The biggest story in China right now


“It’s the biggest story, or non-story, in China right now,” Beijing-based research firm Trivium China’s co-founder, Trey McArver, told the South China Morning Post. The non-story is that the Communist Party has not yet announced the date for the annual fall plenum of the Party’s Central Committee. The SCMP gives possible reasons for the delay:

Analysts said the likely delay of the Central Committee meeting — expected to focus on mid to long-term economic policies — might suggest a lack of consensus among the Chinese leadership over how to battle the growing headwinds facing the world’s second-largest economy…

… The scheduling of the plenum may be related to the expected meeting of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the G20 summit later this month… The delay could be due to a lack of consensus among the party’s elite on the solutions to the problems facing China…

…“Are we continuing reform and opening up, or pursuing a self-reliant strategy? There may not be a high degree of consensus among the establishment yet,” [respected political commentator] Zhāng Lìfán 章立凡 said, citing as an example Beijing’s swaying remarks on the role played by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in China’s economy.

Other signs of grumblings amongst China’s political elite:

  • Influential Chinese economist Zhāng Wéiyíng 张维迎 lashed out “at those who attribute China’s economic growth to an exceptional ‘China model,’ which includes a powerful one-party state, a colossal state sector and ‘wise’ industrial policy, saying it is not only factually wrong, but also detrimental to the country’s future, reported the South China Morning Post last week.
  • The 74-year-old son of Dèng Xiǎopíng 邓小平, Dèng Pǔfāng 邓朴方, gave a speech in September that the South China Morning Post has obtained: “We must seek truth from fact, keep a sober mind and know our own place,” Deng said. “We should neither be overbearing or belittle ourselves.”
  • In July this year, Xǔ Zhāngrùn 许章润, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, published an essay that denounced Xi Jinping’s hardline policies. It was circulated widely online despite rapid censorship.
  • Recent propaganda about Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 has oscillated from emphasizing “self-reliance” and the importance of the state sector to celebrations of the private sector intended to placate entrepreneurs who are nervous about the advance of the state in business.
  • Today, all central state media prominently feature a version of this story: “Xi stresses unswerving support for development of private enterprises” (English, Chinese). The South China Morning Post’s take: “Chinese President Xi Jinping has assured a group of the country’s private business owners their businesses will be protected in China, in another attempt to shore up confidence in the economy’s private sector. It is the first time the Chinese leader has held a special ‘symposium’ with private business owners, who are bearing the brunt of China’s economic slowdown.”