No. 13 | 19.09.2021
China leads global data governance through its socialist institutional advantage
Guancha is China’s leading non-state funded media platform. It brings news and commentary about Chinese politics and society, with a look towards the world.
According to a Guancha commentary, China’s recent anti-trust regulations on Big Tech have been misunderstood as “crackdowns” by some Western media outlets. As a matter of fact, the country’s efforts to tame the excesses of “data capitalism” by employing its institutional advantage form part of the continued goal of improving the socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics. According to Xiamen University professor, Zhao Yanjing (赵燕菁), big data should not be privately owned even if it is originally created by private internet platforms. As a small firm grows into a bigger platform, it starts to evolve from a private entity into a public company. Quoting digital transformation expert, Xiong Jie (熊节), the article says that China’s recognition of data as a factor of production is a very important starting point. While Western countries have been deadlocked over how data value should be shared, China’s socialist system and economic structure, with public ownership playing a dominant role, are able to provide effective institutional support for addressing the right to benefit from data. The best way to distribute data value, he argues, is that the right to benefit from personal data should be incorporated into the public economic system and shared with whole population.The commentary concludes that, China’s actions to regulate the Internet industry have set new precedents in the field of global data governance.
Construction of the BRICS innovation center: strengths and challenges
Lin Yi (林旖) is an analyst at the Xiamen Municipal Finance Bureau and International Fund for Agricultural Development, United Nations
At the 13th BRICS Summit on September 9, President Xi proposed five initiatives to promote cooperation between the five countries. Xi highlighted the recently established Partnership on New Industrial Revolution innovation center in Xiamen, in China’s southeastern Fujian Province. According to Lin Yi, this innovation center will help boost “Digital BRICS” by strengthening existing advantages, the first of which has been to develop national digital economic strategies. The value added of the broadscope digital economy (as defined by UNCTAD) – the use of various digital technologies for performing economic activities, including e-commerce, industry 4.0, sharing and gig economies, etc. – accounted for 36.2 percent of China’s GDP in 2019. In Brazil, where two-thirds of the population own smartphones, the broadscope digital economy accounts for over 20 percent. South Africa’s average e-commerce spending grew by 30 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2020. However, Lin points out that a lack of political trust between BRICS countries and impact of COVID-19 could hinder technological cooperation. The US hegemony in internet technological standards threatens fair digital trade between BRICS partners. Moreover, the five countries are facing the challenges of inhospitable environments for innovation and path dependence on economic growth. Russia, for instance, relies heavily on energy exports, which limit the growth of innovation activities. The author suggests that BRICS should promote consensus-building through constructing a community of shared interests. They should work together to build the BRICS innovation center as a unified service platform to facilitate data-sharing on various platforms, such as mobile payments and cross-border trade. While striving to develop new digital technology standards, the BRICS countries should also increase their say in the digital sphere.
China’s vocational education for workers in the context of industrial automation
Du Liansen (杜连森) is a lecturer at the School of Education Science, Jiangsu Normal University.
China is currently revising the Vocational Education Law, the first time since 1996, to improve the social status of vocational education that covers 31.23 million students aged 15 to 20 years. After graduation, the students will mostly become “dǎgōng rén” (打工人), a popular internet term mainly for blue-collar workers. However, in his field research of one vocational college and three factories, Du Liansen found some worrying aspects about vocational education. Situated in one of China’s manufacturing hubs, the vocational college offered majors such as electro-mechanics and numerical control. The college prioritized management and student self-discipline – including supervising physical exercising and inspecting dormitories – over skills training. Many students interviewed said that it was not worthwhile to spend five years to study “merely superficial theories and general operation skills”. During factory internships, students were required to do simple work such as “pushing buttons to start Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines” but did not have opportunities to learn core skills like programming. The reason, as the author explains, is due to the “deskilling trend” among workers in modern industry with the development of automation, reducing the usefulness of vocational education. The author points out that the government should pay more attention to workers who are left behind by automation and deepen the reform of China’s vocational education.
Factors behind China and Japan’s fragile contemporary relations
Lü Yaodong (吕耀东) is a researcher at the Institute of Japanese Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a researcher at the Society of Sino-Japanese Relations History.
Reflecting on Japan’s policy towards China and the zigzagging relations between the two nations in the 21st century, Lü Yaodong observes that the fragility of China-Japan relations is generated by historical issues and differences in security interests, political interests, and values. Therefore, any changes in the governing Prime Minister or policy will not address the fundamental contradictions. Between 2001 and 2006, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi insistently visited the Yasukuni Shrine – a war memorial that includes over a thousand convicted war criminals from WWII – dragging mutual relations down to a “political low”. In 2006, the new Shinzo Abe Government amended its policy on China and adopted a “bet on both sides” approach, a mixture of cooperation and containment. Thus, the balance tilted from “the China threat” to “strategic reciprocity”. However, 2012 saw Abe return to power, whose continued shrine visits damaged once again the relationship with China. Under the pressure from various parties, Abe’s policy regarding China turned to the “dual tactics” of allying with countries with “shared values” to curb China’s development relying on the US-Japan military alliance, while at the same time strengthening trade ties with China for economic benefits. Such duplicity rendered it hard for the two nations to build political trust, demonstrated by the uncertainties in the development of the bilateral relations. Yoshihide Suga’s cabinet inaugurated in 2020 followed Abe’s philosophy of foreign policy and continued to base its diplomacy on the US-Japan alliance. Lü points to the three remaining challenges in the China-Japan relations: lack of political trust, decline in the favorable opinion of the people of one country toward the other, and the influence of the US.
Remembering September 18 Incident and Japanese imperialism in China
Xu Jian (徐戬) is associate professor at the Department of Political Science, School of Philosophy and Public Management, Henan University.
Xu Jian writes that the September 18 Incident (九一八事变 Jiǔyībā Shìbiàn), also known as the “the Mukden Incident”, marks not only the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II, but also the disruption of the international order. When Japan invaded China, Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang (KMT) government turned to the League of Nations for a peaceful resolution. With the support of Lytton Commission, entrusted by the League of Nations to deal with the matter, Japan created the puppet state of Manchukuo (or the “State of Manchuria”), altering the political landscape shaped by the 1911 Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命 xīnhài gémìng) and hindering China’s progress towards building a sovereign state. After the victory of World War II, the so-called international justice failed China again at the Yalta Conference as the Japanese-occupied areas of “Manchuria and Mongolia” were not returned to China and issues of Hong Kong and Ryukyu Islands were not even discussed. After Japan’s defeat, the US controlled the reform of Japan. During this time, “Greater East Asian War” was renamed “the Pacific War”, in an attempt by the US to downplay Japan’s invasion of China, including the September 18 Incident, while teaching Japan to use “democracy” as a justification to restore militarism. Japan’s evasion of responsibility for this history – including the Yasukuni Shrine, Diaoyu Islands, and so on – continues to undermine relations between the two countries. Xu concludes that world peace would require the “recivilizing” of Japan and a fundamental shift from the “teaching” by the US. The Chinese people, however, learned their lessons from this period and a few years later entered and won the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea (抗美援朝战争 Kàngměiyuáncháo zhànzhēng).
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