March 3, 2014 12:53 pm JST

Leave designer suits at home, China's National People's Congress tells delegates

KEN MORIYASU, Nikkei staff writer

Just tea. Female staff pour tea before the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Flowers and plants were reduced from last year. (Photo by Gaku Shimada)

BEIJING -- There will be no Hermes, Chanel or other fashion brands on display at China's National People's Congress, which opens Wednesday. Instead, the congress' organizers are telling delegates that this time, things need to be frugal, quick and to the point. And also, remember which bottle of water is yours.

     Two years ago, delegates were criticized severely by bloggers as delegates were shown entering the Great Hall of the People in Beijing wearing expensive designer brands. A notable play on words by critics took Deng Xiaoping's famous sayings, "To get rich is glorious" and, "Some areas must get rich before others," and labeled the meeting as "The National Congress of People Who Got Rich Before Others."

     The most talked about figure was Li Xiaolin, daughter of former Premier Li Peng, the man who declared martial law in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989. When Li Xiaolin arrived two years ago in a bright pink outfit, it was not long before a Chinese blogger pointed recognized it as a $2,000 suit by Italian designer Emilio Pucci.

     This year's congress will look much different to match Chinese President Xi Jinping's drive for frugality.

     The organizers are telling delegates to write their names on their complimentary bottles of mineral water, and to finish them. They are even putting stickers on the bottles to make this labeling easier. At the last congress, hundreds of bottles were left in various states of consumption on tables and chairs as many delegates forgot which bottles were theirs.

     The Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee that is held alongside the congress has come up with 18 of its own rules about how its meetings should be conducted. These include no flowers or plants in the meeting rooms, no red carpets, no banners to announce the name of the meeting and no gifts between members. The committee has also requested that all pencils and notebooks be recycled. 

     One new rule in particular has been greeted by the media with relief: Make your proposals short. The rule encourages delegates to "omit pleasantries at the beginning of your statements." It is not known how closely this rule will be observed.