To be continued...
Behind the drab socialist architecture and all those non-body-con Mao suits, the Chinese do have a penchant for drama. Just witness per capita fake eyelash sales, or the ratio of young lovers howling and collapsing on street corners. China’s businessmen and politicians may seem more straight-edge, but they too need an outlet (besides KTV) for theatricality. Among this week’s scene-stealers was Victor Koo, the architect of one of the biggest internet mergers in Chinese history. Youku and Tudou announced plans to join forces on Monday (perhaps this wasn’t a surprise to the hordes who purchased Tudou stock last Thursday and Friday). But the Marlon Brando of Chinese public figures has to be Bo Xilai, who wound up a dramatic career by being sacked from his post as Chongqing party secretary for an as-yet unknown crime that we will call “flying too close to the sun.” Netizens were not dissuaded by the Xinhua’s total lack of concrete information; what with CCTV’s cancellation of prime-time dramas, there’s nothing else to watch anyway. “The Chongqing government is like an unfinished TV series,” gushed one drama addict on Sina Weibo. While we are all eagerly waiting the next installment, Bo’s replacement looks a lot less camera happy, with a solid reputation, a face for radio and a strict upbringing at Kim Il-Sung University. You can almost hear Xinhua say it: Move along, people.
Dropping the W-bomb
When Chinese leaders say something provocative in their press conferences, it’s a bit like that that feeling experienced while watching the ending scene of mass bloodshed and terrorism in last year’s romantic comedy “No Strings Attached”: you’ve become so accustomed to being bored numb that anything even remotely interesting suddenly overwhelms the senses. Most press conferences are like Zhou Xiaochuan’s last Friday: so painfully ambiguous it produced the opposing headlines “Beijing hints rise in yuan isn't over” and “China hints at halt to renminbi rise” in the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, respectively (to be fair, the man has mastered the art of hinting and winking at reporters). But then, once every few years, you get something like Wen Jiabao on Wednesday, when China’s reform-minded premier marched out onstage for his last no-holds-barred NPC press conference. Clocking in at three hours, viewers of the movie “Titanic” would have been finished before Wen stopped talking. But Grandpa delivered the prime-cut goods. There was something for everyone: almost-calls for democracy, pledges to further liberalize the economy. Wen’s only ambiguous comment of the conference came while discussing an unnamed Chongqing official. A reporter from Gulf News said that Wen paused and looked her in the eyes. The premier then apparently winked, smiled, and said, “vamoose, baby,” before moving on to the topic of affordable housing.