Socialism: Working hard, playing harder

China's annual "two meetings" roll out the red carpet for Jackie Chan, Yao Ming and a guy named Pony

Socialism: Working hard, playing harder

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Like all China-focused media, we at CER have been intently following the pageantry in Beijing this week as the country holds its annual "two meetings." The who’s who of China’s political elite are crafting and reiterating scintillating policy statements and "deciding" the country’s top political appointments, with lots of friendly advice from the smoke-filled back room, of course.

The two forums – the NPC and the CPPPCCCP... – are always a feast for the senses, with interesting sights and sounds courtesy of such political heavy hitters as Yao Ming and Jackie Chan. But although these powerful men and women have just shown up to ingratiate themselves to serve their government, the parade of elite has attracted plenty of mean-spirited criticism about the incestuous nature of power and money in China. Pony Ma, the chief executive of Tencent, tried to stick up for his monied brethren earlier this week: “Billionaires only account for a small percentage of NPC delegates,” Ma said, as he lit his cigar with a fistful of burning cash. We checked Pony’s math, and he does have a point: Billionaires are only 1% of the 2,987 NPC delegates and 2.3% of CPPCC’s 2,237 delegates, after all. But then again, China only had 154 billionaires in 2012, according to Knight Frank’s new report on global wealth. That gives billionaires a paltry 54% chance of winning a seat in China’s two meetings, compared to a .0004% chance for everyone else. Socialism, hard at work?

At least China’s elite have had the decency to dress down this year, in a nod to Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive. No pink Pucci suits or jewel-encrusted Bulgari snakes here – they’re saving those for Yu Zhengsheng’s after-party. Sadly, one group didn’t get the memo about China’s new austerity drive. Not even the great Xi could shame China’s minorities into giving up those ostentatious headdresses.