Mysterious fan of Xi Jinping comes out in the open

Mysterious fan of Xi Jinping comes out in the open

For weeks, a mysterious microblog has been lifting a veil from around China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, with candid snapshots from his travels that defy the typically stiff and staged images of the leadership presented in state media.

Ordinary Chinese, foreign reporters and even China’s own state media have speculated over who or what might be behind the blog. Is Xi’s own team surreptitiously trying to humanise the leader in the guise of citizen journalism?

Is this a crusader’s attempt to bring China’s leaders down a notch and send them a message? It turns out it’s the brainchild of a college dropout and migrant worker, Zhang Hongming. Zhang said he is a genuine fan of China’s new leader and intent on making him more accessible.

“It is just me. It’s completely an individual act,” said Zhang, who started the “Fan Club of Learning From Xi” on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo on November 21 with a simple thought: Like other foreign leaders in these times, Chinese leaders should have an online following.

The account shares photos gathered from volunteers and local reports throughout the country of Xi on his visits out in the field — and the candid images aren’t always flattering. There are shots of him visiting a market, serving food to the elderly, looking sideways.

One shows him napping in a van. The microblog even tracked Xi’s recent trip to Gansu province step by step, beating the state media. Zhang said he has no idea if Xi approves of the fan club. “But so far, no government worker or police has come after me,” Zhang said.

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