The ‘Four Dishes, One Soup’ anti-corruption catchphrase originally coined by China’s first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), Zhu Yuanzhang, has re-emerged centuries later. State media [zh] used the term to describe a simple dinner Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping had in China’s Northern Hebei province on December 29, 2012.
The menu of the dinner, which was published online, shows an order of simple Chinese dishes such as braised chicken and pork with wax gourd soup. “He specifically instructed drinks not to be served,’’ the report read.
In a country where luxury delicacies are more commonly served during officials’ visits, Xi's thriftiness obviously touched the hearts of many state journalists. However, the detailed report about the “Four Dishes, One Soup” dinner failed to impress those online. Whilst some netizens consider Xi to have set a good example, many think the story was not worth reporting as it should be the norm.
It is not the first time state media has praised new leaders’ “touching moments”. On the same day, when reporting about Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to a village, state media Xinhua stressed [zh] that Li stood behind villagers during a photo shoot, rare behaviour for Chinese leaders who usually stand in front of ‘normal’ people.
The state media’s constant efforts to give Chinese new leaders a more common touch has triggered netizens’ retorts on Sina Weibo and blogosphere. Below are some comments from writers and active netizens [zh]:
岳中海: If officials decide to abandon the “luxury style” impression, then they should act the same as common people such as waiting on the red light [to cross the road], staying in ordinary hotels and eating simple meals, why is it necessary to report about this? The report itself reveals that such behavior is rare.
在打盹: Propaganda like “Four Dishes, One Soup” make me sick. They are not addressing the real issues China is facing today, such as the lack of credibility, moral decay, corruption, the environmental issue, social security issue and medical care issue.
连鹏: When “Four Dishes, One Soup” and “Standing behind villagers at photo shoots” are no longer considered “news” praised by the media or readers, we will then have real progress. A system where power can be controlled is more important than a wise leader, a system to monitor the officials is far more reliable than a good leader.
作家草军书: Many Chinese people are easily touched by some small things officials do, although these things should be taken as something normal, such as eating simple meals, waiting on the red [traffic] lights and paying for their own meals. Aren’t they supposed to act like this? There is no need to report about it; “Four Dishes, One Soup” is enough to feed one person, don’t lower our standards with a servile attitude towards the officials.
矮巴马: [Such reporting shows] we are used to being ruled like slaves. We always leave our fate to others, so we are eager to have a benevolent master. In fact, our fate is in our own hands.
Bright113：When a country is touched by a normal deed, this country is already not normal.