When we see Xi Jinping on TV, the whole setup is usually micromanaged. So the occasional glimpses of China’s leader that are not staged are always intriguing. One such video clip emerged after Xi’s weekend at the G20 meeting in Osaka. Circulated on Twitter, the clip shows Xi wandering around a conference venue, apparently ignored by other world leaders:
— 李方 (@lifang072) June 28, 2019
(The caption reads: “Walking among gentry, yet unable to find a friend.”)
The point here isn’t to analyze or extrapolate from a 20-second clip devoid of context, but to point out how different the above looks from the usual media treatment Xi gets back home. David Bandurski of the China Media Project writes:
Reading the official propaganda from Beijing in the wake of last week’s G20 Summit in Osaka, one might have the impression that the Group of Twenty is actually now the “1+19,” and that this “premier forum for international economic cooperation” relies on the forcefulness, grace and wisdom of China’s top leader, Xí Jìnpíng 习近平.
Two pieces of propaganda in particular give us a glimpse into the self-aggrandizing spirit of present-day politics in China, and how the current leadership views itself, narcissistically, in the mirror of global turmoil.
The first of these is the transcript of a discussion with China’s foreign minister, Wáng Yì 王毅, published on the front page of the official People’s Daily newspaper last Friday, June 30, the day after Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan. The second is a very similar “roundup” (综述 zòngshù) released by China Central Television’s official news program, Xīnwén Liánbò (新闻联播).
But Xi is not the only world leader who has media organizations dedicated to flattering him: Kim Jong-un has Korean Central Television while Donald Trump has Fox News. Xi may in fact be envious of the brown-nosing on display on those two TV channels. Satirical news TV program the Daily Show produced an episode about this (well worth the 90-second viewing time):