No. 18 | 31.10.2021
Why China isn’t suppressing capital but the “disorderly expansion” of it
Wei Jie
Wei Jie (魏杰)is a professor at Tsinghua University

The recent measures that the Chinese government has taken to prevent the "disorderly expansion of capital" (资本无序扩张 zīběn wú xù kuòzhāng) have been misunderstood by international critics as an attempt by China to suppress capital. Wei Jie argues that the regulations are concentrated primarily in five industries: real estate, private tutoring, entertainment, internet, and fintech. The disorderly expansion of these industries has harmed China's economy and increased social tensions. Therefore, the purpose of the government's regulations is not to crack down on capitalists but to encourage investment in industries that align with the national development strategy, such as new material research and development. The author writes that it is crucial for China to shift its economy's reliance on exports to consumption-led growth, given the context of China-US tension. Expanding the middle class – an important part of achieving common prosperity – will accelerate this transformation and help drive sustained economic growth. In addition, Evergrande’s debt crisis reflects the government's concern that the property sector will pose risks to the financial system. There are indications that a few banks have been dragged down by the real estate sector. According to Wei, about four out of the 180 trillion yuan in loans made by banks last year were bad debts, the highest in the last four years. Three regional state banks have been taken over by the financial regulators to forestall imminent bankruptcy. Nonetheless, Wei estimates that a systematic financial crisis is unlikely to explode in China because the government has taken a range of measures to control risks, such as tightening credit and dismissing over 100 bank top executives.

Big data platforms should return 20 to 30 percent of the revenue to data producers
Huang Qifan
Huang Qifan (黄奇帆) is a professor of Fudan University, and the former Mayor of Chongqing.

As data ownership, rights, and revenue distribution become an increasingly global issue, China is making some useful explorations. In his recent speech, Huang Qifan points out that data – the "oil" in the digital economy era – is a new type of basic national resource and possesses characteristics of being a public good. Any illegal collection, transmissions, or usage of data can do harm to national interests. Therefore, the jurisdiction and trading rights of data should belong to the state. All data-related activities should be managed by the government and comply with data security regulations. Major cities could set up data exchanges, which the cities of Shenzhen and Shanghai are already planning to set up. According to Huang, state-managed data exchanges data would protect data security, ensure fairness in data trading, and break isolated "data islands" – disjointed data storage that is only accessible to one group of people. Meanwhile, the pricing of data should be set by the market. The revenue from monetized data should be distributed to all relevant parties, including individuals who generate data as well as internet platforms that process the data. Mirroring the distribution of intellectual property rights, Huang suggests that platforms should return 20 to 30 percent of the revenue to data producers. He adds that since data processing capabilities are critical to the country's digital competitiveness in the future, it is necessary to activate the data market and establish a data production system that includes data storage, computing, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. Finally, Huang affirms that data is ultimately a production factor like land, capital, labor, and technology, and it will play an increasingly important role in the ongoing development of the digital economy.

China is not short of coal or electricity but is using coal power to buy time to develop green energy
Liu Yuhui
Liu Yuhui(刘煜辉)is professor of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Many places across China have recently faced power cuts. This is due to the power supply shortage and the “dual control” (双控 shuāng kòng) policy of reducing energy intensity and consumption. According to Liu Yuhui, this policy lacks flexibility and does not reflect increasing energy demands. Liu suggests that China’s economy is undergoing a profound change from the “real estate cycle” to the “green energy cycle." He points out that during the reform era, China experienced rapid industrialization that was driven by the real estate industry, especially in the last 20 years. Carbon emissions rapidly grew in this process, which enabled the country to increase its productive capacity and the people's standard of living. The author estimates that China's per-capita GDP will reach US$24,000 by 2035, making it the world's largest economy. However, the existing pattern of fossil energy consumption is clearly unsustainable. The Communist Party of China has set a second “centenary goal” of becoming a modern socialist country. The foundation for achieving this goal is to promote a new green energy system that is not bound to the past fossil fuel-based model of the US. According to Liu, 2021 is the first year of the "green energy cycle," but the development of green power still relies on the fossil energy system. This energy-intensive transition makes it hard to meet the government's "dual control" emission requirements, which resulted in recent power cuts. For example, the solar power production requires soda ash, glass, and aluminum – all energy-intensive raw materials – and coal-based electricity is still necessary to produce them. With sufficient coal reserves to last 60 to 70 years, China does not have a shortage of coal or coal-based electricity. Therefore, there is plenty of time for clean energy development in the country.

Critiquing the narratives of China’s youth “lying flat”
Ma Zhonghong
Ma Zhonghong (马中红) is a professor at the School of Communication, Soochow University Publication: China Youth Studies

Through a historical review of the trending lexicon of "lying flat" (躺平tǎng píng), Ma Zhonghong summarizes the changing characteristics of the social mentality and youth culture in the past decade. Terms such as “Buddha-like” (佛系 fóxì) and "lying flat" – expressing attitudes of indifference and resignation – are becoming more contagious. From delivery workers to university researchers, these negative sentiments have a strong resonance among youth groups of different classes. They despise the arrogance of the “tall, rich, and handsome” (高富帅 gāo fù shuài), are dissatisfied with the social inequality and status quo, yet desire upward mobility from a lower class position (逆袭 nì xí). When social classes are consolidated and generational differences become indisputable facts, "lying flat" seems like an alternative form of resistance. The author believes that this cultural mentality represents a “new alienation” (新异化 xīn yìhuà) proposed by German sociologist Hartmut Rosa. In the 1980s, the discourse of "time is money" introduced the concept of time as a commodity. In recent years, the acceleration of science and technology has exacerbated the "time system’s" control over peoples' lives. For example, the “countdown” system regulating food delivery workers, the "promotion or dismissal" (非升即走 fēi shēng jí zǒu) system for young teachers in universities, and the key performance indicators (KPI) assessment used by enterprises have reduced human beings to a means to an end. Compared to the extreme form of “lying flat” – giving up and withdrawing – the more common position is to reconcile oneself to finding a way to live well under immense pressure. This attitude is indicative of the efforts made by millennials and "Generation Z" to return to themselves, seek balance with personal and familial life, and find certainty amid uncertainty. In reality, young people cannot “lie flat” completely. Therefore, "lying flat" is not about a refusal to fight or to work, as described by the mainstream media, nor the refusal to labor and cooperate, as outlined in the “lying flat manifesto.” In a sense, "lying flat" can be regarded as a positive attempt for today’s youth to reflect on the value of their existence and their identity, and to redefine themselves according to the actual situation. Furthermore, it is a way to reject meaningless conformity, involution (内卷 nèi juǎn), and blind obedience.

How Zhou Enlai promoted the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, a symbol of internationalism
Xue Lin
Xue Lin(薛琳) is an associate professor of China Executive Leadership Academy in Yan’an, a member of the CPC Literature Research Association – Zhou Enlai Thought and Life Research Society.

At the end of October 1970, the construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway(坦赞铁路 tǎn zàn tiělù)– a landmark project of China's solidarity with Africa – officially began. In his article, Xue Lin emphasizes the key role that Premier Zhou Enlai played in promoting the construction of the TAZARA Railway. In the 1960s, when the two countries were repeatedly denied loans from the West to support the project, they turned their hopes to China. Due to the large amount of financial investment required, there were initial doubts within the CPC’s Central Committee of whether China could provide the assistance. However, Zhou – who established China’s new foreign aid work – stressed that it was China's inescapable internationalist duty to assist Asian and African countries. According to Zhou, "Concentrating efforts to aid the construction of such a large project will not only be of great significance to the two countries of Tanzania and Zambia, but will also play an important role in supporting the liberation of southern Africa." The railway could help landlocked Zambia access the Indian Ocean, facilitate trade between African countries, and weaken colonialist and imperialist control. During the decision-making stage, Zhou diligently studied the aid plan with Minister of Railways Lu Zhengcao (吕正操)and affirmed China’s position to Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere: "After the railroad is completed, sovereignty will belong to you and Zambia," and added, "We will also teach you about the technology." China’s positive stance, unlike that of the West, eventually led to a principled agreement. During the construction phase, Zhou also relied on several years of domestic railway construction experience to solve various challenges in railroad exploration, construction, and loan repayment schemes, which ensured the project’s smooth progress. The TAZARA Railway took six years to complete, with China sending more than 50,000 workers, 70 of whom sacrificed their lives. China's support for the railway’s construction not only countered doubts about the country’s strength and technological capability, but also helped it gain firm political support from African countries, making it a historical monument to China-Africa friendship.

Subscribe to Chinese Voices. The digest is published every Sunday in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.Download the PDF of the complete articles (automatically translated) of this issue. The opinions of the articles are not necessarily shared by Dongsheng editorial collective.

Follow our social media channels: