Look at Xi Jinping eating lunch. When the story broke yesterday that the president of China was spotted in Beijing ordering steamed buns at a local restaurant called Qing-Feng, I noted that we’d be seeing more pictures, since if you can’t take pictures of the president of China on your camera phone, you might as well never take another camera phone picture again. Well, here’s a video, which surfaced on Youku about nine hours ago. It is wonderful in the following ways:
- As we know, American politics favors extroverts: a politician in a neighborhood canteen might chat up everyone around him or her (“constituents”), pose with babies (even kiss them), create a ruckus; if not quite trying to stand out, certainly not shying away from attention. Chinese politics, of course, operates at the antipode of this civic dance. Watch as Xi Jinping professes his normality — and dignity — by ignoring the people who stand next to him and pose for pictures. This isn’t awkward. He’s just a man trying to eat, like us.
- At the very start, someone (picture-taker?) says, “Can you see us?” Otherwise the only sounds are ambient conversations and utensils. But at the 17-second mark, someone behind the camera says, very clearly, “Napkins, waitress.” Someone else — presumably the waitress — replies, “Take it, take it.” I’m not entirely sure why this is notable, but maybe because it seems so in place, and, yes, normal. Xi Jinping is able to behave like a normal human being in a public setting, with neither purpose nor agenda. All other interpretations of this scene — whatever we want to make of it — that’s on us.
- The address of the restaurant, for those of you who might want to swing by:
Address：北京市新街口南大街178号 (178 Xinjiekou Nan Dajie)
Phone：010-66182812 or 010-66124087