Xi Jinping is expected to take over the leadership of China after the national Congress that is now in progress. There is a nice photo of him today in the Sunday Times, plus a few others in his team. In fact the ST has been introducing the Chinese leaders for the past weeks. A few distinct features can be drawn from the crop of Chinese leaders. These include thick black hair nicely combed and oiled, a white shirt and a govt issued casual zipped jacket on the outside.
According to ST’s China correspondent Grace Ng, these features have their specific meanings. Nicely oiled and combed hair signifies pragmatism, white shirt means rigid professionalism but tempered by a casual jacket probably meaning not too dogmatic and rather down to earth, a leader closely in touch with the ground. The whole package is simply a no nonsense and task oriented pragmatic leadership, nothing frivolous.
What is obvious is the thick black hair on the roof of these leaders. They must have taken the advice by LKY seriously, that leadership must be kept young and vibrant, not oldies that are stuck in the mud with their obsolescent ways of thinking and ideas. And they will maintain this profile throughout their 4 or 8 years in power. Quite a remarkable achievement, looking at Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao and the whole team. They hardly age at all. Maybe the task is easy in a communist state. Maybe they think less hard or no need to work so hard and thus were able to keep their hair black in tact. I am really surprise that they could retain their youthfulness while carrying such huge responsibilities and load on their shoulders. Their hair only turned white after they left office. Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji were two good examples. Perhaps they lost all the privileges and the good life in office, no more free medical and goodies that came along while in high office.
Our leaders used to have some similar features, black hair and a suit of simple white shirt and pants. I am not sure if they have the same meaning as the Chinese leaders. Let me hazard a guess. Thick black hair signifies youth. White shirt and pants are often associated with pragmatism and even incorruptibility. These were the characteristics of our past leaders and today it is a different story.
Our political leaders entered politics young and with a nice black crop of hair. Heng Swee Kiat and the two generals are good examples. But within a few terms they would all turn grey or white, looking very wise and dignified. And they would stay that way till they are retired.
The white shirts have changed to something more casual and colourful. The favourite colour is pink or red. And designer jacket is often seen in Parliament. Oh, one more thing, our leaders are mostly nerdy looking in the sense that many put on glasses. The difference is that the glasses could be fashionably thick framed like celebrities. This could mean a more affluent society where life is more enjoyable, living life to the fullest. There is no govt issue jacket to come along.
The grey or white hair or no hair must be telling. Working too hard or thinking too hard to run this unique little island to be the best in the world. This must have taken its toll on their crowning glory. A little dyeing could help to retain that youthful look if they don’t mind trading the look of wisdom that came with grey and white, or the classic balding professori image.
I think the Chinese leaders are having a good deal, less stressful, and an easier job to handle. Or perhaps if they were given a chance to stay as long as they want in power, they would also look like our leaders, ageing wise men. I deliberately left out women as they are still young and beautiful.