18th Party Congress

Ordinary Chinese not bothered about upcoming party congress

With two days to go before the national congress, it appears the average person in China isn't bothered it is taking place

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 November, 2012, 7:07am

Just two days before the Communist Party convenes its once-in-five years national congress, where representatives of the 82-million-strong ruling party will usher in a new generation of leaders, ordinary mainlanders appear to be gripped by an overwhelming sense of apathy.

"I don't know. It has nothing to do with me," recent university graduate Cao Lifei replied when asked about the opening date of the congress and its duration. "But I know there will be a new emperor, and everything will be changed under the new emperor."

More than 2,200 delegates from across the nation will attend the congress, which will also endorse the party's policy blueprint for the next five years.

The identity of the party's next leader will surprise no one. A migrant construction worker in Beijing who described himself as "apolitical" said it would be could Xi Jinping .

But the hobbies and interests of the nation's next leaders are little known, as indeed are their policy preferences. Their names and those of their family members have been strictly censored on the internet.

"I don't know what policy agenda they will address; those things are too far from ordinary people like me," the construction worker said. "That's their problems, not my problem." Professor Wu Hui , from the Central Party School, said that when the Communist Party took power in 1949 it stressed serving the people, being from the people and being one with the people. But the 91-year-old party was now facing the growing danger of "being divorced from the people", he said.

"The party and its members are keeping their distance from the people, which is supposed to be their power base," he said. "Ordinary Chinese do not get the chance to elect any officials more senior than village leaders, so they don't feel any attachment to the regime."

More than a million young people join the party every year. But many people interviewed apparently were apathetic about politics.

A retired Beijing resident said it was best "not to talk about political affairs at such a sensitive time". "That's none of our business," he said. "What can we do except pray for the new leaders to promise wellbeing for all."

A woman in her 30s said she knew about the 18th congress but mistakenly called it the "18th people's congress". She was surprised and remained sceptical when told it was the party congress.

"Aren't they the same thing?" she asked.

A taxi driver said party congress delegates were just different. "The party delegates all look happy when you see them on TV," he said.

"It's just like watching the newscast on state-run TV - unrealistic - and they're not ordinary people like us."

At least the capital is presenting a festive front, with flower displays and with red banners reading "Without the Communist Party, there would be no new China" hanging across streets.

However, many residents remain unimpressed.

An engineer in the capital said: "The party is trying to build a harmonious atmosphere but it's hard. People don't care about the party congress because the party does not inspire mass support any more. It lost its fine tradition."