A nice meta-piece on the media machinations behind the NPC sessions in the Straits Times (of Singapore; subscription required) today.
Correspondent Tracy Quek reports that Premier Wen Jiabao’s usually staid post-NPC press conference was given a shot in the arm this year.
The event usually starts at 10am, after the NPC session has officially ended, and lasts for more than two hours. It’s held in a room on the third floor of the Great Hall of the People. Quek notes that the premier handles all questions (which are usually pre-selected) with the same genial smile he flashes so often on television and in photographs.
Questions to the Premier – no matter how leading or provocative – are met with polite replies spoken in measured tones, occasionally capped with a slight poetic flourish.
But this year’s press conference was different. The premier brought along some special guests, setting off a “lightning storm” of camera flashes.
A gasp ran through the crowd when instead of just Mr Wen alone, the three newly appointed vice-premiers walked into the room. With them was incumbent Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu.
But the vice premiers weren’t there to talk. Instead, it appeared that they had been invited simply to observe Wen in action. A cheeky German reporter, however, seized the chance to ask potential future premier Li Keqiang a question.
There was some uneasy shifting about on stage before Mr Jiang Enzhu, the official chairing the conference, cut in.
He said: ‘I said earlier that this is Premier Wen’s press conference. There will be other occasions to hear from Mr Li and the other vice-premiers. Now, Premier Wen will continue to answer your questions.’
Without missing a beat, a smiling Mr Wen reclaimed his place in the spotlight.
Another amusing episode involves a reporter with a question that involved “a word starting with the letter T,” after a series of questions concerning Tibet.
To a reporter who said his question involved a word starting with the letter ‘T’, Mr Wen quipped: ‘Thank you for raising yet another question with a word starting with ‘T’.’
Before launching into his reply to a Taiwanese reporter who asked about furthering cross-strait economic cooperation, he said: ‘Please…convey my regards to our compatriots in Taiwan.’