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President Xi sends austerity message through steamed bun lunch

The Chinese president Xi Jinping surprised the Chinese by visiting a local steamed bun restaurant, spending only 21-yuan (roughly $3.46) on his lunch. This symbolic act of austerity was interpreted by many as Xi's message of continuing his iron fist policy against corruption.

This is no “Taxi” propaganda like in April (Read our report here). This time, it is real. At least it seems so. Weibo user @四海微传播, whose verified information says he is a commentator, posted five photos of Xi ordering and having his lunch at Qingfeng steamed bun restaurant, a cheap chain restaurant in Beijing, at 13:20 PM on December 28.He then forwarded the photos to the official accounts of Xinhua, People's Daily, CCTV and Sina, in an effort to get their attention.

“Xi Dada (Uncle Xi, an endearing name for Xi) waited in the queue, paid for his own food, and carried his own tray. Qingfeng could sell a Xi Combo in the future. “ wrote @四海微传播 in his post. Photo: weibo.com

Within minutes, the photos went viral as all three official media, Xinhua, People's Daily and CCTV reposted the photos, which, in a way, proved the authenticity of the news. Soon the location of the restaurant, the intersection of Yutan North Street and Nanlishilu Road, was revealed and reporters swarmed the place along with customers who wanted to have a “Xi combo”. Xi's seat in the restaurant also became a hot spot as people all want to sit at the table the president sat. In fact, the original table and chair were taken away and replaced later in the day as the restaurant owner wanted to “preserve them”.

The “Xi combo”. Photo: weibo.com

Reports of Xi's low-key and down-to-earth lunch dominated Weibo on Saturday, many of which emphasized the low price tag and the fact that Xi served himself. Despite the heavy censorship, the hashtag #Xi queues for steamed buns# managed to become a hot topic on Weibo. A short video of Xi eating his lunch was also released on Weibo late in the evening.

According to the owner of the kiosk nearby, Xi and a couple of officials arrived in a silver van and went straight into the restaurant. There was no motorcade and the block was not cordoned off for the visit.

Guo Xueqin, the cashier, admitted that she did not recognized Xi when he came in. “I was so surprised.” Xi asked for her advice on what to order, and she recommended steamed bun with “pork and scallion” filling. Xi then ordered stir-fried liver and a portion of leaf mustard. All together they cost 21 yuan. Xue made a point to mention that Xi took his own chopsticks and carried his own tray.

Photo: weibo.com

Xi finished his lunch in about 20 minutes and greeted the customers who went up to his table to talk to him, according to the manager of the restaurant. “He finished all six of his buns,” she said happily. “And he thanked me before he left.” 

Photo: weibo.com

Zhu Yuling, general manager of the company that runs the restaurant said he had no idea about Xi's sudden visit. He said he would consider the “Xi combo” suggestion and promised he won't raise the price.


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