Xi serves up politics with simple meal

Xi serves up politics with simple meal

It was not hunger or a craving for ordinary food that drove Chinese President Xi Jinping to a Beijing eatery for a 21 yuan (S$4.40) meal of pork buns, pig liver and vegetables, which he paid for out of his own pocket.

No, it was politics, said analysts of his visit last Saturday to a downtown branch of the popular Qingfeng Steamed Dumpling restaurant chain.

First, his jaunt - which has sparked a craze for Qingfeng buns in China, especially Beijing - is part of a public relations campaign aimed at portraying himself as a man of the people who is down to earth and easy-going.

Renmin University political analyst Yang Guangbin said Mr Xi's public relations stunts should be seen alongside the intensifying anti-corruption campaign led by disciplinary czar Wang Qishan.

"Together, they aim to raise hopes that the party cares for the people and is serious about doing good things for the people," said Professor Yang.

Mr Xi began showing this common touch in December last year when he eschewed limousines and travelled in a minibus during his visit to the southern Guangdong province.

In July this year, he won praise from the public after he was photographed carrying his own umbrella in a rain storm during an inspection tour in central Wuhan province. And a Hong Kong news report of him hopping into a Beijing taxi on a whim in April remains a credible tale among locals though the authorities have refuted the account.

Mr Xi's actions have raised eyebrows, given how top leaders rarely venture beyond the Zhongnanhai compound, where their offices and residences are located. When they do, they usually appear with a heavy security presence. His actions are also unusual as Chinese leaders do not rely on public opinion to get elected.

But Prof Yang said that for many Chinese people, "whether they get to vote directly for the leader is not as important as whether they think the leader is a good person who cares for the people".

Since news of his foray broke, locals have been thronging the Qingfeng eatery in western Beijing and ordering the same 21 yuan meal, now dubbed "zhu xi can" or President's meal.

Despite cynicism that the visit was staged, many netizens are pleased that Mr Xi not only paid for his meal, but also queued up to buy it and finished everything on his plate, leaving no leftovers.

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