Guessing Games: “Don’t wait for Beidaihe”

— Note: the following is old news: it’s about articles that appeared during the past two weeks and a half. —

Big sensation? Or was the Xinhua article, published on August 5, making fun of the international press in general, or the South China Morning Post (SCMP) in particular? The headline read Liao Wang Think Tank: Don’t wait for it, Beidaihe won’t happen, and it seemed to refer to an article in Hong Kong’s English-language paper, published on July 30.  The headline, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the near-tradtitional gathering of China’s top leaders has been cancelled. But it does suggest that Beidaihe is no longer the place where the big decisions are made: after all, Chinese politics had gradually become more transparent and “regular”, especially after the 18th National Congress of the CCP (i. e. the election of the current leadership) and the Eight Provisions (or Eight Rules). Hadn’t the politburo met on July 20 and 30? One could well expect that issues like the 13th 5-year plan, economic policies, striking the tigers (打老虎, put into quotation marks in the article, and referring to the ostensible fight against corruption among leading cadres) had been discussed there time and again – so what would be the use to go to Beidaihe? “Is it necessary? Is it likely [to happen]?”

Obviously, Beidaihe doesn’t need to be the place where big decisions are made. But it may still be the place. While the CCP is indeed fairly transparent when it comes to the publication of its final decisions, the decision-making process remains as murky as ever.

Maybe that’s why the Xinhua/Liaowang author found speculation about the time and agenda of the Beidaihe meetings so funny. The Economist also got a mention for suggesting that [n]ormally the meetings start in the second week of August and run for seven days or so. This year they started a week early […]. However, the Xinhua article didn’t mention that the Economist referred to reports in overseas Chinese media.

And, as usual, the sources weren’t specifically mentioned, either, let alone linked to, its sources, even though both the SCMP and the Economist article were available online. Maybe they were running counter to the Liaowang author’s message to his readers that Chinese politics had become “more transparent”.

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