monthly roundup

Political pageantry usually dominates the annual Two Meetings, with policy coming a poor second. This year the domestic Charity Law was the only significant legislation to pass, though last-minute changes left doubt as to its intention and effects. The 13th 5-year plan, placing innovation at the centre of industrial development, was also given final shape.

Li Keqiang 李克强 announced economy-wide VAT roll-out on 1 May 2016. Lou Jiwei 楼继伟 reiterated the need to ‘improve’ the 2008 Labour Contract Law. Under the ‘new normal’ of lower growth rates, and with the state positioning itself as entrepreneur and SME champion, changes to increase labour market flexibility are likely.

With the theatre over, the policy cycle has entered a time of top-level prescriptions: State Council Guiding Opinions will set the legislative tone, leaving agencies to flesh out details. SOE reform remains in the spotlight, following February moves to tackle steel and coal overcapacity. With Li urging swift action, moves to address corporate debt are anticipated, most likely from CBRC. For now, however, deleveraging is proceeding without central orchestration. Tianjin’s restructuring of Bohai Steel Group’s 192 bn debt is a test-bed that will influence an eventual national model.

New regulations give SAPPRFT, responsible for regulating media and press, wider authority over digital content, severely limiting foreign involvement in online publication. In Washington, Xi heralded China’s contribution to nuclear security, having just pledged some 73 bn Belt and Road money on a visit to the Czech Republic, now promoted to ‘strategic partner’; locally, fishing rights were testing cooperative policies with neighbours.


featured analysis

tech leap to moderate prosperity: China’s 13th 5-year plan

tech leap to moderate prosperity: China’s 13th 5-year plan

The 13th iteration of the world’s largest parallel planning process will be licked into final shape this week. China’s next 5-year plan will be tabled at the 2016 meeting of the National People’s Congress and unveiled by mid-March. full post open access →

Listen to David Kelly’s ABC Saturday Extra interview on the 13th 5-year plan


policy movers

can’t put a name to the face? go to page footer

1. A State Council researcher for most of my career, I became deputy minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in late 2015 to oversee the restructuring of ‘zombie enterprises.’ I am the face of the announced 100 bn fund for laid-off workers from these zombie companies, which hopes to offset the labour impact of mass closures. I have suggested numerous policy solutions to help address massive industrial overcapacity, including raising environmental and energy efficiency standards and promoting international Capacity Cooperation.


2. As Xi Jinping’s 习近平 close confidant and economic advisor, I helped develop the economic reform blueprint, was central to the November 2013 Third Plenum Decision, and led drafting of the 13th 5-year plan. My brainchild, supply-side reform, has been a Xi mantra since the lead up to the October 2015 Fifth Plenum. In developing the idea, I sought a compromise between pro-reform and pro-stability factions. While my carefully crafted initiatives have failed before, I expect supply-side reform will influence policy direction for years to come.


3. I champion a market-based approach to charity to maximise donation value rather than state control. Chief of personnel of the CCP Youth League in the 1980s, I later ran the successful ‘Hope Project’ to help rural school dropouts in impoverished areas. I insisted that Hope operate in a voluntary, market-based fashion, making a real difference. I’m a harsh critic of state-run charities for stifling civil society and have called for clearer legal status for NGOs, charitable trusts, social enterprises and online donation resources. Thus, I vocally called out the Charity Law draft for failing to clarify these fundamental institutional divisions.


short selling RMB
reducing overcapacity: top priority of structural economic reform

finance

zombies vs. workers

The policy patchwork to support redundant workers amid industrial transformation will do little to ease fears of a ‘wave of layoffs’ threatening stability. full signal client access →

end february position:

  • monetary policy under supply-side reform: standards and approvals to kill zombies

mid march position:

  • Lou Jiwei: VAT reform requires government-wide cooperation

end march position:

  • not another bailout: Tianjin a test-bed for restructuring zombie debt


China’s foreign policy is testing regional links
China’s foreign policy is testing regional links

geopolitics

end february position:

  • Chinese diplomacy: drifting into realism

mid march position:

  • going global: doubling down

end march position:

  • domestic confinement: global expansion


land reform
new reforms to the housing fund tinker around the edges

society

urbanisation’s social contract

State Council forbids making housing purchase a condition of granting migrants residence entitlements in small and medium-size cities, exposing tensions between central and local policy agendas. full signal client access →

housing fund reform opens wrong door

Proposed changes to the troubled housing fund system avoid fundamental issues, and would do little to boost housing markets or lower financial burdens on workers and firms. full signal client access →

end february position:

  • urbanisation or property markets: which wins?

mid march position:

  • working hard or hardly working: labour permeates Two Meetings

end march position:

  • housing reform: thinking outside the box


from ‘traditional’ to ‘modern’ agriculture
from ‘traditional’ to ‘modern’ agriculture

agriculture and marine

Transitioning from ‘traditional’ to ‘modern’ agriculture, long in the pipeline, will feature in the 5-year plan. Opening up agricultural industrial chains for the first time, this transition requires a comprehensive food security strategy, already presented in Doc 1, and a still under-development food safety strategy.

end february position:

  • COSCOCS: merging and acquiring in high seas stakes

mid march position:

  • modernising agriculture: moving to the next phase

end march position:

  • inflation horizon: adapting nuclear technologies


1 June 2015 Beijing mandates no more puffing outside
pushing to expand credit for emerging industries

trade and industry

soft money road to new industry

Moves to expand credit for industrial transformation while maintaining macroeconomic stability signal an end to restrained monetary policy. full signal client access →

end february position:

  • moves on overcapacity: can the state have its cake and eat it?

mid march position:

  • follow the leader: Hebei moves to cut capacity

end march position:

  • e-comm to get smart: MofCOM releases logistics plan


property rights registration
new media rules work against Facebook

governance

the road less foreign

Regulations targeting foreign operations expand SAPPRFT authority over online and digital content, tightening market entry for foreign firms, and increasing risks for those already present. full signal client access →

end february position:

  • Xi up against the wall: above the law or under it?

mid march position:

  • government within the law: compliance by 2020

end march position:

  • Charity Law: state-run civil society?


policy ticker highlights

corn policy to reorient to market
China Grain Online | 29 march
China will promote reforming the state corn purchasing and storage system to reflect market supply and demand, said Liu Xiaonan 刘小南 NDRC Economic and Trade Division deputy director.

fix social security underpayment before lowering contribution rates
Economic Information Daily | 28 march
Social security contribution underpayment is a bigger problem than high contribution rates, finds Economic Information Daily.

central gov’t and capital markets should take on local debt
Tencent Finance | 24 march
The size of local government debt does not pose excessive risk, says Li Daokui 李稻葵 Tsinghua University, because it is largely tied to infrastructure rather than social security (as in the US).

national e-commerce logistics plan released
MofCOM | 23 march
MofCOM has released the national e-commerce logistics development plan 2016-2020.

foreign minister: AIIB, Belt and Road not expansionist
Global Times | 9 march
Belt and Road is neither expansionist nor another ‘Monroe Doctrine’, says Wang Yi 王毅 foreign minister, referring to the 19th century American foreign policy initiative that sought to establish continental dominance.

new web publication regulation leaves too much to SAPPRFT discretion
Caixin | 1 march
Critics are overreacting to clauses targeting foreign investment and user-generated media in the SAPPRFT-MIIT online publication regulations, argues Wei Yongzheng 魏永征 media expert.



lexicon

five insurances and one fund
五险一金 wǔxiǎn yījīn

‘Five insurances and one fund’ is the slate of employment-based social funds for workers. The five mandatory insurance programs—pension, medical, unemployment, workers’ compensation and maternity—are regulated by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. Worker and employer contributions together amount to up to 40 percent of an individual’s salary, sparking debate over both heavy fee burdens and potential fund shortfalls. The ‘one’ fund—the housing fund—is regulated by MoHURD, falling outside the bounds of the 2011 Social Insurance Law


in the media

Chinese journalist resigns amid government clampdown on media
SBS News | 30 march

Australian policy consultant David Kelly runs Beijing-based thinktank China Policy. He said the government had always had strict control of the media, but the public’s attitude toward it is changing.

China’s 5 year plan
ABC Saturday Extra | 12 march

China Policy’s David Kelly says the country’s leaders want to ‘digitise the China dream’ to achieve a ‘moderately prosperous society’ in the next half-decade. But it comes at the same time as troubling concerns over censorship and growing authoritarianism are also evident.

The Gamble Behind Xi Jinping’s More Restrictive Media Policy
The Diplomat | 9 march

As David Kelly of the China Policy consultancy told the Financial Times, Ren represents a “trend in society which is totally fed up” with Xi’s divisive and repressive leadership style, and is not afraid to speak out.

flashy slogans for outdated ideas[Dutch]
Trouw | 4 march

According to Charles Horne, economic research manager at China Policy, a think tank in Beijing , these delays are due to disagreements over the leadership’s policy direction, saying ‘the messages from above are often diffuse, there is no unified front.’

Heat rises on China tycoon Ren Zhiqiang
Financial Times | 1 march

David Kelly, director of research at consultancy China Policy, said the affair had shocked Chinese society. “He’s crossed a line which is not just disrespectful to the emperor,” he said. “He represents a trend in society which is totally fed up. I was at a dinner party last night and the tone was disbelief.”


quiz answers: 1. Feng Fei 冯飞 MIIT deputy minister 2. Liu He 刘鹤 Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs 3. Xu Yongguang 徐永光 Narada Foundation president


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