The first day in May is the day when China honours its working masses. International Labour Day is one of the most important public holidays in the People’s Republic. But this year, the celebrations won’t be able to hide the fact that all is not well in the country that once portrayed itself as a communist workers’ and peasants’ state.
True, China has a long way to go. The world’s second largest economy still doesn't have any top-notch car manufacturers. Western companies look at the Chinese market as important for their sales, but not with regard to technological innovations.
Just how could China get the upper hand? The key race in the global automotive industry is all about the connected car – what China’s automotive industry leaders dub the “Internet of Vehicles”. It is important to realize that China has a number of natural advantages in this arena – as well as less “natural” ones.
The publication of the Panama Papers made headlines around the world, just not in China. The country’s censors worked hard to block the entire nation from accessing information about the secret wealth and financial dealings of family members of its political leaders.
Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” – his catchword for a future where the Chinese people "dare to dream, work assiduously to fulfill the dreams and contribute to the revitalization of the nation" – is unfolding in a new dimension. An avid soccer fan, the Chinese President wants to make sure that his country is on a fast track to earn its proper spot in the top ranks of the world’s most popular sport.
To that end, he is committed to deploying the country’s sizable manpower and planning resources. He can also count on big financial resources devoted to the cause.
China’s president would like to be seen as the boss who cleans up in his own shop by weeding out corruption among the country’s elites. But Mr. Clean now has a serious problem. The Panama Papers, published by Süddeutsche Zeitung along with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists exposed the shady financial dealings of at least eight family members of China’s ruling class who set up shell companies in tax havens to hide their wealth. Among those implicated is Xi’s brother-in-law Deng Jiagui.
Chinese concepts of the law differ in many important aspects from those in Western democracies. In imperial China, the term “governing the country by law” (rule by law) referred to the law as an instrument to guide and control the population.
Governments all over the world try to adapt to the changing technical environment created by the internet, IT-systems, and data analysis. Political decisions often lag behind state-of-the-art information technologies or even ignore their potential. China’s leaders, a group of 60-plus aged male engineers, could not be further removed from being digital natives. It seems hard to believe that they would effectively employ digital solutions in China’s development strategy. But China’s 13th five-year plan shows that they do just that, and that they do it in a very smart way.
1. Less bureaucratic style. Poetry it is not, but as far as Communist five-year plans go, this year’s document is written in a much clearer language than its predecessor. The 13th five-year plan uses less bureaucratic and more down-to-earth language. At the same time, it prefers detailed policy prescriptions to abstract goals – and is therefore considerably longer than the 12th five-year plan.
Western civil society organisations in China have expressed deep concern over the proposed Foreign NGO Management Law (境外非政府组织管理法), which would severely restrain their activities. The debate created the impression that the Chinese government is pursuing a blanket crackdown on non-governmental organisations.