The contours of China's long-term strategy for the new Cold War are quickly coming into view
Let's start with the story of an incredibly disappearing summit.
Every August, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) converges to the town of Beidaihe, a seaside resort some two hours away from Beijing, to discuss serious policies that then coalesce into key planning strategies to be approved at the CCP Central Committee plenary session in October.
The Beidaihe ritual was established by none other than Great Helmsman Mao, who loved the town where, not by accident, Emperor Qin, the unifier of China in the 3rd century B.C., kept a palace.
2020 being, so far, a notorious Year of Living Dangerously, it's no surprise that in the end Beidaihe was nowhere to be seen. Yet Beidaihe's invisibility does not mean it did not happen.
Exhibit 1 was the fact that Premier Li Keqiang simply disappeared from public view for nearly two weeks -- after President Xi chaired a crucial Politburo gathering -- in late July where what was laid out was no less than China's whole development strategy for the next 15 years.
Li Keqiang resurfaced by chairing a special session of the all-powerful State Council, just as the CCP's top ideologue, Wang Huning -- who happens to be number 5 in the Politburo -- showed up as the special guest at a meeting of the All China Youth Federation.
What's even more intriguing is that side by side with Wang, one would find Ding Xuexiang, none other than President Xi's chief of staff, as well as three other Politburo members.
In this "now you see them, now you don't" variation, the fact that they all showed up in unison after an absence of nearly two weeks led sharp Chinese observers to conclude that Beidaihe in fact had taken place. Even if no visible signs of political action by the seaside had been detected. The semi-official spin is that no get-together happened at Beidaihe because of COVID-19.
Yet it's Exhibit 2 that may clinch the deal for good. The by now famous end of July Politburo meeting chaired by Xi in fact sealed the Central Committee plenary session in October. Translation: the contours of the strategic road map ahead had already been approved by consensus. There was no need to retreat to Beidaihe for further discussions.
Trial balloons or official policy?
The plot thickens when one takes into consideration a series of trial balloons that started to float a few days ago in select Chinese media. Here are some of the key points.
- On the trade war front, Beijing won't shut down US businesses already operating in China. But companies which want to enter the market in finance, information technology, healthcare and education services will not be approved.
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