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Bad start for China's Beidaihe meet

The retirement of Jiang Zemin is a hot topic among cadres at Beidaihe
The retirement of Jiang Zemin is a hot topic among cadres at Beidaihe  

Willy Wo-Lap Lam
CNN Senior China Analyst

(CNN) -- The annual Chinese leadership meeting at the Beidaihe resort has got off to an inauspicious start with a number of senior cadres apparently reluctant to head off to the beautiful beaches.

The so-called Beidaihe conference usually starts around the third week of July.

The agenda this year includes personnel arrangements to be endorsed at the upcoming 16th Communist party congress, including the transition of power to the Fourth Generation or younger leadership.

Chairman of the National People's Congress, Li Peng showed up there on the 23rd, when he met a visiting foreign dignitary.

However, several Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) members including Premier Zhu Rongji and Vice-Premier Li Lanqing were still in the Chinese capital as of late Tuesday.

The official media has also not reported the whereabouts of PSC members Wei Jianxing and Li Ruihuan, who have expressed reservations about President Jiang Zemin staying on in office beyond the 16th congress.


A Beijing source close to preparations for the meetings said quite a few senior cadres were reluctant to take a public stand on controversial matters.

"They [the cadres] are not sure which side the wind is blowing regarding such contentious issues as the retirement of Jiang Zemin," the source said.

"While they may earn Brownie points from Jiang by supporting his bid to stay on, such cadres will also run afoul of heavyweight cadres such as [Vice-President] Hu Jintao, who are eager to assume power."

Diplomatic analysts said to avoid ugly confrontation, Jiang might not put the issue of his retirement on the official agenda.

Instead, Jiang and his aides would only sound out the reactions of Politburo members in informal, small-group meetings, or while they are swimming and playing cards.


Meanwhile, Beidaihe participants will also be discussing several burning economic issues.

The smooth implementation of China's World Trade Organization obligations will top the economic agenda.

Party secretaries and governors from the poor Western provinces are expected to lobby central coffers for more "compensation funds" in order to make up for the loss of income that will result from the influx of foreign products and services to their regions.

Other pressing concerns include ways to prevent growth in exports -- a major driver of the economy -- from declining because of the weak U.S. dollar and relatively soft demand from the U.S. and European markets.

Analysts said because of the late opening of the Beidaihe meetings, the possibility of the pivotal 16th Communist party congress being postponed to early November has been raised.




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