As SupChina noted in its recent explainer on the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, to be held starting on October 18: “Since 2002, reaching the age of 68 has meant retirement for top officials — but there is speculation, and even an expectation among many China-watchers, that this may change at the 19th Party Congress.”
If this norm is followed next month, it would mean that five of the seven most powerful politicians in China would step down, including Wang Qishan 王岐山, President Xi Jinping’s right-hand man and anti-corruption campaign leader.
Contrary to many who have posited that Wang is too important to Xi’s agenda to be sidelined, and that Xi is too authoritarian to care about silly age-related expectations, the MacroPolo initiative at the University of Chicago’s Paulson Institute has come down firmly — with 90 percent probability for two similar scenarios — on the position that retirement norms will be followed this year. The initiative’s experts assigned only a 10 percent chance to the “norm-wrecking” scenario that keeps Wang in his position, saying that “even with a very strong Xi Jinping, [this] would face significant criticism and pushback at every level of the CCP.” The analysis for Scenario 1 says:
- “Although a recently floated trial balloon suggested that even the age limit might be up for negotiation, this appears to be nothing more than a trial balloon.”
- Xi is likely to opt for a selection of loyalists that both accelerates the ascension of some people — such as Wang Huning 王沪宁 and Chen Min’er 陈敏尔 — faster than “soft” leadership selection norms would usually dictate, but obeys “hard” norms around term limits and retirement age.
- That if Xi gets this selection of loyalists, his “first-term preoccupation with CCP discipline and political rectification might recede,” leading to “more attention and capacity…devoted to focusing on executing the many economic reforms that have stalled or taken a backseat to politics.” Damien Ma of the Paulson Institute has previously written (paywall) persuasively on the possibility that Xi will “pivot from China’s disrupter-in-chief to reformer-in-chief.”
In other 19th Party Congress-related news:
- Sun Zhengcai 孙政才, the Chongqing Party boss who was ousted and put under investigation in July, has now officially been expelled from the Party and will be prosecuted for corruption, Reuters reports.
- Beijing mayor Cai Qi 蔡奇 says that Beijing must build a “moat” (护城河 hùchénghé), or a Great Firewall within the Great Firewall, to almost completely lock down the internet in Beijing leading up to and during the congress, according to TechNode.
Trump plans trip to Asia amid North Korea crisis / NYT (paywall)
Trump will travel to five Asian countries from November 3 to 14, attending summits held by both the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Expectations for a shift in U.S.-China relations are high, SCMP reports. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is about to arrive in Beijing, but the Times says (paywall) that there is little chance of him really clearing up Trump’s confusing remarks on North Korea.
White House conducting wide-ranging review of China policy / Politico
Nationalist trade adviser Peter Navarro sidelined, sparking concerns among Trump allies / CNN
Top U.S. spymaster warns American firms about deals with China / Bloomberg
Trump’s focus on bilateral trade deals concerns U.S. companies: AmCham / CNBC
China support for North Korea clampdown growing: U.S. official / Reuters
No choice for U.S. but to accept a nuclear North Korea, ex-CIA analyst says / SCMP
Qurans, prayer mats confiscated in Xinjiang / CDT
Wary of unrest among Uighur minority, China locks down Xinjiang Province / NPR
“Mothers who educate”: Uyghur women’s activities in digital space / WAGIC
Tea and Tiananmen: Inside China’s new censorship machine / Reuters
‘It’s seen as a cool place to work’ – how China’s censorship machine is becoming a growth industry / SCMP
Fake news: Washington Post clone emerges in China / FT (paywall)
Search engine Baidu adds ‘rumor’ tag to fake news stories / Sixth Tone