China's president goes viral with impromptu visit to bun shop
Chinese president Xi Jinping dropped in unexpectedly at a traditional Beijing bun shop, where he queued up, ordered and paid for a simple lunch of buns stuffed with pork and onions, green vegetables, and stewed pig livers and intestines.
Such visits are extremely rare -- if not unheard of -- for top Chinese leaders, who are usually surrounded by security and are not known for mingling with the public other than at scheduled events.
After spotting Mr Xi (right) on Saturday, fellow diners took photos of the president and shared them on China's social media. State media reposted the photos on their microblog accounts, and the official Xinhua News Agency reported about Mr Xi's lunch on its Chinese-language news site.
"Had it not been for the photos, it would be incredulous to believe Mr Xi, as a dignified president and party chief, should eat at a bun shop," author Wu Xiqi wrote in an editorial on the ruling Communist Party's official news site.
"Xi's act has subverted the traditional image of Chinese officials, ushering a warm, people-first gust of wind that is very touching indeed."
Yesterday, the store welcomed long lines of Chinese, some posing for photos in the room where Mr Xi was and others wanting to order what he had bought.
The manager of the Qing-Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop, who gave only her family name, He, said that Mr Xi and a small entourage arrived at the no-frills eatery in western Beijing at around noon on Saturday without prior notification. She said that Mr Xi paid 21 yuan (€2.50) for his lunch.
"There was no special security measure during his stay," the manager said. "Customers could freely enter and leave the restaurant, and many took photos with him."
In one photo, a chef posed with Mr Xi, who continued eating his meal as the picture was taken.
Installed as China's president in March, Mr Xi has sought to portray himself as being in touch with regular people, but has done so with scheduled visits to factories and homes.
Though a socialist country in name, China has a deep-rooted hierarchical system that accords privileges to one's official ranking.