This is a guest post from Liz Carter, a DC-based author and translator of several Chinese textbooks:
China's 18th Party Congress began yesterday; delegates from across the country gathered in Beijing, ostensibly to make important policy decisions and determine the make-up of the top leadership ranks for the next five years or more.
China's chattering classes, on the other hand, tend to analyze the significance of the meetings from their carriage and appearance, that is, when they're not mocking it. Delegates' expensive clothing and accessories are recurring hot topics: delegate Yang Lan, a Chinese talk show host, was spotted carrying a Marc Jacobs handbag and wearing a Giorgio Armani jacket at a less important Congress earlier this year. Yesterday, as in sessions past, netizens also saw the apathy of delegates as yet more proof of the meetings' meaninglessness. Pictures of a bored and yawning former President Jiang Zemin went viral before disappearing from Chinese social media.
Attempts by authorities to reinforce the legitimacy and security of these meetings - of which the party congress is arguably the most important - have backfired; the recent ban on the sale of kitchen knives in Beijing led to widespread mockery of officials' paranoia. Well-known Weibo (Chinese for microblog) user Zuoyeben, reposted an image - since deleted - to his more than four million followers: of a sign warning the reader not to open a window during the party congress "or else." The writer Tian You simply remarked "Absurd."[view whole blog post ]