may: BRI buddies

Xi'an summit replays global south card

Amid slowing trade growth, Beijing is strengthening ties with BRI partners: hosting a summit in Xi'an with the Central Asian five, signing an FTA with Ecuador and improving port logistics between the Northeast and Russia. Reinforcing the PRC advantage in new energy cars, MofCOM extended export help, while NDRC urged more rural charging stations. The more NEVs at home, the more competitive PRC NEVs will be overseas. 

The State Administration of Financial Supervision replaced the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission as financial ringmaster. Its head, career state banker Li Yunze 李云泽 had been posted briefly to Sichuan (2018-19) as concerns over local government debt rose. Kunming made headlines when insolvency was rumoured following a leak; 'fake news', the local government insisted. Q1 macroeconomic data disappointed, triggering calls for stimulus, resisted so far by Beijing.

The National People’s Congress is on notice to ensure the PRC maintains the advantage in global interactions. Beijing is also engaging the diaspora in bringing PRC capital and skills home while encouraging overseas Chinese to promote PRC culture and support its firms abroad. Meanwhile, a revamped Counterespionage Law is more evidence of a large-scale national security blitz.

The National Development and Reform Commission approved provincial power grid prices for a third regulatory term, launching direct tariffs to ensure greater supply-side competition and demand-side response, say experts. Demand-side management is a priority for 2023. Two drafts for comment were issued in May, urging provinces to raise response capacity and for grid companies to create implementation plans. 

China’s biodiversity is still declining, according to ‘red lists’ tracking endangered plants and animals. Six wild plants were added to the extinction list, and several native species remain critically endangered. Biodiversity protection was strengthened by the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Ecological Protection Law, prohibiting wild animal poaching and abuse of grasslands. 

Scitech self-reliance returned to Xi Jinping’s 习近平 agenda in May as he toured the Jingjinji (Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei) region and Shaanxi province. Xi’an will host the PRC’s fifth ‘comprehensive national science centre’ (after Beijing, Shanghai, Hefei, and the Greater Bay Area).

PRC officials Han Zheng 韩正 vice-president, Li Qiang 李强 premier, and Qin Gang 秦刚 foreign minister, met Dutch counterparts in a last-ditch attempt to avert export controls sought by the US on advanced chip-making equipment. Micron Technology, a US memory and data storage manufacturer, was banned from selling to critical information infrastructure operators in the PRC. 

The value of SOEs in scitech innovation is the business of a new leading group charged with improving the strategic focus of emerging SOEs. The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission undertook joint working meetings with scitech agencies, including the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Natural Science Foundation. 

Central and local authorities seek to raise grain output, campaigning to increase the yields of major import crops, corn and soybean, and other strategic crops. With the need to refine crop varieties in search of higher yields now urgent, biotech tops the agenda. Switching focus from GMOs (genetically modified organisms), regulators have refined rules for reviewing GE (gene-edited) crops. Ahead of GMO candidates, a GE soybean variety won the PRC’s first biosafety certificate.

In light of a shrinking and aging workforce, Beijing is pivoting its growth strategy from population size to developing human capital. Xi reiterates that education is a priority in upskilling the labour force and achieving scitech self-sufficiency. Primary aged care is being strengthened, addressing disability support and caregiver shortages

Health authorities are toughening anti-corruption in health and pharma sectors, targeting kickbacks and fraudulent insurance claims, etc. Unlicensed practices, counterfeit products, and misleading marketing in the burgeoning medical aesthetics industry come under closer scrutiny.

Youth unemployment, hitting an all-time 20.4 percent in April, remains a primary concern for Beijing. It is simplifing recruitment and encouraging hiring in the public sector. Yet as the private sector is the PRC’s primary job creator, adding personnel to the public sector may be inefficient and costly, argues researcher Nie Riming 聂日明.

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