Sun, sea and stagnation at the Party’s beach party

China’s political elite face a myriad of challenges as they gather in Beidaihe amid devastating floods

China’s political elite will soak up the sun on an exclusive stretch of Beidaihe beach. Even though the fashionable resort is on the edge of storm-battered Hebei province, the Communist Party’s inner circle has gathered for its annual working vacation. 

Nearly 260 kilometers, or 161 miles, from the hustle and bustle of Beijing, President Xi Jinping and his Xicophants will take the occasional dip in the Bahai Sea, away from the prying eyes of traditional holiday-makers at the coastal town.

The timing could hardly be worse. Beijing, Hebei and other parts of the country in the North East have been devastated by major floods. At least 32 people have died and more than 1.2 million have been evacuated. But that is unlikely to affect the Beidaihe bash.

“Beidaihe is like the Hamptons [on Long Island] for Chinese communists,” Jeremy Goldkorn, the editor-in-chief of The China Project, said in a newsletter

“Just like we never know what New York’s financial elite and some of their political friends discuss during their summer breaks at the Hamptons, what happens at Beidaihe stays at Beidaihe,” he added.

Beidaihe was once known for intense power jockeying.


Packed agenda:

  • Top of the “must-do” list is tackling China’s stagnating economy.
  • Factory activity has flatlined, growth has shrunk and unemployment among the young has spiraled out of control.
  • To add to the chaos, the country’s property sector is still in meltdown.
  • On the diplomatic front, Beijing has become a pariah with its “no-limits” pact with Moscow after Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
  • Military bullying in the East and South China Seas has further eroded China’s reputation on the world stage.

Delve deeper: “Beidaihe was once known for intense power jockeying among Party figures and a place where policy direction was decided after Mao Zedong set up a ‘summer office’ there for officials in the 1950s,” the South China Morning Post reported last week.

Between the lines: “But [its] significance has ebbed in recent years as Xi has sought to shift the Party away from collective governance and consolidate his power,” the SCMP said.

Big picture: MacroPolo, the in-house think tank of the Paulson Institute, also speculated whether the summer retreat still matters now that President Xi Jinping controls all the levers of power. 

China Factor comment: Economic policy and foreign relations have been a disaster under Comrade Xi during the past three years. But that is unlikely to change when the beach “brains trust” vacate the sun loungers after their working vacation in Beidaihe.