The 19th Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Congress will convene on October 18. Its jewel on the crown will be its newly “elected” Politburo Standing Committee (PSC). There have been more than enough predictions on PSC memberships, so this piece will only discuss the most ideal PSC membership for Xi Jinping, the current head of the CCP.
The ability to dictate the composition of the PSC is the most important measure of Xi Jinping’s power. A more concentrated power further enhances Xi’s control. A downsizing from the current seven-member PSC to five-members will therefore be a resounding win for Xi.
Besides Xi, the other four ideal PSC members for Xi will be: Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu, Wang Yang, and Chen Miner.
There will be plenty of people crying foul: wouldn’t the inclusion of Wang Qishan in the new PSC be more ideal for Xi? Well, they fail to see the significance to Xi of the safely and gloriously retiring Wang, the second most powerful person in the CCP.
The safe retirement of the second most powerful person in the CCP is a rare event, with Wen Jiabao being the only exception, and with Gao Gang, Liu Shaoqi, Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, and Yang Shankun being persecuted or sacked, and with Qiao Shi and Li Ruihuan being unceremoniously marginalized. Another exception was Zeng Qinghong at his time of retirement, but he is on a hot seat now. The reasons for this phenomenon are many and beyond the scope of this article, but a safe and glorious retirement for Wang will speak of Xi’s power to protect Wang, particularly when Wang has enraged the entire CCP establishment by purging over two million corrupt CCP officials throughout China.
Will the absence of Wang from the PSC weaken Xi’s anti-corruption campaign? That depends on what Xi’s needs may be for the next five years. Wang takes the iron-fist approach to purging corrupt officials. The exit of Wang may suggest Xi’s shift to a more systemic approach to suppress corruption, which was what Xi and Wang spoke of five years ago, when they first took the central power.
The obvious beneficiary of Wang’s exit is Chen Miner, whose promotion to the PSC would have been unimaginable five years ago, when he was merely the deputy party secretary of Guizhou province, quite a few ranks below PSC. Chen, however, arguably understands Xi’s governing philosophy and approach the best among all CCP cadres, for he was responsible for much of Xi’s writings and speeches when Xi made his way up from Zhejiang province. Chen is currently a CCP central committee member, and promoting Chen to the PSC will mean skipping the Politburo Committee membership in between, a major victory for Xi.
Making PSC will be a sweet revenge for Wang Yang, who was widely expected to be in the PSC five years ago, but was ambushed by the Jiang Zemin faction’s strong opposition. Li Keqiang, the current premier, and Li Zhanshu, Xi’s chief of staff, are widely expected to round out the rest of the PSC.
Unlike what many observers have commented, this ideal PSC for Xi is, surprisingly, not Xi’s-army, but is rather inclusive. The only underling of Xi in this PSC is Chen Miner; Li Keqiang, Li Zhanshu and Wang Yang are all Xi’s former colleagues or peers. No other strongman in the CCP, from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping to Jiang Zemin, has been as inclusive as Xi. This will, in fact, testify to Xi’s leadership.
The only faction that will lose out in this ideal PSC for Xi will be Jiang Zemin’s faction, which loathes Wang Qishan to death. This actually explains Wang’s recent high profile appearances despite the Jiang faction’s attack against Wang. If Xi were to arrange for Wang’s safe and glorious retirement, Wang’s high profile appearance leading up to the 19th CCP Congress would scare Jiang’s faction enough that it might make concessions to give Xi his ideal PSC in exchange for Wang’s exclusion from the new PSC.
Shizhong Chen, Ph.D., is a founder and the president of the Conscience Foundation, and a research fellow of ChinaScope.
Wall Street Journal Chinese recently reported that the Chinese government is considering investing in one or two percent of the shares, called “special administrative stock” in Chinese domestic high-tech companies. Trials have started in two companies. This ownership investment is intended to acquire one or more seats on the board of privately owned large high-tech companies in order to participate in their management and operations. Over the past 20 years, Chinese high-tech companies have enjoyed massive growth and obtained significant shares in critical industries such as financial, insurance, transportation, communication and entertainment. These companies also own a large amount of data regarding the day-to-day behavior of the Chinese population. Examples of these companies are Tencent and Alibaba. Owners of these companies privately expressed their deep concerns about this potential move, since this type of government stock ownership may result in lawsuits for those companies that trade overseas. For the Chinese government, the cost is also a concern. For example, just to hold one percent of Tencent will require US$4 billion. The biggest worry among shareholders and the company owners is the potential to lose independence as well as the capability of innovating.
Source: WSJ Chinese, October 12, 2017
Well-known Chinese news site Sina recently reported that SINOPEC (China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation) is looking for buyers for its assets in Argentina. The primary asset is located in the Santa Cruz region and is priced at US$0.75~1 billion. This asking price is not even half of the cost SINOPEC paid in 2010 when it first bought this asset from U.S. Occidental Petroleum at US$2.45 billion. SINOPEC has been losing money (around US$2.5 billion as of 2015) in Argentina and it is also facing labor troubles. It is estimated that there may be 15 potential buyers mainly from the U.S., Europe, Africa, and Latin America. However, Russia and Mexico are also interested. The SINOPEC selling plan has not yet been announced publicly, so all information sources remain anonymous. New oil fields have been found near the SINOPEC fields that sold recently. This may further hurt SINOPEC’s deal. SINOPEC is the largest oil refiner in Asia.
Source: Sina, October 9, 2017
Immediately after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would refuse to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, the Global Times published a commentary. The commentary stated that Trump is determined to go down the path of unilateralism and once again triggered a global disagreement with the EU, Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. The Agreement is the fruit of negotiations between six countries (the U.S., China, Britain, France, Russia, and Germany) and Iran. The final agreement was a UN registered international multilateral agreement. However, since day-one, the United States has treated it like a deal in which the U.S. can do anything it wants. If a single country can easily overturn an agreement, it will set a poor example for the North Korean issue, which may never arrive at a trust-worthy deal. The commentator questioned the benefit of driving Iran to restore its nuclear program. Isn’t the nuclear threat from North Korea bad enough?
Source: Global Times, October 14, 2017
According to an article that Guangming Daily published, 30 million people in China who are between the ages of 20 and 60 suffer from depression. Depression is ranked at the top in the occurrence rate of mental illness. In addition, over 80 percent of mental health patients do not receive proper treatment due to a lack of medication, an insufficient treatment plan, and the frequent switching of medications. These people suffer from slow reactions, memory loss, delusions, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, and insomnia. Currently, mental health treatment facilities are lacking in rural areas. Experts are calling for more community based facilities to be built to help these patients.
Source: Guangming Daily, October 13, 2017
Duowei News reported that, prior to the 19th National Congress, Beijing required that the streets, especially in Tiananmen Square must be cleaned and the dust level must be kept at less than 5 kilograms anywhere a person sits. It has also increased its security measures, which include that no self-service is allowed in gas stations; highly dangerous chemicals must be reported; using a drone for commercial advertising and using firecrackers are banned; nearby factories, especially chemical plants, were ordered to shut down to ensure that blue skies could be seen during the conference.
Source: Duowei News, October 14, 2017