As far as kick-offs go, Xi Jinping’s speech upon his ascension to the Chinese Communist Party throne was a ripper. If I could have tweeted, that’s what I’d have said.

If anyone's got a spare gallon of hair cream, would they please raise their right hand

I watched it on telly in my Beijing living room. With me sat my husband, a Hong Kong-born, Brisbane-raised Australian investment banker, our five month old baby girl and a friend of ours, a smart, driven young twenty-something from Hefei.

On two sofas and a play mat we watched Mr Xi and the remaining six new members of the Standing Committee walk onto the red carpeted stage in front of that vast depiction of the Great Wall.

Though much has changed in this country, the essential formalities of Chinese political orations stagnated in about 1949.

You need red. You need plush carpet. You need little stickers on the floor to mark the distance between each dark-suited man with the posture of a lamp post. You need big, distant couches, gold accents, undrinkable tea with surface-floating leaves the size of French fries and timed pauses for emphatic applause.

But before he had even opened his mouth Xi cut through the usual trim with his steady but casual step, presenting a more relaxed version of the archetypal Chinese leader.

There is something reassuring in his smile, the way he holds a lectern and, more importantly, the way he holds a room. Xi, a man with revolutionary royalty running through his veins, has Clintonesque charisma.

When he smiled and said, ‘thanks for waiting and thanks for covering the congress’, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking, ‘I wouldn’t mind having a couple of cold Tsingtaos with him on a hot day.’

He is personable. He has hands the average Zhou would like to shake. When he speaks, he moves; shifting his weight from foot to foot as is normal among most humans and abnormal among many of his predecessors.

I can’t, for example, imagine Xi standing to attention in the back of a moving open-top vintage Hongqi limo yelling ‘tongzhimen hao’ (greetings, comrades) into four perfectly symmetrical microphones.  Xi’s more likely to pop into a local kindergarten with sleeves rolled up and chat about the history of the national anthem.

If this week’s press conference was reduced to a bumper sticker it’d read, ‘don’t worry. I get it and I’m on it.’ He was plain speaking. His messages were as accessible as they were concise.

A day later, I don’t have to Google a transcript to recall them, which is a good thing because Google has been hit and miss here in the middle kingdom for about a fortnight.

In sum, Xi heralded China’s achievements but noted a range of challenges of which he said none were insurmountable if all Chinese people banded together to tackle them.

There were nods to old rhetoric - ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ being one - but largely his text was fresh, appealing directly to his “electorate” by listing their common aspirations.

He finished up by saying that China needed to understand more about the world and that the world needed to understand more about China, a statement with which few would disagree. With Xi at the helm I reckon the latter goal falls into the realm of possibility.

As China’s spokesperson-in-chief Xi cuts a friendly, more translatable figure. He looks like the kind of guy who might crack a joke at a joint press conference, slap someone convivially on the back or shoot a few hoops with Obama.

When live news moved into commentary on our television screen, those in my living room unpacked the speech. ‘I thought he did very well,’ I said.

‘So do I,’ said my husband.

We turned to our friend who remained silent. ‘I like what he said,’ he said, finally. ‘I also like the way he said it. But I have heard it before.’ He paused. ‘I will need to wait and see what they can do.’

It was something of a buzz-kill until our little one uttered an excited shriek and slapped both hands on her play mat.

I’m with her. There’s something different about the way this guy presents and that is cause for optimism. He is the natural communicator a much-misunderstood China so desperately needs.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

Most commented

24 comments

Show oldest | newest first

    • Gregg says:

      05:54am | 18/11/12

      ” There is something reassuring in his smile, the way he holds a lectern and, more importantly, the way he holds a room. Xi, a man with revolutionary royalty running through his veins, has Clintonesque charisma. “

      I’d still stick with Ray Martinish.

      We have a politician back here in Australia Jessica who has referred to herself as once being young and naive.
      M any people are all manner ot things when young or even older and one for you might be ” impressionable “
      Do not be decieved by appearances and does not come from Mao’s little red book though something like that may be in it.

      ” He finished up by saying that China needed to understand more about the world and that the world needed to understand more about China, a statement with which few would disagree. With Xi at the helm I reckon the latter goal falls into the realm of possibility. “

      As soon as I read that paragraph Jessica and even without going further down the page, my thoughts were Oh yeah!, yeah yeah yeah and nothing to do with the Beatles.
      Do take good notice of your Chinese friend!

      Another thing too is that if Xi Jinping gets around to too much pinging and starts to pong, typically as with the Chinese politics being pulled back into line or even taken out of the line would always be a possibility.

    • ZSRenn says:

      07:51am | 18/11/12

      @ Greg

      I guess it was a big Saturday night but I think I understand your last   paragraph. To clarify what you mean by “pong.” Do you mean how Julia Gillard is starting to Pong at the moment with more and more evidence stacking up against her. Or Pong like Craig Thompson has done for the entire term of this parliament or Pong as in how Slipper does.

      I wish we could take those three out of line and put some one in who can get on with running the country.

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      09:53am | 18/11/12

      Xi is known to be a conservative and in China that means very communist conservative. With the recent anti foreigner sentiments that have been bouncing around China in the last six months this makes me worried for he future of expats here.
      As for corruption I wouldn’t expect any change there even though a crack down on corruption is what chinese also want to see. But for a conservative Chinese communist party member Guangxi (a chinese word meaning influence and can also mean a bribe) is part and parcel of being in government.

    • Gregg says:

      10:05am | 18/11/12

      Well sort of Rennie and certainly we can do without politicians who have had behaviour or attitudes anything like the three you mention if what is being alleged is true.

      But my thought was more that if Xi Jinping in being a more outward kind of guy re Jessica’s commentary
      ” As China’s spokesperson-in-chief Xi cuts a friendly, more translatable figure. He looks like the kind of guy who might crack a joke at a joint press conference, slap someone convivially on the back or shoot a few hoops with Obama. ” and as you put it in your own post is more the marketing type that China could do with, as much as all that could have benefits for China, what I am saying is that if stretches the elastic band too much towards being a good generous guy and gets too ambitious in introducing reforms etc., there will always be the party to pull him back in line.
      If it’s not the party, there is even the army in the background.

      Hopefully for China, Chinese and trading partners he does lead to more and more reforms and they are recognised as good for China by the party and then with such a huge population you do have to wonder what it is that is good for China for if you look at our governing for a mere 20 odd million, governing for more than 50 times that number is always going to be a huge task.

    • ZSRenn says:

      12:27pm | 18/11/12

      @ Greg from (did you go to the motor show) Chengdu.  I live in hope that anti foreigner sentiment is rhetoric as is the anti Chinese sentiment that was bounced around during in the US elections.

      I can’t speak for Chegdu, maybe the motor show impressed upon the ruling party members a negative foreign influence. In Zhongshan, I see none of it. The local government is fully behind further foreign investment relaxing regulations to attract more. I have even heard rumor of a foreigner being invited to speak at a future local CCCP meeting.

      Search Images: Chengdu Motor Show 2012 Girl

    • ZSRenn says:

      05:58am | 18/11/12

      Well said Jessica. I have said to my Chinese friends that one thing China needs is a good marketing manager. Whilst Hu Jintao was the old fashion starched up leader, Wen Jiabao for mine has a kind of personal appeal about him but is still old school. Maybe Mr Xi could be the marketing manager Zhongguo needs.

      It would be nice if people started seeing the place for what it actually is and not the Maoist totalitarian state of yesterday, they think it is.  At the next Olympics when the camera moves away from a smiling Barack and Michelle Obama   I would like to see it move to a smiling Xi Jingping and Peng Liyuan.  Ms Peng for those that don’t know is a famous Chinese folk singer who regularly appears on TV and sings at the CCTV New Years Gala show. Check out the Wiki link.

      Re: Google. Same down here ( Guangdong) which I don’t understand because China were really trying to get the message out during the CPC meeting and I wonder if it’s not Google interrupting it itself. Usually sites are off or on. Not like this with you needing to load the page 3 or 4 times to get it to work

    • Bertrand says:

      07:52am | 18/11/12

      The best thing about Mr Xi is how the Chinese people voted him in and will get to vote him out if he doesn’t perform.

    • Gregg says:

      08:03am | 18/11/12

      ” It would be nice if people started seeing the place for what it actually is and not the Maoist totalitarian state of yesterday, they think it is. “
      I gather you may think that people not living in China would fear going there for being run down by a tank!
      The truth is a whole lot different though obviously the extent to which people would know something about China will depend on their interest to know.
      There are no doubt many fine people in China and you having well in excess of a billion in total is a good start there and then just as in any society there will be the classes, the haves and the have nots, crime, corruption, the elite etc.
      The growing middle class in China no doubt have it a lot better than those that still struggle with daily toil to eke out a living.
      What can be still said for all of China though is that a one party government is far from a democracy, the rights of people still restricted and ethnic minorities can be severely treated.

      There has in fact been very limited change in many aspects of Chinese life since the Communists came to power and despite more industrialisation and wealth for some, I would not hold my breath waiting for significant changes in the next half century, not within China itself at least whilst it is likely they will be pursuing more and more interests abroad.

    • ZSRenn says:

      09:56am | 18/11/12

      @ Greg The thing is the tank didn’t run him down . It stopped!


      @ Bertrand As I said before voting is overrated if it stripes you of other freedoms. Australia is an educated 1st world nation and look who we voted into power last time. Greece the birthplace of democracy is a mess. The US is trillions in debt and yet voters have set up a situation where the two parties need to agree to get anything done and therefore nothing is being done. Japan a basket case of democracy with 20 odd parties needing to form a coalition to get nothing done. Ditto for Italy, Spain, Riots in London. I could go on and instead ask you to Google democracy and financial crisis.

      Imagine if you gave the Chinese the vote who still have a high level of uneducated. The Chinese who until 60 years ago where ripping each other apart on a provincial level and because the elected democracy was stripping the place bare and shipping it all to Taiwan

      You are correct though they cant vote him out but he can be sacked, charged and jailed if necessary.

    • Bertrand says:

      11:14am | 18/11/12

      @ZSRenn - “voting is overrated if it stripes you of other freedoms.”

      Sure. But what freedoms have we been stripped of in Australia that the Chinese citizens enjoy?

      Freedom of religion? Speech? Association?

      Until we start seeing Australians disappearing into political reeducation camps or the federal government utilsing systemic human rights abuses in order to maintain their grip on power, I think it’s safe to say that I would prefer to see the system of government we have in Australia.

    • ZSRenn says:

      05:20pm | 18/11/12

      Berty as I have said to you 100 times. China is not Australia. It is very factional based on ethnic lines. 

      Lives are lost because of freedom of speech here. People died because of a rumor that iodine would protect you from the radiation caused by the Japanese nuclear meltdown. If you read Chinese you might be able to see freedom of speech in action in China in blog sites like Weibo or qq.

      Yes they are monitored and anyone who suggests insurrection is soon dealt with, as they are in Australia,  However, if public opinion is against an issue on the sites so to does the government listen.

      I am a Christian who is married to a Buddhist. I go to my church she climbs her mountain or we do both together. A friend a judge goes to church every Sunday.  I go to the Muslim restaurant and am served by scarfed waitress. Xinjian has universities dedicated to training Imaans. How much more freedom of religion do you need.

      Freedom of association? Association with what? The local Lions Club? Which by the way does exist.

      There is non so blind as those that cannot see.

    • Richard M says:

      07:03am | 18/11/12

      And he was chosen without all that messy democracy business.  Much tidier - no need to worry about all that expensive, noisy and inconvenient Western stuff about having the people choose their leaders.
      No wonder you live in China rather than Australia.

    • ZSRenn says:

      07:42am | 18/11/12

      Agreed that’s what China is getting as it doesn’t have to deal with opinion polls and some red head lying her teeth of to get elected.

      Good government and above 6% growth

      I wonder if you know that the CPC is only one party of a seven party coalition, local chiefs are elected by the people to form government or that Mao is dead. .

      One thing Barrack Obama has going for him this term is he does not have to worry about being re-elected. It gives him a freedom to make the correct choices not the choices that will see him keep a majority in the polls.

      If you took the time out to look at how the system actually works rather than express your fear of the unknown you might even consider a change in Australia.

      I would like to see 12 year terms and the election of a board of directors rather than government with those directors required to have degrees in their field of expertise and susceptible to the same penalties for wrong doing as the board of directors for any company.

      The right to vote is overrated when it allows so many other rights to be stripped away from us everyday.

    • marley says:

      07:59am | 18/11/12

      You know, I’ve never cared much about whether politicians have “charisma.”  That’s an attribute which has a lot to do with getting elected, but very little to do with actual ability to govern.  It certainly has nothing to do with integrity, honesty, or any ability to understand (or care about) the needs of the people. 

      It’s okay for charisma to matter if you’re choosing your high school class president or Miss World;  it’s not so great when you’re choosing the President or the PM.  (But then, of course, in China no one gets a choice anyway.)  And to base your hope for the future of a nation on the “charisma” of its newest leader just seems to be me, well, shallow.

    • Mik says:

      08:09am | 18/11/12

      Think some people had that buzz of optimism when your dad was elected too. Your friend is correct, better to “wait and see”. If he doesn’t toe the line whatever that line might be, his own faceless men and women are probably pretty good with knives themselves.

    • ZSRenn says:

      10:29am | 18/11/12

      @ Jessica when are you going to do Crossover on CCTV News?

    • Michael R says:

      10:38am | 18/11/12

      “There is something reassuring in his smile”. That’s nice. Meanwhile back on planet Earth, we should pay more attention to what the Chinese do, rather than their appearance.

      http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/332454/red-flag-over-atlantic-gordon-g-chang
      Red Flag Over the Atlantic
      China is angling to take over a U.S. airbase in the Azores.

      “On June 27, a plane carrying Wen Jiabao made a “technical” stop on the island of Terceira, in the Azores…

      ... the facility where Premier Wen’s 747 landed in June is jointly operated by the U.S. Air Force and its Portuguese counterpart. If China controlled the base, the Atlantic would no longer be secure… Chinese planes could patrol the northern and central portions of the Atlantic and thereby cut air and sea traffic between the U.S. and Europe. Beijing would also be able to deny access to the nearby Mediterranean Sea.

      And China could target the American homeland…

      Lajes is certainly the reason Wen went out of his way to win friends in Terceira. For years his country has been trying to make inroads into the Azores and waiting for opportunities to pounce. There is nothing the Chinese can do if the U.S. stays, but Pentagon budget cutters, according to some observers, are planning to make Lajes a “ghost base.” ...”

      Chinese goods are not cheap, folks.

    • ronny jonny says:

      10:41am | 18/11/12

      I wonder what skills you need to advance to the head of a communist totalitarian state, other than “charisma” and a nice smile? Jessica, your naivety is astounding.
      Those cheering on the success of the Chinese model should be very careful. Without freedom of the press and voting rights you are entirely at the mercy of the government of the day. Please spare me the Murdoch press and big business buying elections rants, heard it all before. Even if these things are true we can still get rid of any governement we wish, try that in China or even try asking for that, you’ll off to prison.

    • ZSRenn says:

      12:30pm | 18/11/12

      @ ronny I wont be convinced of that until I see the door hit the back of Julia’s head on the way out of the lodge.

    • bananbender says:

      11:59am | 18/11/12

      A “charismatic” politician is almsot invariably a sociopath.

    • U Flung Dung says:

      04:54pm | 18/11/12

      If you believe Tony Abbott is charismatic.

    • iansand says:

      06:21pm | 18/11/12

      My close personal friend Xi Jinping.

      Well I’ve been in the same room as him.

      Along with about 3,000 other people.

      What I found interesting was the reverence in which those around me held him.  They do not have the habit of irreverence that we have with our politicians. I think that habit is a great protection for our freedoms.

 

Facebook Recommendations

Read all about it

Punch live

Up to the minute Twitter chatter

Recent posts

The latest and greatest

The Punch is moving house

The Punch is moving house

Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

Will Pope Francis have the vision to tackle this?

I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

Advocating risk management is not “victim blaming”

In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…

Nosebleed Section

choice ringside rantings

From: Hasbro, go straight to gaol, do not pass go

Tim says:

They should update other things in the game too. Instead of a get out of jail free card, they should have a Dodgy Lawyer card that not only gets you out of jail straight away but also gives you a fat payout in compensation for daring to arrest you in the first place. Instead of getting a hotel when you… [read more]

From: A guide to summer festivals especially if you wouldn’t go

Kel says:

If you want a festival for older people or for families alike, get amongst the respectable punters at Bluesfest. A truly amazing festival experience to be had of ALL AGES. And all the young "festivalgoers" usually write themselves off on the first night, only to never hear from them again the rest of… [read more]

Gentle jabs to the ribs

Superman needs saving

Superman needs saving

Can somebody please save Superman? He seems to be going through a bit of a crisis. Eighteen months ago,… Read more

28 comments

Newsletter

Read all about it

Sign up to the free News.com.au newsletter