The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party learns to party at a Beijing bar

Beijing, Nov. 7 (Reuters): In a cavernous bar at the centre of Beijing’s top partying district, Xu Jian has added the hammer and sickle to his more conventional arsenal of Martini shakers, twizzle sticks and beer mugs.

Clad in black leather jacket and turtleneck, the manager of the hot Boys and Girls nightspot represents the latest and perhaps oddest twist in the Communist Party’s campaign to liven up its image ahead of a key congress, which opens tomorrow.

The 25-year-old leads a newly formed Communist Party branch on the city’s popular Sanlitun strip — that is, when he’s not managing the music and merriment for the masses at his bar. The branch for pub owners, bartenders and bouncers was set up in March in an apparent step to top up the party’s image, still stiff and stodgy despite two decades of economic reforms.

Monthly gatherings are a far cry from rigid sessions in meeting halls by their party brethren across the vast country.

Here, the 11 members chew over dry party doctrine over a cigarette or a drink, as music blares in the background.

“There’s no fixed duration. Sometimes we chat, sometimes we study party periodicals,” Xu said, as the dimly lit drinking den filled with hip Chinese bar-goers. “At our next meeting, we’ll study the results of the 16th Party Congress,” he said, fiddling with his state-of-the-art mobile phone. When they finish with Party business, they move on to party business, swapping tips on “management and skills such as bartending”, the official Xinhua news agency reported as it hailed the birth of the branch.

So far the 11 long-time party faithfuls don’t plan to organise anything to coincide with the landmark 16th congress at which a younger set of leaders is expected to take over.

The congress is also expected revise the party constitution to embrace private entrepreneurs, once railed against as exploiters and running dogs of capitalism, allowing them to join the party.

While Sanlitun branch members won’t attend the elite congress, they say they will participate in spirit.

“We’ll contribute by doing our jobs even better,” Xu said.

Inquiries about joining the new branch have flowed in from the ranks of Sanlitun's workers, says Xu, who advises candidates they must undergo a drawn-out application process just like the 66 million party members who tread more revolutionary paths.

But curiously, news of the Communist Party’s foray into the capital’s prime drinking zone had yet to trickle down to barstaff trying to draw in the crowds on a frosty mid-week evening.

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