BEIJING is marking the centennial of the birth of President Xi Jinping's father, a Chinese Communist Party elder, in low-key fashion, balancing eagerness to please China's reigning supremo while avoiding a political backlash for lavish celebrations.
A panel discussion held on Tuesday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to celebrate the life of the late vice-premier Xi Zhongxun was the only national-level event on a list of commemorative activities taking place in the past week.
Mr Xi, 60, attended the event in his personal capacity, along with national legislature chief Zhang Dejiang and other top officials, state media reported.
Panel discussions were also held in provinces with links to the elder Xi, like Guangdong province in the south where he was party boss from 1978 to 1981, and northern Shaanxi province where he was born in its Fuping county.
Commemorative stamps and photo albums have also been rolled out to mark his 100th birthday yesterday. State broadcaster China Central Television has been showing a six-part documentary this week.
Describing the events as low key, Hong Kong-based analyst Willy Lam said it is to ensure that Mr Xi milks the advantage and avoids any blowbacks.
"He also wants to follow a Chinese tradition that frowns upon those seen to be blowing the trumpet of their father too much," said the Chinese University of Hong Kong observer.
Another reason is to avoid unhealthy comparison with his father, some say.
The elder Xi, who died in May 2002, is known for speaking his mind boldly, like his objection to the military crackdown on the Tiananmen protests in June 1989.
He is also admired by reform-minded liberals for his role in pushing key initiatives, like the Special Economic Zones in Guangdong province from the late 1970s that helped the country in its economic reforms and opening up.
Before Mr Xi's rise to power last November, hopes were high that he would be like his father. But concerns have grown of late over his conservative streak, as shown by a crackdown on online rumours and bloggers.
Others say liberals might try to exert pressure on Mr Xi by hailing his father's achievements. "But I doubt there'll be any impact. Xi Jinping appears very confident that what he's doing is the right thing," said Peking University political observer Zhang Jian.
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