Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on September 2, 2007
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao - the unelected head of China’s government – may not have to worry about winning approval or votes from ordinary Chinese but he has cultivated his image enough to have become the unlikely subject of an online fan club. According to this helpful post from Joel Martinsen on Danwei, one of the best English-language blogs written inside China, the premier has an online following on Tianya, the social networking site that last month formed an alliance with Google. (More on Google’s China strategy here in this BW story.) Not only has Wen received his own petname - “Baobao” – but an online photo of a dashing-looking Wen from decades ago has won him more admirers, with the Taiwanese press comparing him to a Hong Kong matinee idol.
Some things never change, though. That photo of Wen, it turns out, originally had two other people standing next to him. In the version that’s online, our hero is on his own, and the other two have conveniently disappeared. Martinsen writes “these two photos have circulated online amid speculation that Wen’s two companions were scrubbed out for political reasons. That might be the case, but it’s more appealing to imagine that the PS-work is the doing of someone with a crush, who felt that the other two men simply got in the way.” Maybe. But there’s probably a good political reason to dump those two. With their drab, ill-fitting clothes and bad haircuts, they make the stylish Wen look a bit modern, even sort of hip. Maybe that’s the problem – the Chinese government is trying to solidify its populist credentials, so a photo showing Wen as a youth standing out from the ordinary folk is not exactly what the spin doctors ordered.