This past week, President Xi Jinping signalled a growing sense of insecurity in China by harping on what one official WeChat account called “a comprehensive view of national security” at a meeting in Beijing of top provincial officials. The meeting was called in official media coverage a “provincial-level special topic discussion for principle leaders and cadres on persevering in baseline ideologies and striving to prevent and defuse major risks.” That’s a mouthful. But the basic sense was that times are tough for the Party and for the country, and it is now critical for the Party to maintain “ideological security” in order preserve its ruling position.

In a further sign of unease, a top expert on public financing in China, Jia Kang (贾康), told a forum in Beijing that the country had to take more active measures to lower taxes and fees on businesses in order to encourage growth, and that the country need to overhaul its pensions system.

Also this week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that writer Yang Hengjun (杨恒均) is being held in Beijing on suspicion of “engaging in criminal activities that damaged China’s national security.” There is no indication yet of what exactly this means, or why it is happening now. We provide a list below of Yang’s writings from the CMP archives, which might help readers better understand Yang’s work and ideas.

 

THIS WEEK IN CHINA’S MEDIA
January 19-25, 2019

➢ Provincial-level “special topic discussion” emphasises “preventing and defusing major risks”
➢ State media report that film and television industries have paid up 11.7 billion in back taxes since October 2018
➢ Public finance expert tells Beijing forum pension surpluses should be transferred to the northwest of offset shortfalls
➢ Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Yang Jun (blogger Yang Hengjun) being held in Beijing

[1] Provincial-level “special topic discussion” emphasises “preventing and defusing major risks”

Screenshot of coverage at People’s Daily Online of meeting of provincial leaders in Beijing.

From January 21-25, a Party conference with the dizzying name “provincial-level special topic discussion for principle leaders and cadres on persevering in baseline ideologies and striving to prevent and defuse major risks” (省部级主要领导干部坚持底线思维着力防范化解重大风险专题研讨班) was held at the Central Party School in Beijing. All seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, including President Xi Jinping, were present for the session, signalling its importance.

“Xia Ke Dao” (侠客岛), a WeChat public account maintained by the overseas edition of the People’s Daily, ran a commentary that said: “The major risks raised during this discussion session are clearly even more comprehensive. Xi Jinping’s speech dealt with major risks in politics, ideology, the economy, science and technology, society, the external environment, Party construction and other sectors, and it could be summed up as ‘a comprehensive view of national security’ (总体国家安全观).” Xi placed ideological security (意识形态安全) in his remarks on political security (政治安全), emphasising two points: the internet and youth. Xi emphasised the need to ensure that the youth become the next generation of socialist builders, or shehui zhuyi jianshezhe (社会主义建设者), and successors (接班人). This, said Xi, was the meaning of ideological security, and concerns the political security of maintaining of the Party’s ruling status (执政地位).

KEY SOURCES:
People’s Daily (人民日报): 习近平在省部级主要领导干部坚持底线思维着力防范化解重大风险专题研讨班开班式上发表重要讲话强调 提高防控能力着力防范化解重大风险 保持经济持续健康发展社会大局稳定
WeChat public account “Xia Ke Dao” (侠客岛):【解局】开年这场党内高层研讨班,聚焦了一个异常严峻的话题
WeChat public account “Trigger Trend” (智谷趋势): 中国最具能量的人坐到一起,政策信号出现调整,房地产上升到国家安全的高度

[2] State media report that film and television industries have paid up 11.7 billion in back taxes since October 2018

Several state media, including the Legal Daily and Guangming Daily, reported this week that individual and corporate taxpayers in the film and television have reported 11.74 billion yuan in payable taxes since the Central Propaganda Department and four government bureaus launched a campaign in October 2018 to regularise (规范) tax reporting in the film and television industries, which have been accused of rampant use of such workarounds as “shadow contracts.” Of these payable taxes, reporting during a two-month period of “self examination and self correction” (自查自纠), a total of 11.53 billion yuan has already been paid to the government.

The period of “self examination and self correction” has now ended, and the authorities say they will commence a phase of “supervision and correction” (督促纠正), meaning that the government will investigate and audit people and companies in the film and television industries to ensure compliance.

According to the Guangming Daily newspaper, total box office revenues in China were 60.9 billion yuan in 2018, up 9 percent from 2017. The box office take by state-produced (国产电影) films in 2018 was 37.9 billion yuan, accounting for 62 percent of the total box office.

KEY SOURCES:
Legal Daily (法制日报): 国家税务总局 影视行业自查申报税款117亿元
Guangming Daily (光明日报): 民族精神大力彰显 票房口碑高于外片

[3] Public finance expert tells Beijing forum pension surpluses should be transferred to the northwest of offset shortfalls

Jia Kang (贾康), the deputy chairman of the Society of Public Finance of China (中国财政学会) and former head of the Research Institute for Fiscal Science at China’s Ministry of Finance, advised at a forum in Beijing that China quickly move to “lower tax and fees” (减税降费) in order to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, and that it overhaul the pensions system, redirecting accumulated surpluses in China’s south from recent years in order to offset serious shortfalls in the northwest.

Following these remarks, the Beijing News pointed out that according to the “2016 Annual Report on Social Insurance Development in China” released by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, there were seven regions in 2016 where pensions were not paid out. They included the northwestern province of Heilongjiang, where the accumulated balance of pension funds was negative 23.2 billion yuan.

KEY SOURCES:
Economic Observer Online (经济观察网): 贾康建议:南方养老金滚存结余调到东北救燃眉之急
The Beijing News (新京报): 养老金“南钱北调”只是权宜之计
WeChat public account “” (智谷趋势): 拿南方养老金支援东北?研究了一组数据后,却发现了一点“劫贫济富”的意思

[4] Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Yang Jun (blogger Yang Hengjun) being held in Beijing

At a routine press conference on January 24, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Australian citizen Yang Jun (杨军) — a blogger better known to the public by the pen name Yang Hengjun (杨恒均) — was suspected of “engaging in criminal activities that damaged China’s national security” (从事危害中国国家安全的犯罪活动) and was being held by police in Beijing while under investigation.

The WeChat public account “San Xiang Commentary” (三湘评论) posted a screenshot of Yang Hengjun’s WeChat account, noting that he generally posted on a daily basis but had not been active in chat groups since January 18.

The following is a list CMP’s translated writings from Yang Hengjun dating back from 2010 through to his first detention in March 2011.

March 30, 2011, “This is Yang Hengjun
March 18, 2011, “Thoughts on CCTV’s Nightly News
December 17, 2010,  “Why We All Feel So Vulnerable
November 9, 2010, “How Chinese View Foreign Elections
September 22, 2010, “That Old Pair of Shoes is Not Democracy
August 13, 2010, “Where is China’s Center?

KEY SOURCES:
The Paper (澎湃新闻网): 外交部:澳籍人员杨军涉嫌危害我国家安全被依法采取强制措施
WeChat public account “San Xiang Commentary” (三湘评论): 杨恒均被逮捕!