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COMMENTS ON MEDIA COVERAGE OF CHINA #498

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Graham Perry
Graham Perry
Experienced Arbitration Lawyer | China & Chinese Business Affairs | Public Speaker/Lecturer.

GOOD MORNING FROM LONDON

08 FEBRUARY 2024

COMMENTS ON MEDIA COVERAGE OF CHINA

#1   CHINA’S ECONOMY

#2   CHINA’S NEW YEAR TRAVEL SURGES

#3   CHINA AND UIGHUR MUSLIMS

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#1    CHINA’S ECONOMY

       THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“China’s finance ministry promised more proactive government spending this year, as Beijing doubles down on boosting the economy amid a deepening property slump, while wary economists say bolder moves are needed to rejuvenate growth.

Fiscal expenditure in 2024 will be maintained at the necessary intensity and fiscal transfers to local governments will remain at certain levels, officials from the Ministry of Finance said at a press conference on Thursday, signalling more financial support from Beijing to local governments struggling with piling debt.

Authorities will set a reasonable size for government investment, Vice Finance Minister Wang Dongwei said at the briefing, adding that the ministry will increase the amount under the central budget.

China’s Finance Minister Lan Fo’an said earlier this month that Beijing will boost fiscal spending this year to better support domestic demand.

After a year of shakier-than-expected recovery, China’s economy recorded a 5.2% growth that hit Beijing’s official goal, but still marked one of the slowest expansions in decades. Facing challenges from a protracted property crisis, persisting deflationary pressures and tepid global demand for Chinese goods, Beijing has rolled out a cascade of support measures in recent months but fresh data show that its efforts are far from enough to turn the economy around.

The country’s 100 largest developers recorded a deep slump in new-home sales in January, according to data from China Real Estate Information. Meanwhile, an official gauge indicated a contraction in Chinese manufacturing activity for the fourth straight month.

Despite economists’ repeated call for bolder fiscal support, authorities have refrained from any big-ticket stimulus so far, partially constrained by mounting debt pressures that have been only worsened by slumping land sales revenue, once a major revenue source for local governments.

Official data shows China’s local governments spent a record 1.23 trillion yuan ($173.25 billion) on bond interest payments last year, about a 10% jump from 2022, while outstanding local government debt reached CNY40.74 trillion by the end of 2023, up 16% from 2022.

Reuters reported last month that Beijing has asked heavily-indebted local governments to delay or halt some infrastructure projects to rein in debt risks.

In a sign of growing tensions between Beijing and cash-strapped local governments, the finance ministry this week warned local officials against using technology and innovation funds for other purposes including debt repayment, pensions and civil servant salaries.

For most Chinese provinces, 2024 might prove to be yet another year of fiscal woes. According to an analysis of local government reports by state-                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     only Shanxi and Jiangxi expect their 2024 general budget revenues to grow faster than last year.”

COMMENTS BY GRAHAM PERRY;-

Western media reporting on China is quite negative. There is a reason for this. The Western media is owned – almost exclusively – by wealthy capitalists. That is not a surprise – after all a ‘Free Press’ requires massive amount of funding and that is available only from a small number of individuals and companies of immense wealth. Such people and such organisations are not supporters of the Socialist system of government that China upholds

Just as it is wrong to concentrate almost exclusively on China’s negatives, it is also wrong for friends of China to concentrate almost exclusively on China’s positives. There has to be a balance but that balance is rarely shown by the media outlets of the Western World. Good news coming out of China is always reported by the Western media with a negative gloss.

China’s economy is experiencing problems. Evergrande’s liquidation and the references to $300 bn debts cannot and should not be overlooked. It is bad news – for the people of China, for the government of China and for the business sector of China. Something has clearly gone quite wrong, But there is a “but”. See the whole picture.

The Western media rarely reports the whole picture. It stresses the negative because it does not want the China experiment to succeed. Bad news is grasped with glee as evidence of the failure of the China challenge. For this reason, observers of China need to keep a sense of balance in their coverage of China in order to ensure they “get the whole picture”. All bad news is a distortion. All good news is also a distortion.

It is worth noting that China has reported an annual growth rate in 2023 of 5.2% and yet a reading of the above article from the Wall Street Journal would lead you to believe that the losses in the property sector – Evergrande and Country Garden – had wrecked the Chinese economy. That is not the case. The readers of this Column will be familiar with recent articles about the sudden breakthrough of Chinese SVRs, and newly modelled Huawei mobile phones and the surge of sales on the UK high street of Chinese fashion clothing. Alongside the woes of the property sector, there is concrete evidence of success and achievement in China’s economy, Observe the bad and the good, There is evidence of both.  

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#2  CHINA’S NEW YEAR TRAVEL SURGES

       SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

Lunar New Year travel in and out of mainland China is projected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, with the number of trips expected to triple compared to last year, according to immigration authorities. The travel surge is expected despite what forecasters say will be “ complex” winter weather over the holiday.

The National Immigration Administration (NIA) said on Monday it expected an average of 1.8 million inbound and outbound trips a day during the eight-day holiday period starting on Saturday. Passenger flows at international airports are expected to peak from Thursday to Sunday, as well as during the closing weekend.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport is expecting an average of 830,000 arrivals and departures a day, while Guangzhou’s Baiyun airport is predicted to have 390,000, and Beijing Capital International Airport 360,000.

This year’s holiday period is a day longer than last year.

In the south, more than 300,000 people are expected to pass each day through the Gongbei Port between Zhuhai and Macau, while Luohu Port – the busiest border checkpoint for people travelling between Hong Kong and Shenzhen – is expecting 198,000 daily passengers. Neighbouring Futian Port is preparing for 157,000 people daily

Residents and tourists from Hong Kong and the mainland were expected to make a total of 7.5 million trips across the border over the festive period. The Shenzhen Bay border crossing will operate around the clock, while the Lo Wu checkpoint on the Hong Kong side will extend its operating hours.

Observers said the increase in travel was being driven by post-pandemic enthusiasm, as well as the extended holiday. This time last year, China had just emerged from its years-long zero-Covid policy, with travel sentiment only starting to recover.

Beijing has also signed mutual visa exemption agreements with 23 countries, including popular warmer hubs Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as France, Germany and Italy.

The Maldives, Thailand and Singapore have been the top overseas destinations for Chinese tourists this year, according to a poll conducted by state-owned newspaper Global Times. Russia, Japan and New Zealand were also among the most popular countries.

GRAHAM PERRY COMMENTS;-

Twelve months ago China was in its early post-Covid stage and travel figures over the Chinese New Year celebrations were down The situation today is much improved with considerable evidence of Chinese returning to the pre-Covid figures of travel. A population that is suffering badly in a flawed property sector still has strength and vigour to enable Lunar New Year travel in and out of mainland China to rebound to pre-pandemic levels. The number of trips are expected to triple compared to last year, with the Maldives, Thailand and Singapore the most popular overseas destinations for Chinese tourists with Russia, Japan and New Zealand also featuring.

So China’s economy has problems but life goes on. Chinese continue to enjoy foreign travel. It is not quite “business as usual” as the losses in the property sector will make an impact but China is strong not weak. Mistakes have been made and lessons learned. But China’s critics will find that the hoped-for collapse of the Chinese system of government, economy and social structure will not happen.

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#3   CHINA AND UIGHUR MUSLIMS

       NIKKEI ASIA

Newly built mosques in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region must adopt “Chinese characteristics” under new regulations from authorities.

The regulations say that no organization or individual may force residents to not believe in a religion.

But new or renovated religious venues, including mosques, are required to “embody Chinese characteristics and style” in terms of architecture, sculptures, paintings and decorations.

The new rules in Xinjiang align with the Chinese leadership’s policy to “Sinicize” religion and tighten state control.

They went into force on Thursday, following a public notice by the Xinjiang government last month.

Construction of new religious sites requires approval of the local government. Religious groups, clergy and believers must “practice core socialist values” and “adhere to the goal of the Sinicization of religion,” the text states.

The Uyghurs are a Turkic ethnic minority who are predominantly Muslim. There were 11.77 million Uyghurs in China in 2020, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. They reside mainly in Xinjiang in northwestern China.

In January 2021, the Communist Party published regulations on the “united front work” calling on religious doctrines and precepts to be in line with the development and advancement of modern China.”  

GRAHAM PERRY COMMENTS

There are two contrasting versions of what happened in Xinjiang. The first, favoured by Western commentators, is that China committed genocide against the Uighurs. Filled with race hate, it is alleged that China destroyed the spirit of the Uighurs by mass murder carried out by the Han majority on the orders of Xi Jinping’s government. The Uighurs were persecuted, killed if not confined to concentration camps. Tyranny ruled, say the China critics. The real China, they say, stood up and revealed itself to be the source of mass murder.

There is an alternative narrative and it goes as follows. A group of Xinjiang secessionists of Uighur origin raised the banner of revolt and tried to take the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang out of the Peoples Republic of China. Led by the East Turkestan Independence Movement – ETIM – they challenged the rule of the Xinjiang Region.

There was fighting. There were deaths on both sides. The leaders of ETIM were pursued, arrested and either sentenced to death or to the Re-Education Camps. And ordinary citizens of Xinjiang lost their lives in bombing outrages by ETIM including citizens of Beijing.

There was no genocide because the Uighur population grew during this period. In Europe 6m Jews were killed in gas chambers – that was genocide. The death of a few ETIM rebels is not genocide. It is the price that vigilantes pay if they take up arms against the local Government of Xinjiang and the national Government of China

It is also the case that visitors to China – and I first visited in 1965 – have never seen, observed or reported any instances of race hate against the Uighurs. This all started with Trump’s US Secretary of State Pompeo who six months before he stepped down from office whipped up a frenzy of genocide allegations in an attempt to damn China and damage its reputation in the world. Pompeo knew that China was attracting support in the emerging Global South with its policy of support for infrastructure  – roads, trains, highways, ports – development – BRI. Pompeo, and his successor Blinken, tried hard to damage China’s reputation

The world is growing weary of the genocide allegations and the proof in support being the very flawed research by a German academic, Adrian Zenz. So the attack on China has now switched. China, it is said, is seeking to Sinicize the Autonomous Region of Xinjiang and remove the traditions and culture of the Uighur people and replace it with the dominant culture of the Han majority. As an example, it is said that China has banned the teaching of Uighur language in Xinjiang Schools. Not so.

There is a quite different narrative and it is this. If the people of Xinjiang Province are to the thrive and develop, they have to travel widely throughout China to promote their economic development. They need to meet and engage with the Han majority throughout China and they can only do that comfortably if they speak the language of the Han majority.

Imagine if the English language was banned in Wales and the Welsh people spoke only the Welsh language.  Trade, business and social contact with people from England Scotland n Ireland and Eire would speedily be brought to an end. It is in the interests of the Uighur people to have two priorities – maintain their history and culture and at the same time adopt the language and culture of the non-Uighur people who form the overwhelming majority of Chinese citizens.

GRAHAM PERRY

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