This week things finally begin to return to normal on the mainland. The 16th Party Congress mercifully came to a close last Thursday, followed by the appointment of a new Politburo Standing Committee that will lead China for the next five years. For journalists, of course, one of the easiest stories to write - be it during a democratic election in the United States or a communist congress in the China - is the one about the political apathy of the man-on-the-street. True to form, there were plenty of reports last week about how little the congress mattered to most. Beijing taxi drivers and these items are particularly useful to this journalistic genre. But don't let those reports fool you. Party congresses affect many lives in a multitude of minute ways - including those of people here in Guangzhou where we like to think, as the old saw has it, that 'the mountains are high and the emperor far away'. I speak from personal experience. Now that the 16th Party Congress has been consigned to the dustbin of history, as it were, I will soon be able to turn on CNN when I get up in the morning. Its feed to my residential compound was cut for the duration of the congress. The Party Congress's effect was also felt in the small warren of streets behind my residence. There my favourite newspaper sellers - a mother-and-son team - were forced to rein in their usually sprawling stand because the cleanliness police wanted the neighbourhood at its tidiest for the duration of the congress. Newspapers had to be stacked on top of each other rather than spread-out, making it harder to find the ones you wanted. Not that there has really been anything worth reading of late in the local media anyway. Chinese newspapers have been dumbing down for months in the run-up to the Party Congress - reaching new heights of vapidity by, among other things, telling their best reporters to take time off. Perhaps that was just as well. Government officials have been guarding their tongues even more closely than usual - 'ask me after the 16th Party Congress' has been their motto of late. Rural migrants who occasionally line the curbs in my neighbourhood, hawking random bits of produce, were also chased away. But they will be back. So too will the beggars and vendors in Beijing. They had been kept at bay by what was probably the largest security operation the capital has seen since the spring 1989 pro-democracy student movement. Trucks with non-Beijing plates will also be allowed back into the capital. The ban on their entry held up many deliveries over the past week. In Shanghai the large illuminated 'go party congress go' signs along Nanjing Road, the city's main shopping strip, will at last be taken down and replaced with the hoardings of paying advertisers. The city's bookstores will finally be allowed to dismantle their commie congress displays, packed with books nobody was buying anyway except for students and government employees who had to for study sessions All the party programming crowding the airwaves too will dissipate. Shanghai residents had been complaining that there was nothing worth watching on television. Finally, it should be noted that there were many ridiculous aspects concerning media coverage of the Party Congress, both in China and abroad. On the mainland, newspapers continually regurgitated the official wording of Jiang Zemin's 'three represents theory' - that, for example, the party should represent 'any advanced element of other social strata'. But what they refused to do was to break the code for readers, and spell out for everybody that this was all about opening the party to capitalists. In this respect it is rather like the late, great Deng Xiaoping's decades-old mantra that China is pursuing 'socialism with Chinese characteristics', which everybody knows but dares not say is four words that could be better encapsulated in one - 'capitalism'. At least foreign media weren't shy about calling a spade a spade and pointing out the potential significance of this theoretical shift. But usually such analysis was couched in language like 'the Chinese Communist Party is adding entrepreneurs to its traditional constituency of peasants and workers'. Since when has the Chinese Communist Party truly represented the interests of peasants and workers? Peasants and workers have been the biggest losers in China over the past 20 years. If entrepreneurs are now entitled to the same type of 'representation' peasants and workers get, then they may want to consider fleeing the country with as much of their capital as they can carry. The party represents the state and the state the party. Period. Tom Mitchell is the Post's Guangzhou bureau chief.