizing the importance of ideological work and requiring publicity organs to be established in Party branches in villages, state-owned enterprises and universities.

In a notice, the central committee said that publicity and communication work is of vital importance to the Party and is a fine tradition and political advantage for the Party as it leads people to understand the success in the revolution and national construction and reform, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

The circular asked CPC organizations at all levels to further strengthen the Party's overall leadership over publicity work to ensure that major decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee in this regard are implemented. 

The regulation emphasizes that publicity work should build a socialist ideology with strong cohesion and leadership, to strengthen the vitality and creativity of socialist spiritual civilization and to enhance the attractiveness and influence of Chinese culture. 

The regulation clarifies duties and principles of the Party's publicity departments and the domains of their administration, as well as methods to carry out the Party's publicity work, officials with the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee said in a Saturday interview. ..

The full text of the regulation was not published yet. 

The regulation said that the Party's publicity departments should promote the Party's policies and decisions, analyze and keep informed of public opinions, hold news conferences accordingly and conduct publicity work to other countries, so to help exchange of cultures, assist Chinese culture to go out and inform other countries of the human rights development of China

The official announcement, light on details - 中共中央印发《中国共产党宣传工作条例》

And an explainer from a "person in charge" at the Central Propaganda Department - 全面提升新时代宣传工作的科学化规范化制度化水平——中央宣传部负责人就《中国共产党宣传工作条例》答记者问

以党内法规建设新成效推动宣传思想工作开创新局面 - 求是网

Huang Kunming explains the new propaganda regulations on the latest issue of Qiushi

6. Xinjiang prisons and cyberhacks

China’s Prisons Swell After Deluge of Arrests Engulfs Muslims - The New York Times

The region in northwest China has experienced a record surge in arrests, trials and prison sentences in the past two years, according to a New York Times analysis of previously unreported official data...

Courts in Xinjiang — where largely Muslim minorities, including Uighurs and Kazakhs, make up more than half of the population — sentenced a total of 230,000 people to prison or other punishments in 2017 and 2018, significantly more than in any other period on record in decades for the region.

Sources say China used iPhone hacks to target Uyghur Muslims | TechCrunch

A number of malicious websites used to hack into iPhones over a two-year period were targeting Uyghur Muslims, TechCrunch has learned.

Sources familiar with the matter said the websites were part of a state-backed attack — likely China — designed to target the Uyghur community in the country’s Xinjiang state.

7. Wall Street Journal reporter effectively expelled

Wall Street Journal Reporter Forced to Leave China - WSJ

Chun Han Wong, a Singaporean national, has worked in Beijing for the Journal since 2014. His credentials have been approved annually since then. The Journal applied to renew them late last month for a process that usually takes a matter of days. The government-issued credentials are required to work in China as a foreign reporter. Without them, the Journal couldn’t renew Mr. Wong’s visa, which expired Friday.

Asked about its decision to not renew the credentials, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday that it “opposes individual foreign reporters who maliciously smear and attack China. These types of reporters are not welcome.”

Mr. Wong was co-author of a report on a cousin of Chinese President Xi Jinping whose activities are being scrutinized by Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The cousin, Ming Chai, is a naturalized Australian

8. Cai Qi going all out to ensure Beijing is safe for 10.1

This headline from the Beijing Youth Daily about Cai Qi’s exhortations for preparations for the big October 1 party was all over my Wechat this weekend. He is calling for meticulous and detailed planning to ensure nothing goes wrong but “dirty-minded” netizens had fun with the character 精, which among its many meanings beyond “meticulous” is also semen.