A simmering power struggle

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A simmering power struggle

The author is the head of the China Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Beidaihe District in Hebei Province, 279 kilometers (173 miles) east of Beijing, is called the “summer capital” of Chinese politics. Top Chinese leaders gather here in the summer to work and relax. This year, the world is paying special attention to Beidaihe. Many sensitive political issues, including the third consecutive term for Chinese President Xi Jinping, will be discussed there ahead of the 20th Party Congress this fall. The Beidaihe meeting usually begins in late July and ends by mid-August.

This year, the focus of the discussion will be President Xi’s third term as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and which faction will dominate key posts in the Politburo Standing Committee.

Hu Haifeng — the 50-year-old son of former Chinese president Hu Jintao Party and current party secretary of Lishui, Zhejiang Province — is likely to be promoted. There are rumors that he will be named the mayor of Dalian City, Shandong Province — a promotion from a director level to vice-ministerial position. The news suggests that Xi’s faction may be joining hands with the Chinese Communist Youth League faction connecting Hu Jintao, Li Keqiang and Vice Premier Hu Chunhua.

Hu Haifeng hasn’t received much attention from Xi Jinping so far. The possibility of his promotion suggests a potential coalition between Xi and the Communist Youth League. Currently, the group that can check on Xi is the Shanghai clique of Jiang Zemin and former Vice President Zeng Qinghong. In fact, the Shanghai clique had backed Xi as the next leader against the Communist Youth League a decade ago. To put Xi, who was relatively unknown at the time, at the top post, Zeng Qinghong came up with an intraparty voting to ask 300 high-level party officials who would be suitable for the next Politburo Standing Committee member.

But after Xi came to power, he experienced friction with the elders, Jiang and Zeng. The discord was evident between Xi, who wanted to pursue new politics, and the elders who wished to continue exercising their influence. Since then, Xi and the Jiang-Zeng clique have grown distant. Therefore, the talks of Hu Haifeng seem to be a coalition between Xi and the Communist Youth League. In this case, it is noteworthy whether Hu Chunhua, a member of the Communist Youth League, would succeed Li Keqiang as premier. Also, another point to watch is whether Li would not fully retire after stepping down from the post of premier and maintain the second-in-power position as the chairman of the National People’s Congress. These are the reasons why the eyes of the world are on Beidaihe this summer.
The author is the head of the China Institute of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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