Hu, Wen, where?
China concluded its game of capture the flag last week, only to launch into the world’s largest game of hide-and-seek as president-in-waiting Xi Jinping mysteriously disappeared from public life. The media had a fun week of it, as Xi’s strange absence led to a lot of wild conjecture. Some pundits blamed swimming injuries or heart troubles, or called to mind echoes of Chinese history and the Cold War. Wilder reports said Xi was down for repairs while waiting for a replacement part, or just trying to inject some drama into this Party, after growing sick of always being the straight man to Li Keqiang’s slapstick humor and talent with the ladies. But a source inside the Zhongnanhai compound told China Economic Review the real story: Xi is locked in the final karaoke round of a Hunger-Games style competition that will determine whether he has the stuff to lead. Thus far, Xi has deftly evaded all the tricks the Party panjandrums have thrown at him, with his knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine and talent for leaping between trees serving him well. The capital’s last glimpse of Xi was yesterday, as he raised his fingers to his lips and then to the sky to thank the citizens of his native Beijing for their gift of Golden Throat and baijiu to strengthen him through the last karaoke rounds. Be strong, Xi; may the odds be ever in your favor.
Ye olde switcheroo
Democracy creates an odd breed of Janis-faced politicians. They are expected to be idealists accountable to the electorate but are in truth self-serving miscreants looking to forward their careers. The skill set is straightforward: an ability to say something but do something else. In the US, the time-tested bait-and-switch strategy goes beyond the likes of Bush and Obama to mystery meat and the Chicago Cubs (their turnaround season is going great, we hear). But China apparently doesn’t need democracy to learn this trick. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, or just MHURD among friends, announced this week that there have been 6.5 million public housing starts as of the end of August with China spending some US$129 billion in the process. Surely now, every Zhou Blow is on his way to achieving the Chinese dream. Not so. Many of China’s biggest banks have apparently quietly dropped mortgage discounts for first-time homebuyers, purportedly at the government’s direction. It looks like China is getting the hang of how countries should be run. Next stop the UN Security Council where China has joined ranks with countries that see Iran’s nuclear efforts as a “serious concern.” But that hasn’t stopped them from asking for all that sweet, sweet Iranian crude. Nailed it. Keep up the good work, China: We’ll be rooting for you (or will we?).