China’s annual Beidaihe summit will commence probably in the next two weeks kicking off country’s most heated political discussion. Beidaihe summit is also called as China’s most “secretive conclave” that even makes President Xi Jinping nervous.
The Beidaihe meeting, or “summer summit” as it is known to China watchers, is held annually in the resort town in Hebei province. It is a platform for China’s former and current leaders to meet in an informal setting for closed-door discussions that set the tone for major domestic issues.
However, considering the age and health of the elder of the leaders and the long journey from Beijing to Beidaihi it is a possibility that it might stand cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic. Seventeen years ago, the administration of President Hu cancelled the Beidaihe meeting in response to the outbreak of SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome.
The Chinese leadership is in a spot this year with multiple issues looming over them. The COVID-19 pandemic, protests in Hong Kong, the militarization of the South China Sea, flaring tensions with the US and violent border clashes with India. These issues are likely to be hot topics of debate if the Beidaihe meeting goes ahead.
Among the many former leaders, there’s President Jiang Zemin, 93, former Premier Zhu Rongji, 91, former President Hu Jintao, 77, and former Premier Wen Jiabao, 77 who have been central players in the Beidaihe summit.
They might not agree with each other but they all hold a common ground on one thing which is Deng Xiaoping’s tao guang yang hui diplomatic strategy meaning “keep a low profile and bide your time”.
All these leaders were present during China’s high economic growth. The policy of tao guang yang hui meaning signifies a moderate external policy of “hiding claws” and biding time for the right opportunity.
However, Xi Jinping has shifted this course towards China becoming a “great power”. Xi’s ambitious strategy allowed China to economically and technologically compete with the US but it also led to serious confrontations especially during Trump’s administration, that sees China’s rising growth as a threat.
“Some friends in the U.S. might have become suspicious or even wary of a growing China,” said Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister during the China-U.S. Think Tanks Media Forum on July 9, via a video link. “I’d like to stress here again that China never intends to challenge or replace the U.S., or have a full confrontation with the U.S.” This is seen as appeasing message right before the summit.
According to Katsuji Nakazawa is a Tokyo-based journalist, Party elders who took pains to manage the country’s relations with the U.S. must be itching to warn Xi: “Don’t hurry too much. … You should not be overconfident.”
He further explains that China’s increasingly tense relations with the U.S might affect these old leaders personally as many of their children and relatives — as well as those of high-ranking bureaucrats — have spent time in the U.S. studying, working and investing. Many hold significant overseas assets, including land and buildings. Hundreds of millions of dollars may be at stake.
If the Trump administration imposes wide-ranging sanctions on Chinese dignitaries, they would suffer “enormous damage, sending shock waves among them more than expected,” said one Chinese source who spent many years living abroad.
Xi Jinping’s administration has seen not just protestors in Hong Kong but a global backlash over its new security law that is seen as an infringement of rights like the freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of economic activity around the world.
One of the most controversial clauses in the law is that its jurisdiction isn’t just over Hong Kong but even foreigners deemed to have committed offences under the law. Theoretically, anybody in the world could be accused of offences that
China’s domestic politics now have global repercussions, which is why the Beidaihe summit is grabbing more eyeballs than ever.