According to the WHO, a total of 326 COVID-19 vaccines are in active research and development (R&D) worldwide as of November 19, 2021. Chinese vaccines account for 14 of the 38 that are in Phase III and Phase IV clinical trials. How can China, whose vaccine R&D innovation is weaker than developed countries, lead the way in this COVID-19 vaccine development? According to Hu Yinglian, the new nationwide system (新型举国体制 xīnxíng jǔguó tǐzhì) that concentrates efforts and resources on key national undertakings has played an active role in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. This nationwide system has a long history of advancing the country’s scientific development, from "two bombs, one satellite" (两弹一星 liǎng dàn yì xīng) – the Mao-era nuclear and space project – to the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program of recent years. Regarding COVID-19 vaccine development, Hu outlines how this system has worked at three levels. On the first level of national decision-making, R&D units are required to "not count the economic benefits, but only the people's health" in the development of the new vaccine, and provides special financial protection. To increase the success rate of vaccine research, the state focused on supporting five technology roadmaps (技术路线 jìshù lùxiàn) and 12 vaccine R&D tasks, and set up a special vaccine R&D team (疫苗研发专班 yìmiáo yánfā zhuān bān) – affiliated with the State Council – to select both state-owned and private enterprises to promote the research. The country’s commitment to establish a reserve of vaccines and declare it as a global public good helped give positive incentives and stable expectations for the research units. Secondly is the role of government departments at the executive level. The special vaccine R&D team reports directly to the Vice Premier. This team consists of government officials from a dozen departments including the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the National Medical Products Administration. The national collaborative system brings out the professional strengths of each department and also prevents their isolation from one another, allowing government departments, R&D companies, disease control institutions, and animal laboratories to work together smoothly and efficiently. For example, the Ministry of Science and Technology relies on its long-term advantages of being embedded in the industrial networks to introduce a “race” mechanism for scientific research. This encourages independent R&D and competition between enterprises, and supports the fastest and most capable companies. At the third level is the role of enterprise as the R&D implementer. R&D units, mainly enterprises, are keenly aware of the market opportunities that arise from major public health crises and are motivated by national decisions to invest in vaccine R&D. For example, on January 19, 2020, Sinopharm established a leading group for scientific R&D, and arranged three research institutes to develop vaccines on two technology roadmaps: inactivated whole-virus vaccines and recombinant protein vaccines. The logic of the enterprise is to integrate market demand with the national strategy by striving for policy support.
From December 8 to 10, China held the annual Central Economic Work Conference, which set tone for the country’s economic development for 2022. At the conference, China's top leaders warned of China's downward economic pressure and emphasized the importance of "stability" (稳 wěn) for next year. Han Wenxiu and Ning Jizhe explain that China' economy is encountering a triple pressure, including shrinking demand, supply shocks, and weakening expectations. Therefore, over the next year, China will prioritize economic stability – mentioned 25 times in the official statement – and urge all regions and agencies to take responsibility in upholding this economic task and political mission. Rather than the policy of fiscal tightening implemented in the first half of 2021, China will put in place proactive fiscal and prudent monetary policies, focusing on supporting micro, small, and medium-sized companies in order to ensure employment, and help advance infrastructure investment, as well as defuse risks in real estate industry. The official statement stresses that in the new stage of economic development, China needs to deal with five major challenges both at theoretical and practical levels. This includes common prosperity, capital regulation, secure supply of primary products, major risks prevention, and carbon neutrality. The authors cite the example of the commodities price surge this year for why China should place greater emphasis on securing supply chains. Otherwise, China's dependence on international markets for commodities such as petroleum, iron ore, and soybeans – over 70 percent – could turn into a “gray rhino problem,” meaning a highly likely yet ignored threat.
The governance of a multi-ethnic state is a global challenge. How does the Communist Party of China (CPC) address this challenge of building a unified multi-ethnic country with a large population? Zhou Ping points out that the essence of inter-ethnic political integration in a multi-ethnic state is to deal with the relationship between commonality and difference. To this end, the CPC has adopted several strategies. First, the strategy of institutional integration. On the eve of the founding of the People's Republic of China, regional ethnic autonomy – the combination of ethnic autonomy and regional autonomy – was established as the country’s political system. For example, the Constitution was revised in 1982 to expand the right of ethnic autonomy, and the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy was promulgated in 1984 to clearly define the composition and the autonomy of ethnic autonomy organs. This system namely maintains and guarantees the unity of state power and system, and meets the demands of ethnic localities for political rights. Second is the policy integration strategy. Soon after the PRC was founded, the CPC first identified 56 ethnic groups nationwide, then formulated ethnic policies in a targeted manner, which were gradually systematized. This included policies regarding economics, culture, and education, among others. Working mechanisms were established to promote the implementation of ethnic policies, such as the creation of the Ethnic Affairs Commission, the Central Conference on Ethnic Affairs at the central level, and the Symposium on Tibet Work. The strategies of institutional and policy integration have achieved remarkable results in practice, but, on the whole, these strategies are based on the particularities and differences of each ethnic group, and it is difficult to avoid the problem of reinforcing ethnic differences and eroding national unity. Moreover, ethnic policy is essentially about giving benefits, which leads to greater dissatisfaction and higher demands – known as the "Diderot effect." Over a long period of time, this kind of policy increases inequality and fails to meet its goals. Therefore, the strategy of national integration – promoting unity and cohesion between ethnic groups within the Chinese national project through a policy agenda – has become a strategy for harmonizing ethnic relations in the new era in China.
In his article, Li Peilin points out that the definition and structure of Chinese working class –one of the main driving forces in the revolutionary process and in socialist construction – has experienced profound changes. After the foundation of People's Republic of China, the working class – mainly referring to industrial workers in manufacturing, construction, and transportation sectors, and in the Mao-era included intellectuals– changed from being an exploited and oppressed class to the leading one. With the accelerating industrialization and urbanization after the economic reform, migrant workers have become an important new force of the working class. Between 1978 and 2019, the size of the working class increased from 180 to 580 million people, and the proportion grew from 29.5 to 74.9 percent of all China's working population. The number of migrant workers rose from 120 million in the 1980s to 298 million in 2019, accounting for 60 percent of the working class. The number of workers in service sector (47.4 percent, 2019) has exceeded that of industrial workers (27.5 percent, 2019). Meanwhile, the education level of workers continues to rise. In 2020, 12.2 percent of migrant workers had university-level education (three-year program, or dàzhuān 大专) and above, up from 5.3 percent in 2011. However, due to the rapid economic development and the application of new internet technologies, the income gap within the working class is widening. The disparities among different regions, industries, and enterprises are significant. The proportion of manufacturing workers has been declining over the past decade, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing industries. In 2020, the number of migrant workers dropped by 5.17 million from 2019. In addition, the employment of “gig workers” by internet platforms complicates labor relations. Since manufacturing industry plays a crucial role for the country's development, Li suggests that the Chinese government should avoid premature "de-industrialization," accelerate the integration of migrant workers into cities, pay attention to the protection of interests of "gig workers," such as logistics and delivery workers, and improve the skills and income of the working class.
The Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, held 43 years ago on December 18-22, 1978, was a historical turning point for the Party. Long Pingping and Liu Guijun write that at the November preparatory meeting of that year, Deng Xiaoping proposed at the Central Working Conference (中央工作会议 zhōngyāng gōngzuò huìyì) that they spend two or three days discussing the shifting focus of the Party's work to socialist modernization – that is, to look forward (向前看 xiàng qián kàn)-from 1979 onwards. Initially, this proposal was quite controversial within the Party, highlighted by the speech of CPC vice-chairman Chen Yun, in which he said, "Achieving the four modernizations is the urgent wish of the whole Party and the whole nation, and I fully agree with the Central Committee's opinion,” – namely the shift of the Party's work focus. He also pointed out that "those problems left over from the campaign to criticize the 'Gang of Four'” should be properly resolved. After November 25, the Party began to shift its attention from solving the historical problems to discussing the practical issues at hand. During the debate on the criterion of truth and the criticism of the "Two Whatevers" (两个凡是 liǎng gè fánshì)*, the participants raised more acute issues such as the central leadership turnover. As the debates heated up, there were even various extreme statements attacking Mao Zedong and opposing the Party’s four cardinal principles (四项基本原则xì xiàng jīběn yuánzé)*. In order to avoid chaos within and outside the Party, Deng issued a decisive call for "uniting as one and looking to the future" (团结一致向前看tuánjié yīzhì xiàng qián kàn), stating clearly that the banner of Chairman Mao could not be lost, as it was “the banner of the whole Party, the army, and the people united in the revolution, as well as the banner of international communist movement.” Deng's speech "Unite and Look Forward" unified the thinking of the Party, stabilized the situation, and cleared the way for the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee to achieve the great historical turn. This was a starting point of socialism with Chinese characteristics and reform and opening up.
*The "Two Whatevers" refers to the statement, "We will resolutely uphold whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made, and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave". It was proposed in 1976 by Hua Guofeng, chairman of the CPC.
*The Four Cardinal Principles is CPC's basic line, it refers to "adherence to the socialist road, adherence to the people's democratic dictatorship, adherence to the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and adherence to Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought."
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