When China’s new Politburo first announced the decision to curtailing official motorcades and related traffic controls, some thought it signified the new leaders’ commitment to reform. But many more wondered whether it’s more of a gesture than action. The first outside-Beijing trip to China’s special economic zone of Shenzhen by Xi Jinping, China Communist Party’s new general secretary, seems to give those in doubt an ensurance that Xi is serious about following through on change, or, at least, that’s what a picture snapped by a netizen during Xi’s “southern tour” tells the public.
In a Weibo post, Nafang Daily quoted netizen 陆亚明: “Accidently came across Xi’s motorcade – a community security with a walkie talkie politely asked me to stop and wait for a moment. Not long after, a few traffic police motorcycles passed by, followed by 3 mini buses and 4-5 police cars traveling from north to south. It wasn’t a motorcade exactly. Many ordinary cars were in between. No cars were clearing the road ahead. Traffic police motorcycles were flashing but no siren was on. Curtains inside the mini buses were pulled up. Car windows were transparent. They drove at about 60 Km/h.”
Together with the Weibo post was a picture of Xi Jinping waving with a smile through the mini bus window. The picture soon went viral with more than 34k shares in less than a day and more than 6k comments. According the official Weibo account of Shenzhen traffic police, Xi traveled a total of more than 150 kilometers in Shenzhen. There was no traffic control from beginning to end. More importantly, this was the first time for Shenzhen to not set up traffic controls for trips of high-ranking officials.
As it turned out, when the picture was taken, Xi was on way to the headquarter of Tencent, China’s internet giant. In a follow-up post, 陆亚明 said: “I followed his bus to Tencent Plaza. It was around 4:17 pm. There was no special police patrol on streets, not even traffic police. Traffic on Shennan Avenue was all normal as what it usually is. I think the wind may truly have changed its direction this time. Look, no traffic control [when high-ranking officials are on road] is not a big deal. Hail to Xi! Come and visit us more.”
Apparently, 陆亚明 wasn’t the only one who was impressed. 夏鑫浪 also thought Xi made a good impression: “The description has nothing special, but the picture really fills me with admiration. Bravo! Being low-key now is a sign of confidence.” 海之秘密 commented: “China’s top leaders showed us an example by action. China truly has a new hope. God bless our country.” 真我风采Me said: “This is what a true leader should look like. Full of charisma!”
But of course, what people expect from Xi, or the new Politburo, is much more than a traffic-control-free trip. Netizen find_moon voiced her hope: “May I wish that the new leaders can bring a new China, and restore people’s trust in the government.” 瑰丽的想象 was more direct: “A true change would be a war against corruption.” 王芒果mangowong had a different wish: “If no traffic control during official tours is a start. Then please lift the Internet control as well.”
No traffic control is but one of signs that Xi and the China under his leadership may be very different from the past 10 years under Hu, China-soon-to-retire President. Xi couldn’t have made a more symbolic first tour outside Beijing as the CPC’s general secretary. A few decades ago, the historical “southern tour” to Shenzhen by Deng Xiaoping, the architect of the opening-up China, marked the revival of China’s economic reform. In sharp contrast to Xi’s Deng Xiaoping-style “southern tour”, 10 years ago when Hu first took over, he made a visit to Xibaipo, a “red holy land” in the history of Mao-lead communist party.
And where is Hu now when Xi is making some waves in Shenzhen? In Zunyi, another “red holy land”. Mao took over CPC’s military command and became the leader of CPC after the Zunyi Conference back in 1935. In the eyes of many netizens, the different first trips made by Xi and Hu may be indicative of very different styles of leading the country. As Weibo celebrity and famous liberal intellectual 于建嵘 commented: “[The different trips] showed that China’s current leaders know very well that reform is the only right way to go.” He went on and said: “Reform is but the means, opening-up is the purpose. Deng’s reform opened China up to the world, and economy to private businesses. Today’s reform should go one step further and open up the society to the people, and politics to pluralism.”
More from Xi’s tour by iFeng