The third plenum of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) central committee, which concluded on November 12th, has left many observers disappointed. After months of efforts by the senior leadership to promote the meeting as a major reform landmark, its final report came as something of a let-down. However, it was broadly in line with The Economist Intelligence Unit's very modest expectations.
The Times: “Xi Jinping has marked his first half-year as President of China by resurrecting some of the finest leadership traditions of the late Chairman Mao: public humiliation, political backstabbing and crackling paranoia between officials.
The campaign, which was given a test-run in Hebei province yesterday under the glare of Mr Xi himself, involves a revival of the widely despised “criticism and self-criticism” drives established in the post-revolutionary 1950s.
The unbearably tense sessions, which force officials to decry their own shortcomings before highlighting the faults of their closest colleagues, have been given a makeover for the early 21st century and rebranded as “Democratic Life Meetings”.
But they have lost none of their old edge. Though nominally cast as a way to bring operational problems to light, the sessions were always intended to enforce discipline. The return of the practice comes as Mr Xi appears to be channelling key tracts of rhetoric and ideology from Mao Zedong.
In his first six months at China’s helm, the new President has intensified a Mao-style control of information, he has unabashedly allowed critics of the regime to be rounded up, he has called for Mao-style indoctrination for school children and told regional officials that “revolutionary history is the best nutrition for Communists”.
Even his much vaunted anti-corruption campaign has drawn on the vocabulary employed by Mao: Mr Xi has asserted the need to bring down both the “tigers” and “flies” of corrupt officialdom in a direct echo of comments by Chairman Mao six decades ago.
Hu Xingdou, a political economist at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said that while Mr Xi’s economic policies were in the mould of the great reformer Deng Xiaoping, the new leader was a Maoist when it came politics.
The criticism sessions, which could be rolled out to affect tens of thousands of senior officials across the country, are part of Mr Xi’s reference to the overtly Maoist leadership model known as the “mass line” that seeks to focus policy on the needs of ordinary Chinese.
“At the moment, the ruling party feels it needs Maoism, and it is hard to say whether it is Xi’s own idea or not. There are too many social contradictions in China and the Party does need some type of authority in order to rule, otherwise the boat will overturn,” he said.
The latest round of criticism and self criticism sessions were conducted among the top echelon of Communist Party officials in Hebei: the 12-member provincial standing committee.
With a shirt-sleeved and unsmiling, Mr Xi quietly taking notes, and with state-run television cameras rolling, the party secretary of Hebei, Zhou Benshun, condemned a senior colleague’s personal ambition and her consuming need to look good in the eyes of supervisors. This misguided focus, he said, would lead to the local government “doing something irrelevant to the public interest”.
Obliged then to come up with a genuine set of personal failings of his own. Mr Zhou had to list his foibles as the most powerful man in Asia glowered inches away from him.
“I have not done enough to orient my achievements around ordinary people’s interests,” he said. “Sometimes my policy making is too subjective and carried out without a deep knowledge of the people. I haven’t been practical enough in my ideology. My fighting sprit is slack and my drive to work hard is falling away.”
His blunt appraisals were merely the opening gambit in a session in which nobody escaped criticism – much of it openly tailored to Mr Xi’s previous tirades against formalism, waste and corruption.
As the accusations flew, one member was accused of being too impatient, another said that the committee generally issued too many documents. With possibly negative implications for his career, the local head of the disciplinary inspection commission was accused by colleagues of underplaying the importance of punishment.
Several offered up broad condemnations of waste in the province, pointing out that Hebei had spent Rmb3.3 million (£335,000) hiring celebrities to sing and dance at the New Year Evening Gala in February.
Sun Ruibin’s self criticism, meanwhile, appeared carefully attuned to the public disgust at corrupt officials. “As a municipal party secretary I was given a big cross-country 4×4 car,” he said. “I felt perfectly at ease about it, although it was in clear violation of rules and regulations.”
In its write-up of the Hebei sessions, Chinese state media quoted a senior Hebei official who, perhaps unsurprisingly, felt that the revival of the criticism and self-criticism seminars was a good thing.
“After we were promoted and were officials for a long time … we started feeling good and arrogant,” he said, “We began just glancing at ‘shop fronts’ and rarely checking out ‘the backyards’ and ‘corners’ during inspection trips.””
The Hindu: “Party hints at withdrawal of the controversial measure.
With Rahul Gandhi slamming the ordinance against disqualification of convicted lawmakers, the government is expected to take back the controversial measure, the Congress indicated on Friday.
“Rahulji’s opinion is the opinion and the line of Congress… Now Congress party is opposed to this ordinance. The views of the Congress party should always be supreme,” party general secretary and communication department in-charge Ajay Maken said when asked about the fate of the ordinance in the wake of Mr. Gandhi’s views and whether it is likely to be withdrawn.
The Congress clearly appeared flummoxed by Mr. Gandhi’s stand as Mr. Maken, at a meet-the-press programme at the Delhi Press Club, completely backtracked from his statement praising the ordinance as “perfect”, made minutes before the party vice-president took the stage and denounced the measure calling it “complete nonsense” and “wrong” on the part of the government.
Mr. Maken sidestepped questions on whether Mr. Gandhi’s remarks meant a “rebellion” against the government or a public snub to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government.
“Rahul Gandhi is our leader. His views are views of the Congress party. The situation with any issue evolves with time and it has evolved and no one should have any objection to it,” he merely said in reply to such questions.
“What Rahul Gandhi said is the most important thing… that this ordinance will not help us fight corruption. He is our leader and I think this is our official political stand. Rahulji’s opinion is the opinion and the line of Congress… Now Congress party is opposed to this ordinance,” he said.”
The Jarkarta Globe: “During his recent visit to Jakarta for a bilateral with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, France’s top diplomat, Minister Laurent Fabius, dropped by the Asean Secretariat and there announced to a regional audience that his country had made a “pivot” to Asia. Smart move.
The French foreign minister: explained “France wants to be present where tomorrow’s world is [being] built.” That’s savoir-faire.
France, he stressed, is part of the Asian-Oceania space through its history. At least 1 million French citizens have Asian origins. And more than half a million more live in its Pacific territories.
The French pivot looks fairly more sophisticated than the American model. The US pivot jiggles you with the roar of its military component. Perhaps that can’t be helped. The United States has been global cop for so long, people forget it’s also an economic player. And they take its cultural influence for granted. The French also have a military presence in Asia but since the demise of Napoleon, their reputation for soldiering has been eclipsed by their fame for concocting sauces.
And they’re taking care to emphasize that their pivot is diplomatic, economic and “human,” meaning sociocultural. They affirm that no global problem can be solved without China’s participation, or at least its acquiescence. They want to strengthen their already strong security relations with India. They seek to re-engage with Japan and South Korea.
They’re bent on boosting their neglected relationship with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations — especially Indonesia, which represents 40 percent of the population and about as much of the Southeast Asia’s economy. They see Indonesia as a crucial partner on the global stage on such issues as peacekeeping, climate change and the battle against terror.
It’s not only France but also probably the rest of Europe that feels the need for robust partnerships in this part of the world. Although Europe is in deep economic trouble, some countries there will always matter: heavyweights like France itself, Germany, Britain, Norway, Sweden. That’s why Umar Hadi, director for West Europe at the Foreign Office, is brainstorming an update of Indonesia’s European policy.”
The Hindu: “The Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday said the government’s decision to promulgate an ordinance on convicted MPs is an attempt to make “cheats, frauds, murderers” and the likes as lawmakers.
“BJP is shocked at this Ordinance. We would like to know whose great idea it is — is it Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi or is it UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi,” party general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.
“Who was eager to promulgate an Ordinance to make frauds, cheats, rapists and murderers as our MPs and MLAs?” he said.
Mr. Rudy hailed the Supreme Court verdict on the issue, saying the apex court had in a “historic judgement” said that an MP or an MLA would stand disqualified immediately if convicted by a court for crimes with punishment of two years or more.
The Ordinance, which was cleared by the Cabinet on Tuesday, seeks to negate this order and BJP has opposed this move.
“We Indians have already lost faith in the political system and very soon the country will trash this democracy for good, thanks to this Congress government,” Mr. Rudy said.
His observations came a day after Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj termed the Ordinance as unconstitutional and requested the President not to give his assent to it.
“We are opposed to it. We request the President not to sign it. President is not obliged to sign an Ordinance that is unconstitutional,” Ms. Swaraj had said on Twitter.”
A few days ago, China acquired vast areas of farming land from Ukraine, now it is acquiring a secure source of fertiliser. It’s determined that the population gets fed!
Reuters: “China acquired a 12.5 percent stake in Russian potash producer Uralkali (URKA.MM) in a deal that could help Beijing secure stable supplies of the soil nutrient, put new pressure on prices and reduce the chances of a Russia-Belarus cartel being revived.
The investment by China’s $575 billion sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp (CIC) CIC.UL is the latest twist in a saga that began when the world’s leading potash producer quit the lucrative sales partnership with Belarus in July and led to the company’s chief executive being jailed.
Under the deal, Uralkali said on Tuesday that CIC had received the stake in a bond exchange deal with Wadge Holdings Ltd, which belongs to three shareholders including oligarch Suleiman Kerimov.
The deal is a rare example of China, the world’s largest consumer of potash, acquiring direct ownership of Russian natural resource assets, although it is only the latest in a series of commodity-related investments by CIC.
It also coincides with speculation that Kerimov might sell his 21.75 percent holding over a dispute that has soured Russia-Belarus relations.
Uralkali sent the $20 billion global potash market into turmoil when it quit the marketing alliance with state-owned Belaruskali. Belarus hit back by arresting CEO Vladislav Baumgertner after talks with the country’s prime minister.
Some investors believe the Kremlin wants to repair the alliance to avert a possible collapse in the price of potash, which accounts for 12 percent of Belarus’s state revenue.
“I can see little chance that the government would allow the Chinese fund to acquire a much larger stake,” said Boris Krasnojenov, an analyst at Renaissance Capital in Moscow.
“There is no similar precedent in Russia, and the eventual buyer would probably be a Russian player.”
There are no negotiations to sell Kerimov’s personal stake to CIC, a source close to the businessman told Reuters.”
SCMP: “Chinese military officials will have to undergo an audit before they can retire or be promoted, state media reported on Tuesday, in the latest measure in the leadership’s campaign against corruption.
The audit will encompass officials’ “real estate property, their use of power, official cars and service personnel”, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing a guideline issued by the Central Military Commission.
The guideline aims to improve the “work style” of military officials and fight against graft, the report said.
Military officers who stand to be promoted to regimental commander-level posts and above, as well as those who plan to take up civilian posts or retire, will have to submit to an audit, the report said.
The military began replacing licence plates on its cars and trucks in April in a move to crack down on fleets of luxury vehicles that routinely run red lights, drive aggressively and fill up on free fuel.
Military plates enable drivers to avoid road tolls and parking fees and are often handed out to associates as perks or favours.
China’s Commerce Ministry published the list, which includes components for nuclear explosive devices and rocket systems, on Monday.
It said the move would help implement UN resolutions on North Korea, and would be effective immediately.
Analysts say the ban shows China taking a firmer line against its ally.
The list includes technology in nuclear, missile, chemical and biological fields.
It says the restrictions are developed in accordance with several UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea.
China is North Korea’s only ally and its major trading partner.
Western powers have previously criticised China for not rigorously enforcing UN sanctions imposed on North Korea because of its nuclear programme, the BBC’s Martin Patience in Beijing reports.
However, relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have been seriously strained in recent months, our correspondent adds.
In March, China supported a UN Security Council resolution tightening sanctions against North Korea, in response to Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February.”