President Hu Jintao recently hosted some very special guests at the Zhongnanhai compound, the Party and government headquarters. A group of young school children from Wenyuan, the epicenter of the earthquake in May, were flown to Beijing for a grand tour of the capital and to meet with none other than Grandpa Hu (胡爷爷).
In this video*, President Hu is seen strolling through the scenic Zhongnanhai grounds with a visiting Russian delegation, and suddenly greeted by jubilant young children running into his arms.
Grandpa Hu told the children how brave they were to endure being trapped under the rubble and how proud he was that they helped each other pull through the ordeal. Study hard, he said, and grow up to be upstanding citizens to serve your village (乡) and country. Can you do that? He asked. YES!!!! The children screamed in response.
President Hu also examined the still visible wounds – bluish bruises and healing scars – the children sustained during the earthquake. Thankfully, none of the inspection degenerated into Putinesque shenanigans.
There is no doubt the visit looked overly orchestrated, as is often the case. Nonetheless, looking at the star struck children beaming from ear to ear, and remembering how vulnerable they must have been a few months ago, melts the cynicism in all of us.
This Beijing visit is only the beginning. The children will be flown to Moscow and hosted by the Russian government for a cultural exchange program. In predictable fashion, with the Russian delegate standing behind him, President Hu told his young comrades to befriend and learn as much from their Russian friends, as part their roles in further enhancing Sino-Russian relations.
Picture perfect, you might say. Better yet, PR perfect.
* Video is only in Chinese, our apologies.