Have you ever wondered how China’s stone-faced, dead-eyed leaders set their policies? How much debate takes place, who is involved, and whether it ever gets heated? Do the nation’s economic, scientific, and creative experts get to bend their ears, at least to some degree?

These are questions that have plagued Sinophiles and China-watchers for decades. The decision-making and operational mechanics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are a black box, but it is known that the CCP has its summer retreats at Beidaihe, a seaside locale in Hebei Province that is 180 miles from the nation’s capital. There, at the beach, they set policy goals each year.

Shrouded in the strictest secrecy, there’s no way of knowing what exactly is on the agenda at the Beidaihe meetings. Think of them as China’s Bilderberg meetings, where people of power meet regularly but nobody can say why.

What’s known about Beidaihe can only be expressed in the most general terms, that political leaders meet with experts in economic, scientific, and social science fields to form the grand strategies that steer the nation’s growth and development. Those meetings are the rare occasions when honest data on China’s economy are laid out on the table, putting to rest the legend of China’s recurring 7 percent GDP growth.

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