China's leaders pledge to reduce pomp and ceremony
China's leaders pledged Tuesday to reduce pomp, ceremony and red carpets for senior officials who are long accustomed to lavish trappings and distance from ordinary citizens.
In a meeting presided over by newly named Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, members of the 25-member Politburo agreed that officials should reduce ostentation and bureaucratic visits, meetings and talks "in order to remain close with the public," state media reported.
Chinese government bureaucrats are notoriously status conscious, and even low-level county officials can travel in chauffeur-driven cars.
Chinese microbloggers often mock the arrogance and corruption of officials, leading in some cases to disciplinary action against government and Communist Party leaders whose behavior is seen as particularly outrageous.
Xi has already warned that the party risks losing its grip on power if it fails to root out corruption, and the government is eager to show that those in power are worthy of their posts.
At Tuesday's meeting, the Politburo agreed that red carpets should no longer be rolled out for officials on visits, and that welcoming flowers and banners must also go, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
They also agreed that overseas Chinese, including students, shouldn't be bused to airports to greet leaders when they arrive.
The senior leaders agreed to cut spending and the size of leaders' entourages on official domestic and overseas visits, that fewer traffic controls should be arranged for such trips to avoid inconveniencing the public, and to ban worthless news reports on senior officials' work and activities.
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, 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 Sciences. "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 longtime problem. Bureaucracy can't be gotten rid of within a short time."