Why do China’s leaders holiday in secret?

Last week, US President Barack Obama hit a milestone in golf his 300th round since taking office. He did so in Martha s Vineyard, a favourite summer haunt of American presidents and the rich.

At the same time, the top Chinese leaders were probably swimming in polluted seawater or lounging on an exclusive stretch of beach in their favourite summer retreat of Beidaihe, 280km east of Beijing. The difference is that while Obama achieved his dubious honour trailed by reporters and television cameras as he enjoyed the last summer Discount Holidays © holiday of his presidency, the Chinese state media made no mention of their own leaders holidays despite the disappearance from public view of President Xi Jinping (

The only sign the Chinese leaders had begun their holidays came on Friday when Xinhua reported Liu Yunshan (

When the Chinese leaders return to work on Monday, state media are expected to resume their fulsome coverage of their meetings and instructions by pretending the two-week lull never happened. It has never been clear why Chinese leaders in contrast to their overseas counterparts do not publicly acknowledge their summer holidays. It is as if doing so would somehow make them less statesmanlike or harm their self-inflicted propaganda images of working tirelessly for the people.

The Chinese leaders annual holidays in Beidaihe have never been a quiet affair, judging by the history books. Many of the momentous changes affecting the course of the People s Republic since its founding in 1949 stemmed from the closed-door meetings where they strategised, connived, and fought one another to gain the upper hand. All these meetings took place in utmost secrecy, leaving ordinary mainlanders clueless about decisions which would upend their lives.

China s leaders on fact-finding mission ahead of key policy meeting in seaside resort of Beidaihe2

From 1953, the party s leadership began meeting in Beidaihe each summer, following in the footsteps of the rich Chinese and foreign diplomats of the former era to escape the summer heat of the capital. Mao Zedong (

In 2003, it was reportedly suspended again by Hu Jintao (

More importantly, speculation abounds on whether the leaders will discuss the leadership line-up to be unveiled at the party s 19th congress expected late next year when five of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee (all bar Xi and Li) will retire. There are also suggestions that Xi plans to force Li to give up more of his power over economic decisions following a rift over the direction of the economy.

Xi Jinping s economic inner circle comes under the spotlight3

It will probably take days, if not weeks, for the tidbits of their discussions, mixed with frenzied speculation, to make their way into overseas media. Inevitably, such reports will infuriate the leadership as they will add to international concerns over the perceived intensifying political infighting and the leadership s plans to steer the world s second largest economy forward. For that, the Chinese leaders have no one but themselves to blame for failing even to publicly acknowledge the Beidaihe meetings take place.


  1. ^ www.scmp.com (www.scmp.com)
  2. ^ www.scmp.com (www.scmp.com)
  3. ^ www.scmp.com (www.scmp.com)

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