Eye On China: Politics First – Italy’s Choice – Misri’s Priorities – Backing Pakistan

Eye on China is a weekly bulletin offering news and analysis related to the Middle Kingdom. This week we cover the CPC’s new rules for cadres; Xi’s visit to Italy; Indian envoy Vikram Misri’s interview to Global Times; the China-Pakistan strategic dialogue and much more.

I. Politics & Ideology

Xi Jinping kicked off this week with a speech at a symposium for teachers of ideological and political theory. There were two big points that Xi made. First, “the Party must nurture generations of talent who support the leadership of the CPC and the country’s socialist system.” In order to do this, ideological and political theory courses in primary, secondary and tertiary schools must be upgraded. Second, Xi wants such courses to be focussed on delivering “the country’s mainstream ideology and directly respond to false ideas and thoughts.” Do note that this is a sensitive anniversary year in China, with the centenary of the May Fourth Movement and the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests.

If you’re unclear what political and ideological education entails, here’s Party School’s Cai Zhiqiang’s explanation: “It is an important way to pass down political culture and the great achievements the CPC has made to the young generation to help them clearly understand the CPC’s path and inherit the CPC’s lofty ideals to make contributions to the country as well as the people.” It’s not just loyalty of students that the Party is concerned about. The CPC Central Committee has revised rules for the selection and appointment of Party and government officials. This a revision of the rules issued in 2014. Under the new regulation, political loyalty – or as Xinhua’s report put it, “putting political standards first” – is the key criterion for cadres. Here’s the full regulation in Mandarin. What’s the big concern that the CPC leadership has with regard to cadres? Party theoretician Liu Junxian weighed in on this in a recent piece. He talks about the ideological challenges that China faces from the West, in the form of the ”peaceful evolution” strategy to subvert the socialist system. He then discusses “bad thoughts” that have infiltrated society, such as historical nihilism, liberalism, democratic socialism, consumerism, pan-entertainment, extreme nationalism and “universal values.” It also discusses the role of social media as a challenge for the party in maintaining ideological and narrative control, along with raising concerns about public alienation with party and government.

On Tuesday, Xi headed the seventh meeting of the central committee for deepening overall reform. This is the key body guiding overall reform. Xi stressed on the need to address formalism at the grass-roots level through reforms, i.e., bureaucratic bottlenecks across the system. Eight documents, covering a range of issues such as western region development, building oil and gas pipelines (a new national pipeline company will be set up), supporting research at universities, improving rural governance and providing a public legal service system, were approved. Interestingly, there was also much emphasis on supporting innovation and integration of artificial intelligence with the real economy.

A day later, PSC member and head of the central leading group on disciplinary inspection, Zhao Leji, addressed the country’s discipline inspectors. Once again the message was clear. Their job entails “enforcing political discipline, addressing the practice of formalities for formalities’ sake and bureaucratism, making political supervision a regular practice, and pushing for the implementation of major decisions and policies of the CPC Central Committee.” Caixin reports that the next round of inspections this time will look into three central government departments and 42 state-owned enterprises under the central government.

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