A Guide for Big Bosses on How to Look Bad-Ass

This satirical guide to playing the perfect Communist Party official originally appeared on Huaguoshan’s Caixin blog, but has since been removed. The blog includes guides for how to “look bad-ass” (装逼 zhuang bi) for airline passengers, monsters, luggage and cell phones. The guide for big bosses was a sensation and still turns up active Google search results on major Chinese BBS forums, such as Douban. Read the original here.

Translation by Jiangze Min.

1. You should only wear a Mao suit in the following three situations: (1) the most formal black tie parties, for example when a queen has invited you to a state dinner; (2) meeting with high-ranking generals, provided that if you have a seat on the military commission, the material of your suit should be pure valitin in the summer and pure wool in the winter. The color should always be army-green; (3) when covered in a red flag as you lay on your back in the farewell hall of Babaoshan receiving the sympathies of those from inside and outside the government.

2. Hu Yaobang wore a Hong Du custom-tailored suit when he visited Japan in 1983. That introduced the world to the brand-new image of China’s new generation of leaders. Today, Western suits have become the dress code for the politicians of the Celestial Empire. The bosses of the current empire especially like suits with two buttons on the front and no slits–an understated and competent look. It’s for sure that the underlings will emulate their superiors.

3. The more high-profile a leader is, the simpler his shirt will be. They will not usually wear shirts from France or gaudy silk fabrics. A top-class leader will never be seen in cuff-links. In the summer he can wear a short-sleeve dress shirt. As for undershirts, forget Clark Gable; all the big-shots wear wife-beaters under their shirts.

4. Tailored dress coats fall under a different dress code. While there are not many different styles to choose from, the design, material and workmanship must be exceptionally fine. As far as color, navy blue and black are preferable. For tailored dress coats, those made by Hong Du reign supreme. In the fall and winter, by all means avoid wearing leather jackets. Trench coats and long wool coats are a much safer choice.

5. Shanghai’s APEC summit is already over. Unless you want to be mistaken as a waiter, please cross off your fashion list the Chinese suit designed by Ms. Yu Ying.

6. Hiking your pants up to just below your man boobs was in style for the big shots from the first and second generation after the founding of China. The high point in this style came with Jiang Zemin, the “core of collective leadership.” Confucius said, “When studying Chairman Mao, study his thought, not his fashion sense.”

7. Since Deng Xiaoping passed away, you can only wear your Neiliansheng cloth shoes inside your home. If you are venturing out to survey the countryside, you can consider wearing a pair of New Balance running shoes. If you are holding your own umbrella when it’s raining, then you will really give the full effect.

8. In the selection of belts, one must take care. If you are going for a simple, austere look, then an officer’s belt is a good choice. Big-shots also like top-of-the-line imports, but be certain to avoid eye-catching materials like alligator skin. Also, don’t choose a buckle with a logo that is too obvious.

9. It’s best to not wear a watch, and you should certainly never wear more than three watches. Only wear brands that are safe: domestic brands such as Beijing, Seagull, Shanghai, and Feiyada are all politically correct choices. However, the brands seen most frequently are Longines La Grandes Classique, Omega Constellation, and Rado Integral. But remember if you wear one of these watches to rotate it so that it faces the inside of your wrist.1

10. You can’t be a true big-shot if you haven’t lost a fair amount of hair. But even if all you have left are three stray, white hairs, you still have to remember to: (1) die them black, and (2) use hair wax to keep them in their proper place. It’s also an open secret that many choose to wear wigs. Should you be interested, I know this amazing guy near Shanghai’s Bund who can return your youthful charm.

11. As appropriate, use men’s cosmetics to cover your liver spots.

12. What big bosses eat is a state secret. If everyone under heaven knows what and how much you eat then either you are a lightweight big-shot or a dead big-shot.

13. At each meal big bosses usually have three or four different dishes and a soup. The guy in the kitchen doesn’t work in isolation–there are of course the nutritionists, the special organic farms that only supply to the government and the secret service–they all make a contribution.

14. If a leader smokes in public you can tell that he is a lightweight big-shot from the provincial level or lower. When there is a TV camera, one must never place a package of cigarettes on the table. The safe thing to do is to open the outer package and place the cigarettes on a small plate.2 Lower level guys might brag that they smoke two packs of 328/329,3 but the heavy-weight big-shots have basically given up smoking.

15. When big bosses attend events they will only symbolically drink a little alcohol. At the same time, the best tea leaves in the Celestial Empire all seem to end up in the Capital of the Emperor. A secretary’s job is to always keep at her fingertips the big-shot’s special thermos.

16. On occasion, eat at a cafeteria for students or laborers. There you can get a boiled egg, a scallion pancake, five steamed rolls and a bowl of rice porridge–all for only four yuan.4

17. Occasionally, go to the old historical areas from the revolution and make dumplings with those still active there. If you can even go to the kitchen and personally fry some candied jujubes, then people will really think you are a reincarnation of the kitchen god.5

18. Besides cars with a license plate beginning with Beijing V022,6 the nicest cars from the various government offices are usually a few modified Nissan Civilians and Toyota Coasters (like the civilians with license plates beginning with Beijing V017). When big-shots that hold positions higher than the provincial level go out on business they are accompanied the entire time by level-two or higher guards, while great and small details relating to security, transportation, fire-safety and other details are seen to with great care. Even the hotels where these dignitaries lodge are under strict military orders to guarantee a continuous supply of electricity. It’s pretty hard to copy this grand spectacle, but for some lightweight big-shots it’s at least easy for them to soup up a mid-sized bus.

19. Don’t even think about imitating Gary Locke’s clumsy colonialist performance!  In the Celestial Empire, even middle-weight big-shots get VVIP treatment. The Central Advisory Commission has the Beikong34–the Air Force’s private jets–at the ready. For long journeys China Air has four teams of two 747s (all-passenger models B2472 and B2477). And don’t forget the special trains. Every time Chinese New Year rolls around, the Ministry of Railways will arrange DF11Z trains for officials, but first these big-shots have to go to the crammed waiting halls and interact with the masses. If you are in the process of moving up the ranks, you can even occasionally ride your bike around. Next time though, don’t send a police car to go in front of you to clear people out of the way. If you’re going to do that kind of performance then the important thing is to come across as being natural. I’d recommend that you place a bunch of student party members into positions and then swerve in and out of them making the letters S and B.

20. If a number of top-level big-shots enter a room together they must walk in formation. Walking with vigor and good posture is only the beginning. True skill is shown by those who are neither too far ahead nor too far behind, neither too fast nor too slow, neither too close nor too far.  For every three minutes on stage one must spend ten years in training. This is not something the 60s generation can just pick up in an hour and a half.

21.  Having a college diploma doesn’t score you points anymore. What you need now is a PhD, even if it’s from a Communist Party school. If you’ve studied abroad that’s even better, but if you’ve studied abroad in the U.S.S.R., that also doesn’t score you any points. If the precious sons and daughters of the dictators are not studying in London it’s probably because they are in Switzerland.  If you’ve gone to a big-name U.S. school that is even better. If you’ve done graduate work at the Kennedy School of Government then you can come back and lecture about intra-party democracy.

22. Your memory at times must be exceptionally keen (please see item 24). When giving reports and receiving visitors you must insert at least two statistics in every three sentences you speak. When giving speeches one must be able to go without notes and be charismatic and natural. One must also stand with jaw clenched while fighting back tears.7 One should also be able to say “I came late.”8 If you can memorize a few poems or famous lines in Chinese or English and share a few proverbs, then there is no keeping you from making the headlines.9

23. It’s also important to have some talents. Besides being able to lead people in singing red songs, one must also be able to speak intelligently about classical music, use the Internet and use an iPad. One must be photogenic and have vivid body language. Broadcast journalists especially like these types. During the Two Sessions, whatever you do, don’t pick your nose, don’t sleep and don’t steal glances at the female attendants.

24. You must be willing to scold ordinary journalists and journalists from literary magazines. At the same time you have to engage in cheerful conversation with foreign journalists and with Sally Wu Xiaoli.  When in the company of foreigners talk about political reform. When visiting Taiwan talk about closeness to the people. When you encounter misery upon your return, talk about stability. You must be able to talk tough and manage people’s hopes. More importantly, you must be able to selectively forget.

25. You must return letters to elementary school students. You must write to middle-school teachers.  You must personally visit scholars of Chinese history and culture. Word will spread that you have done these things. As far as penmanship, you really only have to be better than Mao’s grandson, but your acting skills must be on par with Oscar winners. Regardless of whether you come from a poor or a wealthy family, you must constantly tell people that you are a son of the Chinese people.

26. But the most bad-ass of the big bosses is the one sleeping in the crystal coffin.

1 Controversy over officials’ watches was stirred by a blogger who identified the expensive watches worn by government officials.

2 As was the custom of Deng Xiaoping.

3 Each costs about RMB 280.

4 When Wen Jiabao visited a college campus a student gave the food prices listed above.  Wen Jiabao appeared pleased and informed the student that food prices were stabilizing.  Netizens mocked the exchange because of the absurdly low prices and for the claim that food prices were stabilizing.

5 This is a reference to various man-of-the-people things that Hu Jintao did when he visited the southeast.

6 License plate prefix reserved for members of the Politburo.

7 This is a reference to when Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao met at an airport tarmac after the Sichuan earthquake.  The account of the two leaders being teary-eyed upon meeting one another was derided by netizens.

8 It has been noted that Wen Jiabao has often apologized for being “late” when visiting people affected by natural disasters. More recently, Wen Jiabao apologized for being late when visiting the site of the Wenzhou train accident, citing illness.

9 This is another reference to Wen Jiabao, who is fond of quoting literature.


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