Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday shocked locals by visiting courtyard homes and chatting with pedestrians near a popular shopping street in Beijing, drawing praise from social media users for his unusual public diplomacy.
Unscripted interactions between politicians and the public are uncommon in a country where even leaders’ birthdays or family backgrounds are often closely held secrets.
A shaky video of Xi’s visit posted online shows locals applauding him as he nears.
He then stops to ask residents how long they have lived in the neighborhood before ambling away.
Photographs posted online by Chinese media show Xi mobbed by people holding cameras and cellphones as he stands in a narrow alley grinning.
The central Beijing shopping street, frequented by young Chinese and tourists alike, is lined with stands selling popular street snacks, as well as clothing and souvenir stores.
Xi’s few forays into ordinary public settings have attracted widespread praise from the public.
Xi shocked patrons of a steamed bun eatery in December last year when he paid for his own food, carried his own tray and happily chatted with customers.
Choking smog has been at a high for the past few days in Beijing, and many netizens expressed approval that the president was exposing himself to the same toxic air as everyone else without even donning a mask.
“The party must always join hands with the people,” one user wrote in a widely shared posting. “Breathe the same air and share the same fate.”