More good news from China than usual – in which areas and for what reasons?

10:00 by Hubert Fromlet, Kalmar

Following the Chinese press, there is currently an increasing accumulation of positive news – at least according to my own interpretation or feeling.

Thinkable reasons for the frequent positive reporting

There may be different reasons for all the positive reports, such as – pointing with the eyes of the political leadership (without ranking) – at

1)  a successful management of the corona crisis – also for the economy

2)  the successful RCEP agreement on (gradual) free trade, driven by China

3)  the obvious possibilities of improved ties to other Asian countries

4)  the strong high-tech development, particularly of IT but also the moon landing

5)  the official end of poverty, and particularly

6)  meeting the marketing needs of the Communist Party (CP) for the celebration of the 100 year anniversary of its foundation in 1921.

More examples could be mentioned. In each of these six examples, one can find strategic objectives, both in the short and the longer run. Contrary to most other nations in the world, China manages to apply both short-term and long-term thinking simultaneously.

I have wondered for a long time why this is the case and found two probable reasons for this. The first one may be linked to China’s Confucian roots. The second one can be explained by China’s authoritarian political system, meaning that a democratically elected government by nature is more short-sighted – very much in line with the research of Nobel Prize winner James Buchanan who focused on politicians’ major driving force: to do everything to be re-elected.

Recent positive contributions to the anniversary particularly important

Getting back to the initially mentioned examples of currently even more positive reporting than usual by Chinese media, more detailed exemplifying may be added.

Ad 1)  Looking into the official corona numbers, China had been very successful in fighting covid-19, also in absolute terms much better than, for example, Sweden. We know, of course, that China locked down the country very drastically – and particularly the city of Wuhan. However, since China’s history of transparency and statistical trustworthiness hardly had been encouraging during the years, there is no chance of judging the accuracy of the previously reported numbers. The total official numbers could be roughly correct, slightly wrong or very wrong. However, at least in the past two or three quarters, Chinese corona numbers should have developed more correctly. If not, digital sources would have informed the rest of the world.

Ad 2)  The free trade agreement RCEP between 13 Asian countries plus Australia and New Zeeland a few weeks ago made the Chinese very proud. This was a strategic masterpiece by China’s political leaders who recognized the great chance of a major cross-border trade deal after the withdrawal of the United States and President Trump from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in January 2017, based on Trump’s misleading dogma of “America first”. This unwise decision made China to act and to outsmart the United States. RCEP will certainly be presented as an outstanding example of great international recognition for the People’s Republic.

Ad 3)  China is, of course, the leading country in the RCEP area with its totally 2.2 billion people population. This position will increase China’s influence both regionally and globally – ceteris paribus at the expense of United States and Europe. Recently, China, Japan and South Korea were described as the main driving forces for the RCEP agreement – a position that all three countries regard as favorable, de facto meaning a further strengthening of China in especially East Asia. A good example for the Chinese leadership to explain successful international cooperation and influential progress – particularly via media – can be found, for example, in https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202012/01/WS5fc5d8fba31024ad0ba991ad.html.

Ad 4)  In recent years, CP leader and President of China, Xi Jinping, could be noted many times when addressing the decisive importance of technological progress,  positive changes in the value-added chain and quality improvements, see below https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202012/02/WS5fc6c3eaa31024ad0ba992b0.html. Without major improvements in these areas, China has no change to replace its non-competitive products and exports – and, consequently, create better conditions for the economic, social and environmental future. Positive news that currently are spread among many others are excellent international IT rankings and what officials call the “leapfrog development” of IT, the recent moon landing not to forget.

Ad 5)  China has recently officially declared the end of poverty which certainly is a good topic for headlines in media https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-11-23/China-eliminates-absolute-poverty-one-month-before-schedule-VEp8VAJJS0/index.html

It should be not underestimated that this development probably can be regarded as the most positive historical achievement of the CP during the past 100 years. However, the increasing uneven distribution of income remains a burdening problem.

Ad 6)  Here we have the everything else outstanding explanation for China’s current  increase of its success marketing: the forthcoming CP-jubilee year of 2021.

Hubert Fromlet
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University
Editorial board

 

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