Hu Was the Leader of China. Now Xi Is.

Two weeks ago, the Communist Party of China (CPC) completed it’s 18th National Congress, at which a new set of leaders was appointed. The nine-member Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) that sits at the apex of Party power and thus effectively rules the country was reduced to 7 members, and all but 2 of the out-going members were replaced (their terms were up).

Hu Jintao, the man who had been the General Secretary of the CPC for the last ten years stepped down. The man ‘elected’ to take his place was Xi Jinping (pronounced She Jeenping).

As you can imagine, this has spawned something of a cottage industry in pun-making.

A recent post on the website Foreign Policycompiled a list of bad-pun headlines they hope never to see:

1. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea: “Xi’s Gotta Have It.”

2. A profile of his teenage years: “Xi was only 16.”

3. His second visit to Iowa: “There Xi Goes Again.”

4. His portrayal in Chinese state media: “Isn’t Xi Lovely?” (Or “Xi Will Be Loved.”)

5. A Chinese Gorbachev: “Xi Change.”

6. Bizarre policy choices: “Xi Moves in Mysterious Ways.”

7. A definitive chronicle of his speeches: “That’s What Xi Said.”

8. His meeting with Henry Kissinger: “The Old Man and the Xi.”

9. On a conflict with the current head of the disciplinary committee: “He Said Xi Said.”

10. His stylish sartorial choices: “Ain’t Nothing But a Xi Thing.”

My contribution to the madness is the title of this post.

How about you? What are your favorite “Xi” puns?


For further reading on Mr. Xi:

Xi Jinping: the ‘big personality’ taking charge in China (The Guardian)

China’s incoming first lady a challenge for the image makers (Los Angeles Times)

What China’s seven rulers mean for its 80 million Christians (Christianity Today)

Image source: Wikipedia


Guarding Tiananmen Square

On Sunday afternoon, I and a friend did something we hadn’t done in a long time — took a stroll around Tiananmen Square, the closest thing that an atheist nation has to a sacred space. Because the Party Congress meetings had concluded a few days previous, security was still very much heightened.

There were policemen in blue uniforms, some cruising around on segways.

There were People’s Armed Militia members in green uniforms, marching around in groups of three.

There were plainclothes cops and militia members, easily identifiable by the fact that they all have the same haircut and leather jacket.

And strategically placed all around the square were bright red fire extinguishers, presumably to prevent any self-immolations, like those that have been taking place in the Tibetan regions.

Kind of sobering, really.

A Nap in the Living Room

Happiness is a nap in the living room, especially when the living room is outside and it’s a gorgeous fall day and you’ve just had your fill of scraps from the tables of the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ restaurant that your owners run.

Chinese Bumper Stickers [3]

With grannies wearing red arm bands stationed every few hundred yards throughout the city to watch for and report on any suspicious activities, I feel a bit self-conscious walking around snapping pictures of bumper stickers. After all, what could be more suspicious?

Never mind….here are this week’s installments of Chinese bumper stickers.  Enjoy.

My car may be Japanese, but my heart is Chinese

Eat rice, not vegetables. Save money, fall in love.

Let me tell you a secret…I’ve been drinking

Until next time…

Manchurian Catholics

In the course of my research on church bells in Beijing, I have been learning a lot about the history of the Catholic churches here. One thing I have learned is that, even though the Jesuits had favor at the imperial court and were often on friendly terms with the emperor and his family, who were Manchu (Manchurians), most of the converts were Han Chinese.

But not all.

In his book, A New History of Christianity in China, Daniel Bays writes about a group of converts from the Manchu people during the Qing Dynasty:

After the handover of power to the new Qing regime, and the Jesuits success in maintaining residence in Beijing, the congregation of believers continues to grow. By 1700 it included a small but increasing number of ethnic Manchus. Several of these were from the Sunu family, (Sunu was a cousin of the Yongzheng emperor, who reigned 1723 –1735). After Yongzheng’s prohibition of Christianity in 1723, he punished the Christians in Sunu’s clan over the next few years and Manchu converts seem to have disappeared, except for perhaps a handful. Despite the hostile atmosphere, a small number of converts, 2000 or so, continued to exist in Beijing through most of the eighteenth century.

On Tuesday, in a Catholic church in Beijing, my research assistant and I met a descendant of this clan.


Silly Season

With the big meetings “Silly Season” is in full swing now in Beijing. Earlier in the week I wrote about some of the silly new regulations that have been enacted to keep the city harmonious for the next three weeks here: People’s Republic of No.

Shortly after I wrote that, the government sent word to all taxi companies that they were to disable the back seat windows. Under no circumstances are passengers to be able to open them. Apparently they are afraid of people throwing anti-government leaflets out of the window. Of course, this has never happened here, and I don’t know a soul who would even think of doing such a thing, but I guess you can’t take any changes.

Yesterday I rode in 4 different taxis and had the chance to see the implementation of this rule up close and personal. In each case I climbed into the back seat, and lo-and-behold the window handles were not there.

 missing handle

I decided to play ‘dumb foreigner’ (not a tough acting job, mind you) and ask the driver about it. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Mr. Driver, why are the handles to operate the windows gone from the doors back here?

He: Because the Party Congress begins next week. We were ordered by the government to remove the handles so the windows can’t be opened.

Me: I’m sorry. I am a dumb foreigner. I don’t understand the relationship between a government meeting and a taxi window.

He: It’s a security measure.

Me: Security measure? Security against what?

He: It is to prevent people from throwing anti-government leaflets out of the window.

Me: What? Has there been a problem with people throwing anti-government leaflets out the window?

He: No. It’s a preventative measure. If someone wants to, this will prevent them from doing so.  The government has said they have a goal of “an incident-free meeting” and so we all have to do our part. We aren’t just trying to prevent someone from doing something; we are trying to stop them from thinking about doing something.

[I’m sure there was some logic in that statement somewhere, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it.]

Me: I’m a foreigner. I’ll never understand.

At that he chuckled.

In addition to the window handles, the government also banned toy airplanes and helicopters and yesterday notified pigeons that they are not to fly above a certain height.

The silliness has not gone unnoticed on Chinese social media sites either. Tea Leaf Nation translated this post on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter:

Yao Bo (@五岳散人), a well-known social commentator, tweeted on Sina Weibo: “The people in charge of People’s Daily and CCTV [China Central Television] are afraid of leaflets. The people in charge of the military, para-military, local police and urban law enforcement are afraid of kitchen knives. The people in charge of armed vehicles are afraid of taxis driving near political centers. The people in charge of stealth fighter jets are afraid of toy planes and balloons. Bro, am I living in Alice’s Wonderland?”

I know you think I’m making all this up, but be assured I am not.  It’s the fun thing about China. Reality trumps anything a wild imagination could dream up. Every time.

Some perspective, however…. I was here in the run up to and during the Beijing 2008 Olympics, and many of these measures were put in place then as well. Not the windows, thing, though. I guess that was all just a dress rehearsal for this event.

The Wall Street Journal has a good slideshow of all the fun.