This weekend starts the Chinese New Year of the Dragon. It’s a good time to talk about Xi Jinping’s fashion, and how Xi leads Chinese officials in fashion. But to talk about Xi’s clothes, we have to start with Xi’s power.
Xi Jinping is often compared to Mao Zedong, the founding head of the modern state of China who ruled the country from 1949 to his death in 1976. Mao was described as the Golden Sun and his Little Red Book of quotes was a must-read for everyone. Now it is Xi’s turn. In some ways, Xi copies Mao; in other ways, Xi outdoes Mao.
If Mao had Mao Zedong Thought, Xi has Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characters in the New Era. If Mao had tomes of his writings published and promoted in paperback, Xi has his own books published and issued around the world in 30-some languages and sold on Amazon.
If Mao was the Golden Sun, Xi Jinping’s quotes are now called Golden Quotes. Xi may not have his Little Red Book in paper version, but he has his own app called “Study Xi and Strengthen China.” Released in 2019, the app was a compilation of Xi’s writings and theories on governing of China. It was “a kind of high-tech equivalent of Mao’s Little Red Book,” the New York Times described it, with over 100 million downloads that first year.
If Mao had Mao jacket, a gray tunic suit with stiff high collar and four pockets, Xi Jinping now has his own Xi Jacket, a dark blue or black windbreaker jacket with a zipper and a small collar. As his signature attire, Xi wears it whenever he goes on inspection tours to various parts of China. The New York Times ran this headline, “China’s Leader Wears Many Hats, but Only One Jacket.”
Why this jacket, this style? As China Daily once explained, with its low-key, casual, simple, and man-of-the-people look, Xi Jinping set a new standard of clothing for China’s officials. Indeed “standard.” Wherever Xi appears in his dark jacket on his tours, the officials accompanying him, be they national or local, all wear the same outfit, same style, same color — no variations whatsoever.
It is an interesting and almost comical look when a group of officials are all dressed the same. It is also sad as it is reminiscent of Mao’s China when everyone wore gray or blue uniforms to fit in and be lost in the sameness, rather than stand out and be targeted and criticized.
Not just his dark windbreaker for cool weather outdoors, Chinese officials also copy Xi’s indoor or summer look, usually a white shirt tucked in black pants. Thus, one sees similar pictures of a forum at various locations in China where Xi Jinping gives a speech, everyone in the room is dressed in a white shirt, from Xi to all those seated listening and taking notes. No one dares to wear a different colored shirt.
Everywhere one looks, Xi really leads in thinking and in fashion.