As the world’s most populous country started the process to elect its president, early reports indicated that vice-president Xi Jinping was leading his nearest rival, Liaoning Governor Bo Xilai, by a wide margin in all 33 provinces of China. At the end of a grueling presidential campaign that began on a date that remains a state secret, vice-president Xi Jinping was not yet willing to name his running mate. Mint understands that the identity of the vice-president will be revealed to Xi only in March. According to persons familiar with the search, candidates around the country are competing in primaries, reciting the Little Red Book and singing “The East is Red”.
In the closely-watched bellwether race in Liaoning, tens of thousands of votes were cast for Bo, a noted history-sheeter and write-in candidate, even after Bo had made a public confession admitting to his guilt and withdrawing from the race to succeed Hu. The Liaoning Election Commission confirmed that 137% of the voters cast votes in Liaoning. This, he explained, demonstrated the efficiency and productivity of the patriotic citizens of Liaoning, who once again exceeded the production quota set by the party. To ensure a harmonious outcome, votes cast for Bo were declared invalid. Unconfirmed rumours (since deleted) on Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging site, claimed that those who voted for Bo were seen being taken away, bringing Liaoning’s population back to 100%. A foreign ministry spokesman said those were foreigners pretending to be Chinese, and they were taken to an undisclosed destination.
According to reports from Lhasa, no votes were cast in most parts of the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Drawing on contract law under which silence means assent, election officials unanimously decided to give all Tibetan votes to Xi.
There were reports that when voters in Shanghai reached polling booths, officials handed them sealed envelopes, instructing them how to drop the envelopes in ballot boxes. When some voters tried to open the envelopes, they were told they were not allowed to do that. “We respect the sanctity of secret ballot, and we couldn’t let the voters find out who they were voting for,” an official told reporters on condition of anonymity. A voter unwilling to be named, said: “I wanted to know who I was voting for.”
In a televised speech that was watched by delegates at the 18th Party Congress in Beijing, Xi thanked his Party, the people of China, and his family for their love and support, and guardedly praised the policies of his predecessor, Hu Jintao. In a cryptic reference to the outgoing president, Xi asked several times, “Who’s afraid of the New York Times?” It was impossible for analysts to be sure whether the first word in that sentence, repeated 23 times during his speech, was “who” or “Hu”. When reached at his campus library, the American academic Perry Link said: “Since the speech was followed by a reference to Deng Xiaoping’s famous statement, ‘To get rich is glorious,’ it is safe to assume he is offering guarded support to Hu’s family amassing wealth. There is precedent for this. When Deng found several rats scurrying around his house in 1988, he told his daughter—it doesn’t matter what is the colour of the cat, so long as she catches mice. Deng didn’t know then what the consequences of that statement would be. Remember, he used to often quote Chow En-Lai telling Henry Kissinger, it is too soon to tell.”
Meanwhile, reports from the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong say that nobody voted in the election, because the Hang Seng Index was rallying, and people were too busy making money. Kowloon-resident Josephine Lau, 29, a sales manager at the Lane Crawford Store, said: “The mountains are high and the emperor is far away.”