Chinese leadership is big news in Beijing but a different story for rural dwellers

Xi Jinping's speech is shown on a big TV screen in Beijing. Picture: AP
Xi Jinping's speech is shown on a big TV screen in Beijing. Picture: AP
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In A snow-covered village surrounded by mountains, farmers had little time for the spectacle in the Great Hall of the People, an hour’s drive to the south-east, but in many ways, a million miles away.

“We’re not really that interested,” said Chen Yongjiang, a farmer in Chenjiapu, where more than half the 500-strong population is named Chen. “As long as they make life better for us, we’re happy.” Asked how the new leadership could do that for the likes of him, he thought for a moment. “They have policies,” he said.

Ma Xiuying, 68, a retired farmer, was less charitable. “They only give us pensions of 55 yuan (£5.50) a month, but in Beijing, they get 270 yuan,” Ma said. “And we only started getting them last year.”

What would she say to the new leadership? “Give all Chinese a good standard of living, that would be good.”

Chenjiapu is in a valley topped on one side by a Ming Dynasty section of the Great Wall. Its dwindling number of residents farm tiny plots, mostly of corn.

The handover of power was more of a big-city topic. In Beijing, 30-year-old insurance claims officer Wu Lijun said he had “high expectations for them to continue to lead us in a forward direction. Ultimately, we also have faith in them”.

In Shanghai, some singled out the economy and corruption. “The only interest I have is what policy they take on the stock market,” said 25-year-old office worker Joyce Cheng.

Civil servant Li Zheng, 33, said:
“I hope they will care more of people’s livelihood – pensions, employment, medical and, most importantly, anti-corruption.”

Back in Chenjiapu, Communist committee chief Han Ruilai acknowledged the changes wouldn’t make much difference for villagers. But he, too, hoped for a crackdown on corruption, saying: “It’s the most serious problem in China.”