Chinese Titillated by Peek at Xi Jinping’s Office (but Where’s the President’s Computer?)

Workspace images are part of attempt to humanize China's leader and offer a rare glimpse inside the lives of top officialdom

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It was a nice but ordinary-looking office, with a polished wooden desk and shelves lined with books and photographs. But images of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official sanctuary, released in stills of him delivering his New Year’s address, have titillated a Chinese public unfamiliar with such peeks into the lives of the nation’s cloistered leaders.

“This is the first time we’ve caught a glimpse of [Xi’s] office,” noted writer Hong Qiaojun on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging platform. “That’s why we are so curious.”

Immediately, the magnifying glasses came out and the framed photos were scrutinized. One is of Xi with his family, including his wheelchair-bound father, revolutionary elder Xi Zhongxun, who was purged during the worst days of Chairman Mao’s excesses, only to be rehabilitated years later and treated to a posthumous birthday extravaganza last year.

(MORE: ‘Revolutionary Leaders Are Not Gods’: China’s Leader Xi on Mao’s 120th Birthday)

The second shows Xi with his mother, while another pairs him with his wife, glamorous People’s Liberation Army singer Peng Liyuan. Both Xi and his wife are wearing sunglasses (although any chance of looking cool is slightly undercut by Xi’s propensity, like so many other Chinese leaders, to secure his trousers high on his belly).

The fourth picture is of Xi, in shirtsleeves and necktie, pedaling a bike; perched on the back is his only daughter, Xi Mingze, who went on to attend Harvard. Yet another image captures sporty Xi playing a spot of soccer. The subject of the final picture is not clear.

While photographs of the White House and its occupants are commonplace, Zhongnanhai, China’s red-walled leadership compound in Beijing, has remained a secret preserve. As food-safety scandals have proliferated in China, news that Zhongnanhai has its own dedicated food supply only heightened the perceived gap between China’s rulers and masses.

Xi’s desk, as pictured in his New Year’s address, was largely clean, save a container of sharpened pencils, a sheaf of paper that looked like a calendar, a white phone and two rather impressive phones of scarlet hue. Journalist Richard McGregor, in his excellent exploration of China’s communist leadership called The Party, noted the existence of special “red machines” that connect to others through special four-digit numbers.

(MORE: Arrest of Activists Shows China’s Fight Against Corruption Is Only on Beijing’s Terms)

They sit, wrote McGregor, on the “desks of the heads of China’s fifty-odd biggest state companies,” and are also given to officials “with the rank of vice minister and above.”

Behind the seated President delivering his New Year’s homily was a Chinese flag and a picture of the mountainous crenellations of the Great Wall — about as anodyne a backdrop as one could imagine for a Chinese leader. The titles of the books on the shelves were not visible. Many appeared to be pristine sets of multiple volumes, the sort of tomes that often cover socialist history or philosophy.

Lost in much of the Weibo chatter about Xi’s office was the actual content of his New Year’s speech. Not much in the message, though, surprised. “In 2013, we made ​​a comprehensive overall deployment of deepening reform, jointly drawing up a grand blueprint for future development,” Xi said. “In 2014, we will take new steps on the road to reform.”

An official push to humanize China’s leader appears to be under way, just as the nation’s propaganda bureau hails the success of Xi’s anticorruption campaign, which has targeted overly ostentatious government officials. In late December, Xi’s lunch at a local Beijing eatery of half a dozen steamed buns, pork liver and some veggies proved an Internet sensation. Does China’s ruler normally eat so frugally?

There was one item missing from the Chinese President’s office that caused online speculation about just how representative Xi is of his day and age. Where, in this modern era, was a computer in Xi’s workplace? Could it be that the leader of a nation with the most Internet users on earth — more than half a billion wired people — leads an offline existence?

— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

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This Xi is just another gangster in an Armani suit. The blood-thirsty Chinese Communist Party has murdered over fifty million of its people since 1949 and is now attempting the genocide of tens of million of innocent Falun Gong practitioners by the use of torture, slavery, organ harvesting and murder. Meanwhile, Western media is not telling us these facts because of corporate greed. Thank you for your concern.


I hope President Zi Jinping can do something for the Tibetans in exile. As the Dalai Lama and his government accuses China of all sorts of crimes against humanity (some oh which may be well justified), the Dalai Lama himself has been quite busy oppressing and persecuting his own people based on their belief. The Dalai Lama banned the practice of Dorje Shugden an ancient Buddhist deity as a means of breaking up the Gelugpa sect (just as he did with the Karma Kagyu), so that he is never opposed.

Recently the Dalai Lama has resorted to inciting violence and as a result an innocent 84 year old monk was injured, and would probably have been murdered had help not arrived in time.

Is the Dalai Lama really the man of peace or are the Chinese's suspicion on the Dalai Lama well justified?



You should give credit when the credit is due. I think Xi has conducted himself very well as the head of state. The massive crack down on corruption and wasteful spending, prioritizing pollution issues, down to earth leadership approach. I think he is a competent leader for such a huge nation with so many serious issues to be resolved.  


I very much doubt that you have genuine concerns about the well being of the average Chinese people.

This is a reaction to your own insecurity. You said this to make others look bad so you can feel better. Shame on you!


@journeyman Your comment just inspires me more to try to expose the truth concerning the blood-thirsty Chinese Communist Party. Thank you.


@journeyman Your comment again just shows me how much in the dark people are concerning the blood-thirsty Chinese Communist Party and the millions of atrocities that it commits every year. One may go on line and read The Nine Commentaries if one is really interested in learning the truth. Thanks for your concern.