DCB #109: Something Strange! CCP’s Standing Committee of the Politburo

To support us with a donation? Click here!Dialogue China BriefingWhat China Is ReadingIssue 109 – June 1, 2022In This IssueThe articles shared here do not necessarily reflect the views of China Newsletter or Dialogue China. All articles sourced from WeChat public accounts unless otherwise noted.I. Dialogue China Opinions1. There is Something Strange About This Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist PartyII. Policy2. The Personal Old Age Pension System Has Been Introduced. Is the Tax Incentive Policy Appealing?3. Behind the Intensifying “Food Shortage” is a Deeper Panic PredicamentIII. Politics4. Assessing Unintentional Nuclear Escalation in the United States China Relationship5. How Can a Communist Party That Does Not Represent Special Interest Groups Control Capital?IV. Finance and Business6. Not Choosing Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangdong, Where Can Capitalists and Young People Still Go?Dialogue China Opinions1. There is Something Strange About This Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist PartyWang Dan – Up Media – June 1, 2022In recent days, Twitter has been abuzz with rumors that Xi Jinping may have surrendered power and is not up for re-election after being criticized within the Communist Party due to disagreements over his extreme pandemic prevention measures. It has also been noted that the official Chinese media has been cooling down on Xi Jinping’s personal propaganda for several days, and that there has been a rare and significant reduction in the activities of Xi Jinping and other Politburo Standing Committee members, supporting the rumors of a “soft coup” in Zhongnanhai. I originally was not planning to comment, but the rumors are increasing, so I think I need to state my contrary view.

First of all, according to those who understand the political rules of the top echelons of the Chinese Communist Party, meetings of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party Central Committee are more routine in nature, that is, they are held once a month and the contents of each meeting are announced to the public. However, gatherings of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party Political Bureau are not necessarily held on a regular basis, and are not necessarily shared with the public. Usually, a Standing Committee meeting or an expanded Standing Committee meeting will be held only when there is a major matter to be discussed or a policy signal needs to be sent to the whole country, and a press release will be issued through the official media. The May 5, 2022 meeting of the Standing Committee of the Politburo was clearly not a routine meeting, but rather a meeting convened to discuss a major issue that needs to be addressed. There are only two possible reasons for the meeting: either Xi Jinping, as General Secretary, thought that the top-level measures of the central government to prevent pandemics were encountering difficulties in implementation and needed to be unified, or one or more members of the Politburo Standing Committee had differing views on the current pandemic prevention policy and moved to convene the meeting with Xi Jinping’s approval. In either case, there is a serious disagreement within the top echelons of the Communist Party about the current pandemic situation in China and the measures to prevent it. Otherwise, it would not have been necessary to use the Standing Committee meeting to ‘unify thinking.’

Secondly, the press release about this Politburo Standing Committee meeting provides significant food for thought. According to the Xinhua News Agency’s press release, although the first paragraph contains the phrase: “Xi Jinping presided over the meeting and delivered an important speech,” the three characters Xi Jinping are not mentioned again throughout the text. Even when “Communist Party Central Committee” is mentioned, the customary phrase “with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core” is not added, which is a very rare way of downplaying Xi Jinping’s core position compared to previous communiqués of similar meetings. In the entire press release, although it is said that Xi Jinping himself gave an important speech, the quoted content is always “the meeting considered,” not “Xi Jinping ruled that,” which is also rare.

Thirdly, regarding the Politburo Standing Committee meeting on May 5, all official media reports were only verbal announcements by broadcasters, without any relevant images. The Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda rules are very strict, and there are established practices about when to broadcast images and when not to broadcast images. Obviously, the atmosphere of this day’s high-level meeting was a bit unusual. It is particularly noteworthy that – after a full explanation of the pandemic prevention policy – the press release ends with a statement that “other issues were also studied at the meeting.” This phrase, because it does not specify what “other matters” are, leaves a lot of room for the outside world’s imagination. At the very least, it indicates that the Politburo Standing Committee also discussed some issues unrelated to pandemic prevention itself. Although the last sentence is a passing remark, I think it is the last sentence that is the most interesting part of the May 5 Politburo Standing Committee meeting. I am afraid that the rumors are also the result of speculation arising from this sentence.

I would like to emphasize again that as a political commentator, I will not agree with the rumors on the Internet without solid evidence, nor will I believe that a “soft coup” has occurred within the Communist Party. With more than half a year to go before the 20th Communist Party National Congress, it is definitely too early to judge whether Xi Jinping will be re-elected. However, the May 5 meeting of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party Central Committee allows us to make at least two definite judgments: 1. There are extremely sharp conflicts and disagreements at the top level of the Communist Party regarding the current pandemic prevention measures in Shanghai and other places, otherwise, the press release of the meeting would not have used the extreme words “resolutely fight against all words and deeds that distort, doubt and deny the pandemic prevention policies of our country.” You must know it is good to hide disagreements from the public, there is no need for the Standing Committee to call for a “struggle.” 2. This proves once again that Xi Jinping’s authority within the Communist Party is not as secure as the outside world thinks, and that he does not have absolute power within the Communist Party. Otherwise, if Xi Jinping could just say one word and be obeyed, there would be no need to call a meeting to “unify thinking.” This also tells the outside world that Xi Jinping’s ostensible core position is not unimpregnable, and that his re-election at the 20th Communist Party National Congress is not a foregone conclusion.

The key is still the economic issue, and if this hurdle is not overcome, the opposition within the Communist Party to Xi Jinping’s re-election will not go away. At the moment, the situation is not favorable to Xi. The government has unveiled a host of policies to stimulate consumption, but none of them are designed to promote income growth. This is like climbing a tree to catch a fish – a fruitless approach. Without people having more money to spend, how can consumption increase? The economy will definitely significantly decline. Of course, Xi Jinping will not sit idly by and wait for his doom. The curtain has been raised on the dramatic internal struggle within the Communist Party.【Back to TopPolicy2. The Personal Old Age Pension System Has Been Introduced. Is the Tax Incentive Policy Appealing?Zhou Xiaoling – Southern Weekend – April 27, 2022Why Read This?
On April 21, 2022, the Secretariat of the State Council issued the “Opinions on Promoting the Development of Personal Pensions.” The individual pension system, just as the name implies, is a way to provide for one’s own old age. The introduction of the individual pension system is of symbolic significance to the construction of China’s multi level and multi pillar pension insurance system. The personal pension system just implemented will not be promoted nationwide at first, but will be tried out for a year in some select cities. But the list of pilot cities has not been announced yet.(Read the full text

Back to topPolicy3. Behind the Intensifying “Food Shortage” is a Deeper Panic PredicamentHe Zhenbiao – Beijing Cultural Review – April 26, 2022Why Read This?
Recently, the huge impact of the new pandemic round on Chinese society – especially the panic experience of stocking up on produce and grain – has made the young generation and the urban middle class feel for the first time that they are in a “risk society” and even fall into alternative trauma or social depression due to excessive attention to online media information. The problem is that there is still a risk of virus mutation, and precise prevention and control will be the norm for some time to come. Born in an era full of risks, as an ordinary person, how should we know the risks and confront them?(Read the full text

Back to topPolitics4. Assessing Unintentional Nuclear Escalation in the United States China RelationshipWu Riqiang – National Politics Scholar – May 6, 2022Why Read This?
This paper argues that China’s nuclear forces can survive an unintentional United States conventional strike and are therefore unlikely to be seriously damaged. China’s NC3 (nuclear command, control and communication) is highly centralized and focused on “passive control,” and China’s nuclear retaliation capabilities – while limited – could still provide some deterrence to United States’ damage limitation strikes. To reduce the risk of unintentional escalation, both sides should take appropriate precautions and exercise self restraint in their planning and operations.(Read the full text

Back to topPolitics5. How Can a Communist Party That Does Not Represent Special Interest Groups Control Capital?Lin Yanzhi – Beijing Cultural Review – April 30, 2022Why Read This?
The article points out that the historical achievements of reform and opening up in the past 40 years have been made on the basis of affirming the positive effects of capital and the market economy, and at the same time we should pay attention to the negative effects of capital and the market economy. The author’s thesis is based on the five main arguments: “class theory,” “surplus theory,” “democratic centralization theory,” “dual category theory” and “globalization theory” together constitute the main line of historical materialism. A systematic and dialectical understanding of this main line will help to accomplish the historical problem of mastering capital and promote the great practice of national rejuvenation.(Read the full text

Back to topFinance and Business6. Not Choosing Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangdong, Where Can Capitalists and Young People Still Go?Li Jingkui – Southern Metropolitan Observer – April 21, 2022Why Read This?
In the midst of the population shift in China, the author sees the possibility of gradually establishing property rights and other market systems through the competition of local governments, realizing legal justice, handing over the function of resource allocation to entrepreneurs who really have insight into the market opportunities, organizing capital and labor by entrepreneurs, making the concentration of talents, making the emergence of new ideas and new concepts the norm in society, and finally embarking on a virtuous cycle of good governance of society.(Read the full text

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