Top Chinese Officials’ Moves Suggest Factional Infighting as Beidaihe Conclave Ends

August 17, 2020 Updated: August 19, 2020

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and the Communist Party’s first-ranked secretary, Wang Huning, attended different meetings on Aug. 17, suggesting that the annual Beidaihe conclave when Party elite discuss political dealings has ended.

Every summer, Party factions conduct informal negotiations, discuss major national policies, and finalize decisions while meeting in the northern resort town, although details are kept secret.

In a letter addressed to an Aug. 17 conference for the Communist Youth League, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who attended the conference, asked young people to follow the Party and strive to contribute, according to a copy published on state-run media Xinhua.

Meanwhile, Li spoke about unemployment at a Chinese cabinet meeting.

But none of the top officials mentioned China’s current woes such as severe flooding, the pandemic, and food shortages.

“Xi Jinping delivered a message to youth after the Beidaihe conclave ended, showing that Xi kept his position as CCP [Chinese Communist Party] leader during the meeting. At the same time, China became softer in the U.S.–China dispute, showing that Xi made compromises to the rival faction that is loyal to former Party leader Jiang Zemin,” said U.S.-based China affairs commentator, Tang Jingyuan.

The Jiang faction is the Xi camp’s chief political rivals. Since Xi took power in 2012, he has sought to purge officials loyal to Jiang in an anti-corruption campaign.

Before the Beidahe meeting, Chinese officials and state media used a strong tone to criticize U.S. senior officials.

On Aug. 11, as the meeting was occurring, the Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post, citing anonymous sources, said that Xi ordered Chinese troops not to fire the first shot in the event of a standoff with the United States in the South China Sea. The U.S. State Department in July formally rejected Beijing’s territorial claims in the waterway, citing its “bullying” tactics.

Two Meetings

According to state media, Li hosted a State Council executive meeting on Aug. 17, at which he talked about how to support the economy and allow university graduates who studied education to apply for teaching jobs without first obtaining a license—so they can start working as soon as possible.

Li said the Chinese economy needs to continue its “restorative growth” after being severely hit by the CCP virus pandemic, as well as events outside of China that caused export orders to dry up.

He emphasized that all pandemic relief funding allocated to Chinese companies by the central government must be tracked and recorded. Furthermore, “punish the officials immediately after finding any of them who falsely reports [data] or embezzles the funding,” he added.

Tang says Li’s remarks suggest that corruption at different levels is still a serious problem for the Party.

“When the CCP says to avoid some issue, that means the issue is a big problem,” he said.

At the meeting, Li also requested that teacher training universities allow graduates to take a teacher’s position immediately after graduation, and take certification tests later. Another option would be for training universities to organize their own testing to see whether students are qualified, he said.

China has about 143 teacher training universities, according to Chinese university ranking company CUAA.

The new directive suggests the severity of China’s unemployment problem, Tang said.

“Young people may protest or challenge the government if they don’t have a job,” he said. Similar to how Xi spoke to youth about following the Party, “the regime is trying to give young people a job and persuade them to listen to the Party.”

Beidaihe Conclave

In early August, none of the CCP’s senior leaders made public appearances, suggesting the conclave had begun in Beidaihe, a resort town located in northern Hebei Province.

On Aug. 14, the CCP’s mouthpiece newspaper People’s Daily posted an article to emphasize the Party as “the unique leader” of the Chinese military, noting that the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) mission is to “maintain the Party’s ruling internally and protecting the regime’s security externally.”

The following day, Qiushi, a bi-monthly political theory periodical published by the Party’s Central Committee and Party School, published a speech given by Xi in November 2015.

In the previously unpublished speech, Xi claimed that the Marxist political economy is suitable for China, and that capitalism would cause wealth disparities.

U.S.-based China affairs commentator Yang Wei said in an analysis published in the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times that Xi published his speech to send a message to the other Party factions—he doesn’t want to change.

Through the speech, “Xi wanted to use the banner of ‘maintaining the CCP’s ruling’ to receive support from CCP officials,” Yang wrote. “It indicates that the factions’ infighting at the Beidaihe meeting was very intense, and the factions couldn’t reach an agreement.”

Yang also believes the People’s Daily article was likely a request from Xi, ordering the PLA rank-and-file to protect his position as Party leader and commander-in-chief. As chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi is the leader of the PLA.