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Politics

China signals end of secretive leadership conclave in Beidaihe

Annual confab held amid Hong Kong turmoil and fresh tariff threats

Chinese paramilitary police have assembled in Shenzhen, near the Hong Kong border, in a signal that Beijing is willing to ramp up its response to the protests.   © Reuters

BEIJING -- Chinese leaders and party elders appear to have wrapped up their secretive annual gathering at the seaside resort of Beidaihe, where they likely discussed the handling of turmoil in Hong Kong and trade tensions with the U.S.

The Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily reported Thursday that Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and No. 3 in the party hierarchy, attended a symposium in Beijing on Wednesday. This suggests that the Beidaihe conclave had ended by then. The gathering is believed to have started Aug. 3.

The anti-government protests in Hong Kong, initially sparked by a controversial extradition bill, likely topped the agenda. President Xi Jinping's government is positioning domestic stability as a top priority, particularly in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the founding of modern China on Oct. 1.

Forces from the People's Armed Police -- a paramilitary unit charged with maintaining public order -- are massing in Shenzhen, near the border with Hong Kong, in a signal that Beijing could resort to more drastic measures to deal with the unrest. This move may have been influenced by the discussion at Beidaihe.

It may also have swayed the government to take a tougher line with the U.S. as the government grows more convinced that Washington supports the protesters. Top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday in New York, with the State Department saying only that the two "had an extended exchange of views on U.S.-China relations."

The question of China's next move in the trade war with Washington likely sparked fierce debate as well.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has announced another round of tariffs on Chinese imports to take effect Sept. 1. While duties on some items such as smartphones were postponed until December to avoid affecting the holiday shopping season, the measure will still put further pressure on an already wobbly Chinese economy.

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