Xi Jinping visited Nanyang, Henan Province, on Wednesday for research, with another vice premier, Hu Chunhua, replacing him next to him at the central level
The visit comes as the U.S. and China are expected to restart trade talks. U.S. media reported that Beijing is considering replacing its trade representative with Vice Premier Hu Chunhua, who has extensive diplomatic experience. The question of whether Hu Chunhua has the strength to negotiate with the strong-armed U.S. Trade Representative David Deitch is of greater concern to the public.
In recent years, Xi Jinping has been seen accompanied by Vice Premier Liu He in every local visit to the official media, and he stood next to Xi Jinping during his trip to Guangxi and Hainan Island in late April.
But when Xi Jinping visited Nanyang, Henan Province, on Wednesday (12), the central-level official next to him was replaced by another vice premier, Hu Chunhua. Outsiders have speculated that this member of the Central Politburo is likely to be entrusted with important responsibilities.
In recent years, China’s trade dialogue with the United States has been led by Vice Premier Liu He.” The Wall Street Journal quoted sources familiar with the matter as saying. Beijing is considering a change, with Hu Chunhua, 58, replacing Liu He, who has been in charge of economic work for many years, as the special envoy to the U.S.-China trade talks.
Liu He and Xi Jinping have a close relationship, but recently there have been rumors that the two have diverged on their routes. A NetEase public website recently published an old article by Liu He from 13 years ago, calling for a rethink of the Cultural Revolution, which was seen as a satire of Xi Jinping.
Xi and Liu have distinctly different approaches to the Cultural Revolution
Independent scholar Wu Zorai believes that Liu He and Xi Jinping have important differences, and that they are not just empty words.
Wu Zorai: “The CCP has already characterized the Cultural Revolution as an upheaval initiated by Mao Zedong, but now Xi Jinping has turned it into an experiment, and even turned it into a prevention of capitalist resurgence. Someone like Liu He, who lived through the Cultural Revolution and whose father was persecuted and killed during the Cultural Revolution. This bottom line is very difficult for him to cross. So his disagreement with Xi Jinping on this issue is certainly one that cannot be avoided.”
Wu Jo Lai said that Xi Jinping does not trust the bureaucracy and gives him very few people to choose and trust, so Xi Jinping’s reuse of Hu Chunhua, who has a strong regimentationist flavor, in the U.S.-China economic and trade negotiations is actually a compulsion.
Wu Jolai: “There are not many people in the system who can cooperate with Xi Jinping and who Xi Jinping can trust, because negotiations with the U.S. are not possible with anyone, they must also meet a certain status and level. Now change Hu Chunhua is a temporary decision, the act of necessity. Hu Chunhua is at the very least not openly opposed to the Cultural Revolution. “
Liu He will turn 70 next year and his political future is uncertain
In Beijing, Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said at a regular press conference on Thursday (13) that the report by the Wall Street Journal was untrue, but there are still divergent views on whether Liu He will be replaced.
The deputy secretary-general of Taiwan’s Chinese Economic and Financial Association, Zeng Zhichao, believes that Liu He is credited with achieving certain results in the past U.S.-China trade talks.
Liu He is an expert in economic and trade, trusted by Xi Jinping, and very familiar with economic operations. His performance in this regard is noteworthy. Liu He will reach the age of 70 next year, which means that he will enter retirement age, so it is not impossible that he will be replaced. “
Hu Chunhua has never had experience in diplomatic work
Hu Chunhua, who came from the Communist Youth League, has been regarded as a great general of the league faction deliberately cultivated by former general secretary Hu Jintao, but with his resume, he has worked mainly at the local level. Zeng Zhichao said it remains to be seen whether Hu Chunhua, who lacks experience in foreign affairs, will be a competent negotiator for the Chinese side.
Zeng Zhichao: “He is dealing mainly with agriculture, poverty alleviation, disaster relief, etc., although also involved in trade, but the actual contact is not much, and his U.S. contacts are not much, so we are not sure how his performance will be. “
Much attention is being paid to whether the U.S. will continue to impose punishingly large tariffs on Beijing. U.S. Trade Representative Dyche said Wednesday the U.S. side will ensure that Beijing complies with the norms of international rules to create a level playing field. According to Zeng Zhichao, whether the U.S. side will give in on tariffs depends on whether the Chinese side can show good faith and keep the promises it has made in the past.
Zeng Zhichao: “Dai Qi’s long-term performance inside the Trade Representative Office is very good. As for Hu Chunhua, he even has very little international experience. He may take a ‘time for space’ approach because the atmosphere between the U.S. and China is so unpleasant that it is unlikely to produce a consensus if further negotiations are to be conducted on many details.”
Hu Chunhua has long been seen as a candidate for the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s Politburo, and is even seen as a favorite to be the next premier of the State Council. Political scientist Wu Jo-lai said that since Xi Jinping came to power, the State Council premiership is almost indistinguishable from that of the central office director, and if Hu Chunhua does take the post, he will probably only be more vulnerable than the current Li Keqiang.