Next time Tony Abbott is thinking of another meaty misadventure with a butcher at yet another photo op, or Julia Gillard is contemplating a shopping centre fly-by complete with awkward encounters with angry elderly ladies, they might want to call these guys.

As featured by Richard Farmer yesterday, Hu Jintao’s political fixers, chronicled in a November 2009 WikiLeaks cable  — badged with the subject line “When Hu Jintao comes for dinner: local party secretary describes Hu’s 2007 visit to rural village” — clearly think of everything. Some handy hints for any aspiring advance team include:

Don’t Burn the General Secretary [and/or Prime Minister/Opposition Leader]:

Another part of the meal, a genuine local tradition of frying twisted dough sticks in a wok of boiling oil,  presented the serious risk of hot oil splashing on Hu Jintao.  The solution, Shi said, was to heat the oil to 70 percent of the normal temperature and give Hu an extra long set of chopsticks. When it came time to eat, Hu’s own undercooked portion was set  aside in favor of properly fried dough sticks that had been prepared earlier.

The Unshaven Masses [or, how to look authentic]:

Another potential pitfall of such VIP visits, Shi said, was the natural inclination of peasants to want to look their best when greeting a senior official. Shi said it was common for Chinese farmers who looked appropriately rough-hewn during the advance to show up on game day “cleanly shaven wearing new leather jackets.” For this reason, Shi said, he gave strict orders to village leaders to make sure Li Cai did not shave, and Li kept his beard as instructed.

The Potato [or why not to work with children or animals]:

Shi viewed Hu’s visit as a chance to promote Dingxi potatoes, the area’s main product. Despite the General Office’s demand not to tamper with the house, Shi had a stove and chimney installed for cooking potatoes. During the meal, Hu dutifully took a potato and offered part of it to Li Cai’s kindergarten-aged granddaughter. In the only unscripted moment of the visit, Shi said, the child refused the potato, saying that she was sick of eating them. According to Shi, Hu Jintao laughed off the incident. The family eventually cajoled the girl into accepting, and a shot of the Hu and the girl sharing the potato was broadcast on the CCTV evening news.

No mention of hard hats but we’re sure our local politicians could procure advice on how to stage the perfect political stunt from Jintao’s team for a handsome consulting fee.

Peter Fray

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