Roll up those taxi windows, drag your bags through security… this only comes every ten years. Beijing’s bitter wind welcomed 2270 delegates yesterday to shine their shoes and take their seats in a room booked for the “18th National Congress”. While the U.S. lets out its breath to enjoy another four years under Obama’s leadership, China prepares itself for a new president and premier (7 of the 9 current Politburo Standing Committee members are retiring this year). Xi Jinping, the likely candidate to replace President Hu Jintao, emphasized four main questions to be addressed at this year’s conference, namely: What flag will we wave? What path will we follow? And in what state of mind? To continue advancing towards what kind of goals? (我们党将举什么旗、走什么路、以什么样的精神状态、朝着什么样的目标继续前进) Specific, I know. Citizens wait eagerly to see what solutions the committee generates for problems like insufficient health care, inflated real estate, and the growing gap between the rich and poor. As news stations flash snippets of animated discussions over round mahogany tables, the mysterious lure of the national government grows in the eyes of the people. Local and provincial governments may be corrupt or unfair, but loyalty towards the national government is a tradition that stretches back thousands of years, born from the people’s innocent dependency and undying hope in a power that remains faceless. Just as religion presses followers to have faith in what they cannot see, a government too can round up millions of supporters if only by providing a mirage of hope.
Chinese calligraphy (书法 (shūfǎ) dates back over a thousand years, but a new spin on the century-old tradition is quickly gaining popularity here among older folks. It’s bigger, wetter, and only done outside. (那个她说的）Basically, they start with an old broom for the calligraphy pen shaft and attach a pointed sponge to the end which acts as the brush. Initially, most people had to walk around with a bucket of water to dip the giant pen into, but now you’ll find the smarter ones have invented a self-watering pen by attaching an old soda bottle to the shaft that can hold and transfer water to the sponge. I came across this writing after the calligrapher had already left, so didn’t catch a photo of his contraption. Go to any popular local park in Beijing before 8am and you can watch this tranquil exercise.