“What happens when China’s president comes to dinner?”

The BBC has an interesting report today about the stage-managing of official visits, with details revealed by the wikileaks cable dump:

Communist party officials wanted the country’s top leader to meet the “epitome of a weathered Gansu farmer”.

Mr Hu offered a potato to the farmer’s grand-daughter, who told the leader of 1.3bn people that she was sick of eating them”

Seventy-year-old Li Cai was chosen – and told not to shave.

Local officials were instructed not to make improvements to his home by adding such things as electronic appliances or furniture.

Despite the warning, Mr Shi told US diplomats he had a stove and chimney installed in the famer’s house to cook the local delicacy – Dingxi potatoes, named after the local city.

He thought that TV footage showing Hu Jintao eating one of the potatoes was an advertising opportunity not to be missed.

Unfortunately, things did not go to plan. According to the cable, Mr Hu offered a potato to the farmer’s grand-daughter, who told the leader of 1.3bn people that she was “sick of eating them”.

In a recent publicity campaign, one local official said he wanted to turn the area into “China’s potato capital” because the root vegetable offered them “a more prosperous future”.

Fortunately, Li Cai’s grandchild was eventually persuaded to eat a potato, a scene that featured in the CCTV report of the visit.

But there was another food-related problem to overcome.

The Chinese president was to make twisted dough sticks, which are cooked by plunging them into a pan of boiling oil.

What would happen if the oil splashed Mr Hu and burned him?

“The solution… was to heat the oil to 70% of the normal temperature and give Hu an extra-long set of chopsticks,” says the cable.

The Chinese president was given another, already prepared, dough stick to eat.

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