Communist party’s fifth ranked official Liu Yunshan greets top experts to Beidaihe

Annual ritual is one of few signs that annual gathering of leaders is underway

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 11:43pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 11:43pm

Liu Yunshan, ranked No 5 in the Communist Party’s hierarchy , greeted the country’s top researchers to the summer conclave of leaders and elders at Beidaihe on Wednesday, a further confirmation that the secretive annual closed-door talks were underway at the seaside resort east of Beijing.

State media reported that Liu, a Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of ideology, met the group of 57 leading experts – described by Xinhua as chief scientists and engineers at top state research or construction projects – on behalf of President Xi Jinping.

While the significance of the annual retreat has been a matter of debate in recent years, the gathering of incumbent and retired state leaders remains an important occasion in the opaque world of party politics.

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This year’s gathering is particularly sensitive as it will be the last get-together of power brokers before autumn’s party congress, which will see a crucial reshuffle among the leadership as Xi enters the second five-year period of his presidency.

Besides last-minute discussions and horse-trading over key appointments, leaders are also expected to discuss Xi’s political philosophy, which is expected to be enshrined in the party’s constitution at the congress, giving him a further mandate to carry out his policies.

Chinese leaders head to the beach for secretive summer gathering

Officially described as a “vacation”, the party does not officially announce when the annual Beidaihe gathering starts or ends, and state media avoid any mention of real or rumoured agenda items.

In the past two years, Liu, who also heads the party’s secretariat, has greeted invited experts on August 5, while the meeting usually winds up in mid-August.

Xi and other incumbent top leaders have been absent from the carefully choreographed state television news since last week, except for the party’s fourth-ranked official, Yu Zhengsheng, who had briefly flown to Inner Mongolia on Monday to attend the autonomous region’s 70th anniversary.

Two members of the party’s 25-member decision-making Politburo, Vice-Premier Ma Kai and the party’s Central Organisation Department chief Zhao Leji, also joined Liu at Wednesday’s meeting with the experts at Beidaihe, Xinhua reported.