New Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has called an end to the wordy meetings and over-the-top welcoming ceremonies which are the bread-and-butter of the lives of senior leaders, demanding less show and fewer hangers-on for foreign trips.
Top officials rarely go anywhere without giving stultifying speeches and getting fawning welcomes from local people, complete with children presenting flowers and pensioners moved to tears or song.
But Mr Xi, the incoming president, yesterday signalled he was having none of it under his rule.
Visits around the country by top leaders should no longer be met by red carpets, welcome banners or banquets, said a statement carried by state media in the wake of a meeting of the 25-member Politburo, the party’s second-highest decision-making body after the elite seven-man Standing Committee.
Meetings must be shortened and “empty talk” banned, the statement added.
One staple of foreign visits always shown in detail by state television will also go: airport welcoming parties made up of students and residents. Gone too will be the hordes of trailing functionaries on such trips.
“The style of officials, particularly top officials, has an important impact upon the style of the party and the style of the government, and even on the whole of society,” the statement said.
“Such a way of doing things must first start with the Standing Committee. If you want people to do something, then do it yourself first; if you don’t want somebody to do something, then certainly do not do it yourself.”
State media must also restrain from issuing pointless stories about official events unless there is real news value, and even when they do write articles they must be short and to the point, the statement said.
Politburo members were urged to carry out local inspections “to understand the real situation facing society,” especially in places where social problems are more acute – but inspection tours as a mere formality are strictly banned, official news agency Xinhua said.
It is the first time that the Politburo has issued detailed guidance for a new working style, said Liu Shanying, a political scientist at the Chinese Academy of Social Science.
“The new leadership wants to show that they are close to the people,” he said.
“It is a good thing, but it will be difficult to fully implement at the local government levels because it’s a long-time problem. Bureaucracy can’t be got rid of within a short time.”
The party – which has shown no sign of giving up its tight grip on power – has struggled to contain public anger at a seemingly endless stream of corruption scandals, particularly when officials are seen as abusing their posts to amass wealth.
Mr Xi, who takes over as president from Hu Jintao at the annual meeting of parliament in March, warned shortly after being confirmed as party leader that the country risked unrest if corruption is not tackled.
While his latest move to rein in extravagance was widely welcomed on China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo, some wondered if he had bitten off more than he could chew.
One user wrote: “If he really wants to do this it’s not going to be easy. We’ll have to listen to his words and watch his actions.”