Just as everyone has expected for ages, China's ruling Communist Party voted Vice President Xi Jinping to the nation's highest office on Thursday, after a characteristically stern weeklong congress. Like its outlook on free speech, China's election process bore very little resemblance to America's election process, save one splashy little happening at the end: "That's what Xi said."
Twitter lit up -- however dimly since it's banned in China -- with this little meme just after the Chinese press revealed that Xi (pronounced "shee") would be China's new leader. This is not a new meme. Xi Jinping's name is low hanging fruit when it comes to bad puns. Examples include: "Xi's got a ticket to ride," "The Old Man and the Xi," "Xi moves in mysterious ways." Foreign Policy made a whole list of them about six months ago. There's also a T-shirt.
None of these memes are terribly funny. They're a little bit funny, but as soon as you stack the up against classic American political memes like "binders full of women" or "horses and bayonets," you'll see which of the superpowers prevails. Nevertheless, the very notion of a Chinese election meme sheds a little light on the character of Xi Jinping himself.
One of the first things many Western journalists point out about Xi is how animated he is compared to outgoing Chinese president Hu Jintao. We're not talking Ron Paul animated, either. Unlike Hu, Xi is known for doing things like making facial expressions, including an occasional smile. It's a big deal. Foreign Policy went so far as to make a slideshow about this quality, calling Xi "the jolliest functionary in the People's Republic."
Don't take this as a sign that Xi isn't serious about running his country, which happens to be one of the world's most powerful. The so-called "princeling" claims deep ties both with the revolution -- his father was a revolutionary general, hence the princeling denotation -- and the People's Liberation Army. The Obama administration isn't sure if Xi will open up a new friendship between China and the U.S. or take a confrontational turn. He even took a few jabs to suggest the latter.
Despite his smiles and his shenanigans, Xi is a very powerful man who's not going to let his country get pushed around."There are a few foreigners, with full bellies, who have nothing better to do than try to point fingers at our country," Xi told a group of Chinese nationals in Mexico back in 2009. "China does not export revolution, hunger, poverty nor does China cause you any headaches. Just what else do you want?"
That's what Xi said?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.