Has China's New President Taken To 'Twitter'?

Mark Stone, Asia Correspondent
Has China's New President Taken To 'Twitter'?

The incoming President of China, a man who few know much about, appears to have taken to China's version of Twitter in a rare display of openness.

A mysterious account complete with unofficial-looking photographs has appeared on Sina Weibo, a microblogging website similar to Twitter, portraying an unusually personal side of Xi Jinping.

The postings enthusiastically chronicle Mr Xi's visits around the country, and most are accompanied by photographs, apparently taken on a mobile phone, of the incoming Chinese leader.

The intimacy of the photos and close-quarter access suggest that they are taken not by a devoted fan but by an aide or bodyguard, which could only have happened with the approval of the man himself.

On Tuesday evening the account had 355,000 followers. By Wednesday morning the number had risen to 463,000 and by Wednesday lunchtime it had reached nearly 500,000.

In the photographs, Mr Xi, who will become the Chinese President in March, is seen on many of the visits he has been making around the country in preparation for his new role.

In one photo, he is captured napping in a mini-bus. Another shows his plane taxiing at an airport. Several of them show Mr Xi meeting locals on various visits.

Accompanying the sleeping Xi in the minibus is a post which reads: "He's tired after days of running around. He was out all day yesterday and travelled from villages to the city last night. We young people don’t feel good after travelling for an entire day, let alone a 60-year-old."

Another post says: "Xi's motorcade has taken off, the destination unclear."

All the photos suggest an unusual level of access to the Communist leader and demonstrate significant knowledge of his travel plans and movements.

Chinese authorities regularly censor Weibo and other social network sites to restrict discussion of the more sensitive aspects of the country's politics. Discussion of the Communist Party's top leadership is almost always off limits, adding weight to the view that this account is genuine, deliberate and sanctioned from the top.

But the anonymous author of the blog has insisted that there was no official link to the Communist Party: "I am just a commoner. I am not a Communist Party member and I have nothing to do with Xi Jinping's team."

Mr Xi will rule over one fifth of the world's population and manage an economy second only to America when he is officially inaugurated in March.

Already there are significant hints that his style will be markedly different from that of his predecessor, Hu Jintao; a man who was regarded as characterless, charmless and robotic.

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