• Thu
  • Nov 27, 2014
  • Updated: 2:53pm

US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's cheap lunch wins praise in China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 11:09am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 11:52pm

One lesson visiting US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew might have learned is that the Chinese are far less interested about what comes out of his mouth than what goes into it.

It’s true that Lew’s high-profile meeting with President Xi Jinping on Tuesday has made national headlines. But what has triggered intense debate online was Lew’s low-profile lunch at a Beijing dumpling restaurant following the meeting.

Lew and his three colleagues had spent 109 yuan (HK$136) on a meal of dumplings, cold dishes and tea, said Chinese media reports.

Their bill has apparently shocked some people, who expect officials of even lower status to splurge thousands of yuan on luxury meals - paid by taxpayers.

“He must have done it purposely to embarrass Chinese officials,” wrote a weibo blogger.

“I assume Lew didn’t ask for a receipt either,” wrote another blogger, referring to a popular practise by Chinese officials who would use the receipt to get a reimbursement later.

“I can actually afford to take the US treasury secretary out!” exclaimed a blogger. “I feel rich now.”

“Twenty-seven yuan per official,” wrote another blogger. “This is the true China dream dreamed by the Chinese.”

The public mood was probably most felicitously caught by a weibo post by Beijing scholar Xu Xin:

“After reading today’s news about Lew’s 109 yuan dumpling meal, I was reminded of Joe Biden’s 79 yuan meal in a small Beijing eatery, and Gary Locke’s flight to Beijing in an economy class cabin. I also think of the hundreds of billions of yuan our public servants spend each year on meals, transport and overseas trips, and children in rural China who can’t afford clothes, food or school furniture.” 

Xu later posted on his weibo on Tuesday: “I’d like to take the US treasury secretary out, and the meal will be no lower than 901 yuan?”

Xu’s invitation surely got the attention of the US consulate in Hong Kong, which replied on its official weibo account on Wednesday morning:

“Mr Xu, it’s not that we are putting on airs. But a 109 yuan meal is more than enough to feed us. A 901 yuan meal? We will say no but we appreciate it.”

Lew is not the first US dignitary to have impressed the Chinese with his everyman habits.

In 2011, a photograph of US Ambassador to China Gary Locke carrying a backpack and buying coffee at the Seattle airport also went viral on China's social media and drew admiration and praise from netizens.


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hard times !
Jack Lew is certainly not the first U.S.dignitary to have impressed our Chinese compatriots on Mainland by his everyman habits---eating a simple dumpling lunch with ordinary Chinese while not being heavily-protected by plainclothes agents/guards.In 2011, the U.S.Ambassador to China, Gary Locke ( a Chinese American indeed) carrying a backpack and buying coffee at the Seattle Airport also went viral on China's social media since being such a high-ranking official,compared with his counterpart in China,it was simply incredible ! No wonder he drew admiration and praise from Chinese netizens.And this Old guy remembers that time when U.S.President Obama visited China for the first time,he carried his umbrella himself down the stairs of' Air Force 1 ' also shocked lots of our compatriots ! Such scenes just couldn't have taken place in our great socialist country with Chinese characteristics. Right ?
He probably still feels bloated from the elaborate banquet the night before and he probably knows he will attend another banquet later that night. It is probably all he can do to swallow a few pieces of chicken. Is it possible that is all he wanted? When I travel on business trips in China, I begin to feel like a stuffed goose after 3 days of spicy meals and begin making too many trips to the loo. I begin to long for a lunch of dumplings and cold chicken. I think people are trying to read too much into this. The poor guy probably just wanted a simple lunch.
hard times !
Yeah, most Chinese are more interested to learn what the visiting U.S.Treasury Secretary went into his mouth (how much he spent on a lunch meal ----was it as expensive as many Chinese officials/cadres who used to spend thousands of yuans on a meal) than what came out from his mouth---his talks with our newly-elected President Xi. It is learnt that Secretary Jack Lew spent only 136 yuans on his lunch by having dumplings, cold dishes and tea only.A Weibo blogger said,' He must be trying it purposedly to embarrass Chinese officials !'---well said indeed ! According to statistics, last year, Chinese officials altogether spent not less than RMB 300 billions on feast and luxourious meals which is equal to the cost of 30 home-made aircraft-carriers ! No doubt President Xi has to curb on the rampant corruption which is described as making the nation and the Party collapse together !
I'm sure that many U.S. officials splash out once in a while but when you have a transparent system of government, at least for elected official and appointed ones on the taxpayers dollar, you need to consider who is watching you.
I don't know if we would call the communist system better or worse but I guess it depends on which side you're on, the giver or taker.
They are wearing suits and ties to a lunch, unlike other customers. I'll like to see them in shirts and shorts. Then it will be publicity for sure.
It wouldn't be acceptable to the Chinese people to have a foreign official sitting down with president XI Jin Ping in a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and a pair of flip flops.


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