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Reform of China’s National Postal Service in Light of the Ukraine War

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The normal operations of Ukrposhta, Ukraine’s national postal service, came to a screeching halt in the predawn hours of February 24 when the first Russian bombs and missiles struck Ukraine.

On the morning of the war, Igor Smelyansky, the CEO of Ukrposhta, went to his office after being awakened by phone calls. He took his computer and destroyed sensitive data. Since then, he has been on the move from one undisclosed location to another, running Ukrposhta’s operations with a phone and a laptop, in constant communication with his teams.

Ukrposhta has over 3,000 vehicles and several airplanes, 60,000 workers, and over 10,000 post offices. Some of Ukrposhta’s trucks have been used to carry food and medicine in what Smelyansky calls the “humanitarian bridge from Slovakia, Poland, Romania, and Poland”, which ensures the basic needs of Ukraine and maintains the stability of the cities.

Over a million senior citizens have not received their monthly pensions or necessary medications 10 days into the Russian invasion. Nearly a third of the population. i.e., 13 million Ukrainians, live in rural villages. The pension money is delivered on a rolling basis throughout the month, with retirees getting their payments on different days. Right now, Smelyansky’s focus has been on maintaining delivery schedules of cash pensions to 3.5 million elderly retirees. This is done by hand, to their homes, every month through the postal service.

“Before the war, we knew where everyone lived,” Smelyansky explained. With so many people displaced by the fighting, “we created a hotline for them to call and let us know where they are, and we’ll bring the money to them”. On March 5, only a short time before the war broke out, they restarted the essential disbursements.

National postal service should be a ready-made, mature, socially underpinned network system, and this is exactly how the national postal service in Ukraine works. On March 5, 2022, Liudmyla Yatsykiv, a post office worker at the Nove Selo village branch, which sits on the main road between the western city of Lviv and the Polish border, counts money in preparation for its distribution to retirees. On the other side, on March 5, 2022, Maria Lukashevych, the youngest employee to join the local post office after graduating from college just three months ago, is accompanied by an armed driver and is on her way to deliver cash pensions and groceries. “I didn’t even want to know how much money we carry! But now I’m not so scared,” she said and displayed the pepper spray that she carries in her jacket pocket. Typically, the van is on the move every morning with stacks of newspapers for subscribers, bags of groceries, as well as parcels and letters. Now that it’s wartime, they do more. She also has to deliver a few bags of pasta to residents. Because there aren’t many stores either, Ukrposhta also sells and delivers food at prices that are subsidized by the state. In fact, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Ukrposhta has been delivering prescriptions from pharmacies.

“It’s important for our people to receive a note or a package from their relatives abroad. The Postal Service gives the feeling that you can still have a normal life”, Smelyansky asked post offices around the world not to stop sending their mail to Ukraine. “We will deliver it,” he assured them.

Whenever there is a war, an emergency, or a major disaster, the national service tends to reveal its fundamental value. That is why the British postal service is called the “Royal” Mail. Similar to the British army or the Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, they are equally respected and have not been changed in 500 years of history. This is related to the stability of the underlying social network system. In another example, even in the turbulent war years of China’s history, China’s postal service and railroads have been maintained, for the same reason.

However, China’s postal reform has taken a detour, and the postal system reform scheme released by the State Council in September 2005 put forward the plan of reorganizing the State Post Bureau. The scheme also includes reforming both the postal industry and the postal savings controlled by China Post Group Corporation, which does not rule out getting listed in the future. Its reform content includes dividing universal service business and competitive business, segmenting the business between China Post Group Corporation and other courier companies, and steps to be taken in the transformation of the Postal Savings Bank. It also encompasses aspects like stamps with certain monetary value and so on.

This reform is carried out in the trend of market-oriented reform, although the scheme certainly has numerous models as its reference points. These would include the German model (joint-stock company), the British model (state-owned joint-stock company), or the Japanese model (government agency). That being said, the necessities of China’s existing circumstances at the moment would still be a vital factor in spite of these reference points. The ultimate option, regrettably, is still heavily skewed toward the market-oriented course.

In reality, the most crucial definitional question is, “what is national post”?

According to China’s official definition, the State Post Bureau is a deputy-ministerial-level state bureau managed by the Ministry of Transportation of China, which is responsible for postal administration. The State Post Bureau is responsible for formulating policies and plans for the postal industry, as well as for the supervision and control of postal services (including express delivery companies). Accordingly, China’s official definition of “national post”, other than possessing some limited power and financial status, focuses on delivery service.

If reform is an issue involving a major strategy, then from the war in Ukraine, the other side of the problem has become obvious, i.e., the strategic definition of postal reform. In this sense, the definition of “postal system” in China in the past has become problematic. The correct strategic definition should be that the national postal system is a unique transportation system network that involves and covers China’s grass-roots society, and mails are but one of the many things that this system delivers. The national postal service should be the statutory service for the national administrative region in such a national system. Thus, it must have three important characteristics: legal status, stable employment, and integrated service.

Yet, China’s postal reform did not go in this direction.

I remember a long time ago, around the end of the last century, I wrote a short article analyzing the reforms of several large state-owned enterprises. They are mainly China Railway, China Post, China Guodian, China Energy, and Air China. Of course, there are also China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), which are all state-owned enterprises crucial for China to ensure its national security and national stability. As a matter of fact, they just cannot carry out market-oriented changes. Their reforms can only be at management levels to achieve greater efficiency, but not comprehensive market-oriented reforms.

In retrospect, one of the reasons why the reform of China’s state-owned enterprises was not successful is because it was putting the cart before the horse. It is noticeable that the institutions that require market-oriented reform have not done so. Conversely, the entities that should not be marketized were desperately being marketized. In this area of reform, state-owned enterprises are at one level, and the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC) and National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) are at another level. Moreover, the relationship between these two stages of transformation is inverted. At the level of state-owned enterprises, certain stable employments must be guaranteed, which cannot be marketized. On the other hand, marketization should be implemented at the level of SASAC and NDRC, where all policy issues should be handled according to the principle of market fairness and justice. When the situation becomes inverted, a significant number of gigantic mega-firms will appear, and nearly no enterprise can compete with them. This so-called marketization has actually caused confusion in the market. State-owned enterprises, since then, have acted as a sort of “secondary central bank”. The phenomenon of engaging in capital redistribution, in fact, is just a microcosm of the whole picture.

The problem is that I was the only one who held this view back then. Countless professors, scholars, and economists were actively “contributing plans and suggestions” on how to vigorously promote the reform of state-owned enterprises and how to divest them so as not to take a “turning back”. There is no other voice calling that certain things cannot be reformed, and the end result is the situation today. In my opinion, if China’s state-owned firms face a catastrophe on the scale of the conflict in Ukraine, they may not be able to perform as effectively as Ukrposhta.

Founder of Anbound Think Tank in 1993, Chan Kung is now ANBOUND Chief Researcher. Chan Kung is one of China’s renowned experts in information analysis. Most of Chan Kung‘s outstanding academic research activities are in economic information analysis, particularly in the area of public policy.

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Assad’s visit to China: Breaking diplomatic isolation and rebuilding Syria

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Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Hangzhou, capital city of east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept. 22, 2023. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

The visit of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to China to participate in the opening of the Asian Games came as a serious step to try to break the diplomatic isolation from Syria.  Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” was keen to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China, where the Asian Games are being held, as this was the Syrian president’s first visit to China since 2004.  According to the Syrian regime’s Al-Watan newspaper, Al-Assad will attend the launch ceremony of the (nineteenth edition) of the Asian Games, which will open on September 23, in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.  This visit to Bashar al-Assad reflects the great coordination between Moscow and Beijing, as it is likely that the Russians pushed for this visit at this precise time.  Perhaps, through his visit to China, Bashar al-Assad is trying to deliver a specific message about the start of “international legitimization” of his regime.  Syria’s accession to the Belt and Road Initiative in January 2022 is an indication of the possibility of implementing vital Chinese projects, especially since it is located between Iraq and Turkey, making it a vital corridor for land routes towards Europe.

 Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China also comes in an attempt to attract it to reconstruction projects in the affected areas in Syria, as China has the ability to complete reconstruction infrastructure in residential and civilian areas with exceptional speed. This is the same as what the Chinese ambassador to Syria “Shi Hongwei” announced in August 2023, that “Chinese companies are actively involved in reconstruction projects in Syria”. The war in Syria led to massive destruction of infrastructure and the destruction of many vital sectors of the Syrian economy, including oil, while the Syrian government is subject to harsh international sanctions.  We find that the Chinese side has shown great interest in the reconstruction projects in Surba, such as the presence of more than a thousand Chinese companies to participate in (the first trade exhibition on Syrian reconstruction projects in Beijing), while they pledged investments estimated at two billion dollars.

  China played an active role through diplomatic movements in Syria, as it participated in the “Astana” process, and obstructed Security Council resolutions related to Syria, to confirm its position in support of Damascus, using its veto power more than once in the Security Council, against resolutions considered to be a blow to Assad’s “legitimacy”.  In September 2017, the Syrian regime classified China, along with Russia and Iran, as “friendly governments” that would give priority to reconstruction projects. Therefore, Al-Assad affirmed during his meeting with Chinese President “Xi Jinping” that: “this visit is important in terms of its timing and circumstances, as a multipolar world is being formed today that will restore balance and stability to the world, and it is the duty of all of us to seize this moment for the sake of a bright and promising future”.

  According to my analysis, China follows the policy of “breaking diplomatic isolation on presidents and countries against which America is angry”, so the visit of “Bashar al-Assad” comes within a series of visits that China witnessed during the current year in 2023, to presidents who are isolated internationally by the United States of America, such as: Venezuelan President “Nicolas  Maduro”, the Iranian President ”Ibrahim Raisi”, and the Belarusian “Alexander Lukashenko”.

  China is also keen to conduct interviews in its newspapers and official websites affiliated with the ruling Communist Party with many presidents and officials of countries isolated internationally and diplomatically by the United States of America and the West, such as the Chinese keenness to conduct and publish an interview with Syrian Foreign Minister “Faisal Mekdad” on September 21, 2023, and the Chinese reviewed his statements, saying that “the United States of America has plundered oil, natural gas, and other resources from Syria, causing losses worth $115 billion”. The Chinese newspaper “Global Times”, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, also focused on the United States’ greater role in the deterioration of “Syria from stability to chaos” . The Chinese newspaper compared this to China’s policy, which constantly calls for peaceful dialogue and opposes “foreign interference” .

   Through his visit to China, Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” is trying to lay the foundations for joint cooperation between China and Syria within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, with full Chinese support for Syria’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a dialogue partner. China has always affirmed its firm support for Syria’s efforts against foreign interference, with the Chinese rejection of the stationing of illegal forces on Syrian territory. China is also making great efforts with many countries to lift sanctions and the illegal economic blockade on the Syrian people, in addition to Chinese support for building Syrian capabilities in the field of combating terrorism. Knowing that despite its alliance with President “Bashar Al-Assad”, China did not participate in supporting him militarily, but it used the right of criticism to obstruct the passage of resolutions against him in the Security Council.

   We can reach an important conclusion that Bashar Al-Assad’s visit to China has a greater political track, and that Beijing is trying to play a greater role in the issue of resolving conflicts or to have a greater actual role in negotiations related to sensitive issues in the region. The implications of Assad’s visit to China are also politically significant, as China is trying to play a greater political role in the region, as China has been trying since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war and the emergence of a vacuum in the Middle East as a result of the decline of Russian influence due to its preoccupation with the war, so Beijing is trying to expand in the Middle East and Africa. 

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China’s Inclusive Diplomacy for Global Cooperation

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President Xi Jinping’s address at the recently held 2023 CIFTIS resonates as a powerful call for inclusive development and cooperation in the services trade sector. China’s commitment to expanding market access, increasing connectivity, and aligning policies with global standards demonstrates its commitment to ensuring a level playing field for all nations.

This commitment extends across different sectors, including telecommunications, tourism, law, vocational examinations, and the larger services sector. President Xi’s address emphasized China’s intention to expand broader, broaden market access, and support inclusive development in the services trade sector. His sentiments resonate with the global world as China seeks to create new prospects for openness, cooperation, and economic equality.

Over the last few decades, the services trade landscape has changed drastically, becoming an essential component of international business. However, this expansion has not been uniform, with developing countries frequently encountering difficulties such as limited market access, complex rules, and capacity limits that prevent them from fully participating in international services trade.

Notably, China is committed to promoting inclusive growth in the services trade sector. It assured of taking continuing steps to accelerate Chinese modernization through high-quality development, to open up new avenues for openness and collaboration for all countries.

Through openness, cooperation, innovation, and shared services, China emphasized the need for inclusive growth and connectivity. Recognizing that a rising tide in services trade should raise all boats, particularly those from nations with limited resources, China has launched a series of ground-breaking initiatives. Additionally, China is actively expanding its network of high-standard free trade areas, participating in negotiations on the negative list for trade in services and investment.

China is setting an example by aligning its policies with international standards. President Xi highlighted in his speech that national integrated demonstration zones for increased openness in the services sector, suitable pilot free trade zones, and free trade ports will be at the forefront of aligning policies with high-standard international economic and trade regulations. These zones demonstrate China’s commitment to fostering an atmosphere conducive to international cooperation and growth.

Real-world examples vividly demonstrate the practical impact of China’s assistance to developing countries in the services trade. China’s investments in transport infrastructure, such as the Standard Gauge Railway, have considerably facilitated the flow of goods and people in Kenya, boosting the services sector indirectly.

Pakistan’s experience with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is similar, with improved physical connectivity catalyzing the expansion of digital services and e-commerce. Various infrastructure developments in Indonesia have resulted in spectacular advances, opening up new potential for services trade.

Ethiopia, too, has reaped the benefits of China’s commitment, with active participation in industrial parks reviving the services sector, which includes logistics, banking, and education. These real-life success stories highlight China’s critical role in facilitating the expansion and development of services trade in developing countries.

China’s commitment to capacity building and technical aid is critical in its support for developing countries in the services trade. China provides these countries with the knowledge and skills they need to participate effectively in the services trade by offering specialized programs. Furthermore, China’s significant investments in infrastructure projects such as ports, logistical hubs, and telecommunications networks play an important role in facilitating the smooth flow of services.

Furthermore, China’s commitment to reducing entry barriers and optimizing regulations indicates the country’s persistent commitment to creating an equitable environment. This approach not only promotes equitable possibilities but also simplifies market access, making it easier for developing countries to export their services to China’s enormous and dynamic market.

Furthermore, China gives significant financial support in the form of loans and grants for service trade-related initiatives, recognizing the financial problems that many developing countries confront. This financial assistance enables nations to overcome economic challenges and invest in the expansion and improvement of their service sectors, thereby encouraging economic equality and cooperation.

As the world continues to evolve, services trade will play an increasingly important role in global economic growth, and China’s leadership in this realm is helping to shape a future where opportunities are shared, disparities are reduced, and cooperation knows no bounds. It is a vision worthy of appreciation and support since it is consistent with the ideals of justice and equality, moving the globe closer to a more linked and wealthy global community.

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China’s Multilateral Engagement and Constructive Role in the G20



Image source: X @narendramodi

The recent G20 Summit in India has once again taken center stage, attracting global attention as it gathered together leaders and delegates from the world’s 20 most powerful economies. This high-profile event was significant in shaping international relations and addressing serious global concerns due to its broad presence and crucial talks. This high-stakes gathering occurs at a pivotal juncture, marked by escalating divisions among major powers on a multitude of pressing global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global economic recovery, food security, and climate change.

The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 serves as a positive signal, signifying consensus among major economies. However, lurking concerns persist about the formidable challenges involved in achieving unity and issuing a joint declaration in the midst of these complex global dynamics.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s opening remarks at the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi resonate as he underscores the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among G20 member nations. He emphasizes the critical need for effective coordination of macroeconomic policies to restore hope and generate momentum for long-term economic growth.

 Premier Li eloquently highlights the interconnectedness of humanity’s destiny and calls upon nations to demonstrate mutual respect, seek common ground while momentarily setting aside differences, and work tirelessly towards peaceful coexistence. In a world characterized by profound crises and shared hardships, he aptly observes that no nation can thrive in isolation. Therefore, the only plausible pathways for guiding humanity forward are those rooted in cooperation and harmony.

The G20, originally established to navigate global financial crises and forge collective strategies for addressing economic challenges while fostering global economic development, has, regrettably, experienced a decline in consensus and a rise in differences among major powers. This shift has been particularly evident since the onset of the Ukraine crisis and the United States’ strategy of containment against China. Consequently, the G20 is increasingly devolving into a forum marked by discord, rather than the once-productive and constructive multilateral mechanism it was intended to be.

Nevertheless, the G20 retains its significance as a pivotal forum for international collaboration in confronting global challenges. With the increasing contributions of developing nations like China, India, and African countries, the voices within the G20 have diversified, no longer solely dominated by Western perspectives. As a response, the United States seeks to regain control of the multilateral process to further its agenda of great power competition. However, this approach is unlikely to be warmly received by the broader international community.

China remains steadfast in its commitment to deepen reforms and open up further to foster high-quality development and its unique brand of modernization. China views itself as a catalyst for additional momentum in global economic recovery and sustainable development. China stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to contribute to the well-being of our shared Earth, our common home, and the future of humanity. Despite Western media’s attempts to sensationalize China’s stance and magnify perceived differences, China continues to play a constructive role within the G20, dedicated to its multilateral mission.

To ensure that the G20 remains a platform focused on global governance rather than being overshadowed by geopolitical conflicts, China remains determined to fulfill its constructive role within the group, regardless of attempts by Western powers to politicize the mechanism. China’s efforts have expanded the G20 to include the African Union, effectively transforming it into the “G21.” China was the first nation to endorse African Union membership in the G20 and advocates for the African Union to assume an even more significant role in international governance.

The growing divisions and disputes within the G20 have eroded its effectiveness as a platform for addressing global challenges. These divisions, primarily driven by American actions and policies, have spawned tensions with far-reaching global implications, from the Ukraine crisis to escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. These developments underscore the critical role the G20 plays in promoting cooperation and unity.

Amid the current geopolitical landscape characterized by major powers’ divisions, tensions have surged, resonating globally and causing ripple effects. From the Ukraine crisis to tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, the significance of the G20’s role in fostering cooperation and unity cannot be overstated.

All G20 member nations must recognize the urgent imperative of cooperation in building a world that is safer, more prosperous, and increasingly peaceful. Given the global challenges that transcend narrow national interests, effective responses can only be crafted through international cooperation. The G20 stands as a pivotal arena for this cooperation, with China’s positive contribution being indispensable in promoting cohesion.

Despite Western media’s efforts to sensationalize China’s position and magnify perceived gaps, China remains a committed multilateral partner within the G20, dedicated to constructive engagement. The G20 continues to serve as a critical platform for addressing global concerns, fostering unity, and promoting international collaboration. As the world grapples with intricate issues, it remains imperative that nations adhere to the principles of multilateralism and collaborate relentlessly to secure a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.

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