Half a Crown

Half a Crown


More than sixty years ago and just four years after the communist takeover of Mainland China, Queen Elizabeth the Second of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, Ceylon, Hong Kong and a few other places was crowned in a highly-choreographed coronation ceremony in London that warmed hearts around the world. She had become queen much earlier on the death of her father, but June 3, 1953 was the date of her coronation.

The mood is different but the circumstances comparable in many ways in Beijing in 2017. The 19th Congress of the Communist Party is bearing down upon us, and while Mr. Xi has been the General-Secretary of the party for five years, this feels like the coronation. No crown, but the group photos currently being planned, just like in 1953, will show the chosen insiders. It is said, and it is possible, that he was chosen as a compromise candidate by the various factions, but the balance has shifted since 2012. By now, most of the script will have been written, and China is battening down for the final rundown through to the big day. Just as in London in June 1953 (presumably), all police leave has been cancelled. It will be a moment, it is reasonable to assume, when we get some really big statements on the excellent state of China's commonwealth and its economy, and its growing stature on the world stage. It will be a show that glitters and awes, just like the show in 1953.

The Queen, to make an effort at a roundout of the metaphor, is still with us 64 years later but the party has plans to beat her on that. The statements, policies and directions will be aimed at that timeframe and well beyond. Mr. Xi, it is said, is also looking to stay in his seat beyond the formerly mandated two terms/ten years, and that's not impossible in China's system, just as it is a part of the British system. Yet another parallel. Plus can it really be all that much fun to be a monarch or a general-secretary? Heavy rests the head, surely, that wears the crown.

Happy VPN fiddling over the holiday!