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Trouble may be brewing for China's leaders at the CCP Beidaihe Summit

Factionalism in the party begins to show as CCP leaders and elder statesmen convene this week in Hebei Province

Li Keqiang and Xi Jinping

Li Keqiang and Xi Jinping (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Chinese leader Xi Jinping returned from his diplomatic trip to Africa this week, and immediately called a meeting of the Chinese Politburo on July 31, where he reportedly outlined protocol to stabilize a potentially unstable economy.

Some observers consider the sudden Politburo meeting to be a political show of strength by XI before the upcoming CCP summit at Beidaihe (北戴河) in Hebei Province, where the US-China trade war and Xi Jinping’s leadership are likely to be the primary items of discussion.

Security has been steadily increasing around the town of Beidaihe, where the current CCP leadership and older party veterans meet every year for an informal retreat and secretive party meeting, which China watchers often refer to as the “Summer Summit.”

The official itinerary is unlikely to be published, however the meeting has traditionally been held at the beginning of August, and this year the Hebei Public Security Office announced that special traffic regulations would be implemented in the region from July 14 until Aug. 19.

Japanese news outlet, the Sankei Shinbun, has reported that the town has been decorated in preparation for the event with pictures and party slogans, but that there are almost no images or quotations of Xi Jinping among this year’s decorations.

The newspaper suggests that Xi Jinping may be under criticism from the elder party members for his handling of the US-China trade conflict, as most older statesmen are firmly against a prolonged trade conflict with the U.S.

It has been suggested by some media outlets that factionalism may be developing between some of the current party leaders.

First, the recent shifts in publishing trends of the People’s Daily led many to believe that the government, or perhaps Xi Jinping himself wanted to turn down the spotlight on his leadership, perhaps in an attempt to diminish his cult of personality which some fear has grown excessive to the point of being a liability.

Trouble may be brewing for China's leaders at the CCP Beidaihe Summit

Sankei Shimbun also reports that Jiang Jiangguo (蔣建國), was recently dismissed from his position as director of the State Council Information Office without explanation (although he retains other high level positions in the party). Jiang’s superior, Wang Huning (王滬寧), who is known as the “think tank” of the current CCP leadership, has also reportedly been absent from the spotlight in recent weeks.

It has been rumored that the State Council, led by Li Keqiang, may have been leading a campaign behind the scenes to diminish Xi’s authority, especially in economic matters and trade negotiations with the U.S. There has been speculation since early June that shifts were afoot in the party, with observers noting the Li Keqiang was seemingly distancing himself from Xi’s policy lines.

However, Li Keqiang is now rumored to be in serious trouble, since he will likely be the one to take responsibility for the recent rabies vaccine scandal. Further, his deputy, Vice-Premier Liu He who has been acting as the lead negotiator in trade talks with the U.S., and who was formerly considered a confidante of Xi Jinping, is expected to be removed from the role very soon.

The true inner workings and factionalism of the CCP remain shrouded in mystery, and observers can only hazard a murky guess as to where the real rifts lie in the party.

Trouble may be brewing for China's leaders at the CCP Beidaihe Summit
The current Politburo standing Committee (Associated Press Image)

However, a Communist Party official reportedly close to former leader Hu Jintao, spoke anonymously to Sankei Shinmbun in mid-July, and said that“Things are becoming somewhat similar to 40 years ago, before the downfall of Hua Guofeng.”

Hua was acting party chairman for the period following the death of Mao and the subsequent arrest of the Gang of Four, before the party collectively chose to defer to Deng Xiaoping’s leadership instead.

According to the source, elder party members including Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin, and Wen Jiabao collectively signed a letter of concern in early July, which was sent to Xi and the current leadership.

The letter reportedly suggests that China’s expansionism and militarism in the South China Sea, as well as the increasingly nationalistic rhetoric cultivated by Xi’s leadership is in many ways responsible for encouraging the current trade conflict with the U.S. and related economic difficulties.

While the source suggests that there is a clear tide moving against Xi Jinping, the source also notes that unfortunately there seem to be no truly standout leaders, like Deng Xiaoping, among the current government and party, who might be able to persuade enough of the party to resist Xi. No one that is, except for possibly Li Keqiang.

However, as noted above, with the recent rabies vaccine scandal, it seems that Li’s sails may have been cut just as he was catching the wind he needed.

What may have been a soft redistribution of party power to diminish Xi’s political strength, may turn in the opposite direction, and signal the downfall of Premier Li Keqiang instead.

Either way, for China watchers, all eyes will be on the closed doors of the Beidaihe Summer Summit this week waiting to see who emerges either strengthened or diminished in the meeting's aftermath.

Trouble may be brewing for China's leaders at the CCP Beidaihe Summit
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Updated : 2021-09-22 14:55 GMT+08:00