Admirers of Xi Jinping (and his sky-high pants) have been flocking to the flagship Yuetan branch of China’s well-known Qingfeng Steamed Dumplings chain in Xicheng district, Beijing after the president made headlines for his unexpected visit to the store on December 28 last week.
Xi, who is more frequently seen at public events surrounded by heavy security instead of mingling in casual settings with citizens, arrived at the eatery with a small group of people and ordered a meal of buns stuffed with pork, onions and green vegetables, for which he paid 21 yuan (a far cry from the 100 yuan dumpling meal that he had shared with the US Treasury Secretary). Customers took photos of the president and posted them on China’s social media, and Xi’s lunch, dubbed by the public as the “President’s set meal”, was subsequently reported on the official Xinhua News Agency website.
In an editorial carried by the ruling Communist Party’s official news site, author Wu Xiqi wrote: “Had it not been for the photos, it would be incredulous to believe Xi, as a dignified president and party chief, should eat at a bun shop. Xi’s act has subverted the traditional image of Chinese officials, ushering a warm, people-first gust of wind that is very touching indeed.”
According to China Daily, sales at the Yuetan branch reached an unprecedented high on Monday, with almost 500 people waiting for the dumplings that Xi had ordered at one point. Sales of Qingfeng’s buns have also increased by 40 per cent across the whole franchise.
The store has since become a tourist destination in its own right. “I came from to Beijing on a holiday with my family of three, and we came specifically to this store for the dumplings,” a visitor from Suzhou told reporters from Jinghua.cn. “Much as I’m not used to the taste of Beijing cuisine, I’m want to give this a try – it’ll be something to boast about to my friends when I get home!”
Other party politicians have strived to emulate Xi’s everyman image following his appearance at Qingfeng Steamed Dumplings, with Zhengzhou party chief Wu Tianjun “accidentally” spotted by television crew lining up for his own ticket to take the underground train on Monday and local paper Legal Evening News stumbling upon Beijing’s police chief Fu Zhenghua conducting a patrol of Beijing’s streets at night.
Netizens expressed doubt at the likelihood of the positive media coverage being based on a chance encounter, with scornful comments such as “this is so blatantly fake!” and “this makes me feel like puking” appearing on web reports.
Xu Jin, the reporter responsible for the video interview with Wu, clarified in an interview with the Beijing News that the incident was an entirely spontaneous one. “Not many people are aware that the Party Secretary often takes strolls or rides on his bicycle into the city, which could have led to this misunderstanding.”
By Yuen Sin
[Images via Jinghua.cn]