Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Anonymous general secretary

What does it mean, politically, when the powerful leader of the world's largest country (in population) is anonymous to one of its citizens?

In Remote Village, China’s Leader Faces Awkward Question: Who Are You?
It must have been a slightly uncomfortable moment for the village official.

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, had come to Shibadong village to gauge conditions in a poor corner of Hunan Province. Upon entering the home of a family whose sole electrical appliance was a fluorescent bulb, the most powerful man in China was asked by the 64-year-old matriarch, “What do I call you?,” according to a report from Xinhua, the state-run news agency. It was a polite way of saying, “Who are you?”
Hunan Province


The village official stepped in quickly, telling his constituent, “This is the general secretary.”

Mr. Xi’s focus on… agricultural economics in Xiangxi Prefecture, a region of steep valleys that is dominated by members of the Tujia and Miao ethnic groups, shouldn’t be a surprise… Rural study trips by Chinese officials, and subsequent images of them meeting with the people, are a staple of the official portrayals of Chinese leaders…

Whether in photos with his pants rolled up in a rainstorm or sweating through his shirt while meeting with earthquake victims in Sichuan, state media over the past year have emphasized the idea of Mr. Xi as a man of the people.

His trip to a remote region of Hunan is a reminder that, while China now has nearly 600 million Internet users, there is another half of the country’s population without Internet access. In the case of Shibadong village, there are people without televisions or the means to readily know… just what the country’s leader looks like…

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