Chinese do like to be beside the seaside: Workers cool off from the summer heat as leaders turn to intrigue, Teresa Poole writes in Beidaihe

IT IS summer in the city, and even the Chinese Politburo cannot take the heat. At Beidaihe, a seaside resort about 150 miles east of Peking, China's leaders have escaped for a few weeks' well-earned rest and relaxation - and the annual bout of political intrigue.

Like Blackpool and Brighton, this is a resort for party conferences as well as the common man, only this party (the Chinese Communist Party) does not believe in public political debate, preferring to congregate secretly in old colonial villas secluded on a wooded hill. Meanwhile, the common man on his danwei (work unit) summer holiday is kept strictly to his over- crowded end of the golden beach.

Beidaihe has been a tourist resort since 1898 when, during the reign of Emperor Guangxu, foreign diplomats, businessmen and missionaries started building their retreats. The holiday homes of the foreign devils were swiftly appropriated by the revolutionaries; in 1954, the official guide relates, Mao Zedong gazed at the sea from nearby Pigeon Nest Park and composed the poem, Ripples Sifting Sand.

What none of the official tourist brochures cares to explain are the many dark-windowed, imported saloon cars with military number- plates that speed through town, or why the western end of the beach is empty. It seems that, while mystery has traditionally enhanced the authority of Chinese leadership, party chiefs like a dip in the sea.

It was from Beidaihe in 1971 that Lin Biao attempted to escape after his failed plot to overthrow Chairman Mao. (Lin's private airplane never made it to Russia: the official Chinese view that it ran out of fuel and crashed in Mongolia has never been compelling.)

Since 1992, his customised villa has been open to tourists curious to see how the traitor lived during his summers in Beidaihe. Downstairs, there is the 60ft indoor swimming-pool, and two separate sets of rooms for Lin and his wife; they 'did not have good emotions', the guide explained. Upstairs, an exhibition of Lin's counter-revolutionary activities includes an array of telephone tapping equipment used by the doomed conspirators.

The other leadership villas remain strictly off-limits. The end of the public beach is marked by a colonial beach house with a man and a telescope. A group of youths in beach clothes, looking tougher than the average Chinese tourist, lounges under the verandah. One of them explains pleasantly that this part of the beach is reserved for the 'country's leaders'.

The beach may be out of bounds, but a public road runs parallel to the sea, between the hillside villas and the sands. Beidaihe's No 5 public bus takes this route to and from the railway station.

The only other motor vehicles are black military Mercedes and police motorbikes. Every few hundred yards down this nearly-empty road, a well-guarded driveway stretching up into the woods is marked by a set of traffic lights. There is no doubt who has the right of way.

Yet no high-wire fences guard this summer court of China's present-day dynasty. The most likely threat to those inside the villas comes not from the outside world, but from their fellow party comrades. It is here, every summer, that the Standing Committee of the Politburo and senior government figures decide the policies that will emerge later in the autumn, and guard their backs against political rivals.

Last year, after weeks out of the public eye with a 'bad cold' (actually heart problems), the Prime Minister, Li Peng, marked his physical and political comeback with a photo opportunity on Beidaihe beach in swimming trunks. It made the front page of the People's Daily.

In previous years, China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping was also shown taking the plunge at Beidaihe. On the eve of his 90th birthday next Monday, Deng is too frail to swim and no one is telling if he made the journey to the seaside this August.

The average Chinese holiday- maker probably does not care. About half the millions of visitors come with their work units. Beidaihe claims 159 'sanatoriums', actually hotels owned by the likes of the Railway Ministry or the Tianjin Hardware Factory. Groups of elderly cadres in matching swimming-costumes wade together into the crowded sea, rubber-rings around their girths. The more adventurous try the beach photographers who offer ball dresses and military uniforms for that special holiday snap.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen