China's Xi demands fewer empty words, less show for top leaders

BEIJING Tue Dec 4, 2012 5:34pm IST

Newly-elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jinping speaks as he meets with the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Newly-elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Xi Jinping speaks as he meets with the press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 15, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping took aim on Tuesday at the wordy meetings and over-the-top welcoming ceremonies which are the bread-and-butter of the lives of senior leaders, demanding less show and fewer hangers-on for foreign trips.

Top officials rarely go anywhere without giving stultifying speeches and getting fawning welcomes from local people, complete with heavily made-up children presenting flowers and pensioners moved to tears or song.

But president-in-waiting Xi signalled he was having none of it.

Visits around the country by top leaders should no longer be met by red carpets, welcome banners or banquets, said a statement carried by state media after a meeting of the 25-member Politburo, the party's second-highest decision-making body, which reports to the party's elite core, the seven-man Standing Committee.

Meetings must be shortened and "empty talk" banned, it added.

One staple of foreign visits always shown in detail by state television will also go -- airport welcoming parties made up of students and residents. Gone too will be the hordes of trailing functionaries on such trips.

"The style of officials, particularly top officials, has an important impact upon the style of the party and the style of the government and even on the whole of society," the statement said.

"Such a way of doing things must first start with the Standing Committee. If you want people to do something then do it yourself first; if you don't want somebody to do something then certainly do not do it yourself."

State media must also restrain themselves from issuing pointless stories about official events unless there is real news value, and even when they do write articles they must be short and to the point, the statement said.

The party, which has shown no sign of giving up its tight grip on power, has struggled to contain public anger at a seemingly endless stream of corruption scandals, particularly when officials are seen as abusing their posts to amass wealth.

Xi, who takes over as president from Hu Jintao at the annual meeting of parliament in March, warned shortly after becoming party boss that the country risked unrest if graft is not tackled.

While his latest move to rein in extravagance was widely welcomed on China's popular Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo, some wondered if he had maybe bitten off more than he could chew in taking on long-entrenched customs.

"If he really wants to do this it's not going to be easy. We'll have to listen to his words and watch his actions," wrote one user. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Sally Huang, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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