Xi Jinping praises a photo for the beautiful scenery of Huamao Village in Guizhou Province when receiving it from Pan Kegang, Party secretary of the village, during a panel discussion with delegates from Guizhou at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, Oct. 19, 2017. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)
BEIJING, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- When Xi Jinping sat down to talk with grassroots Party members, no one was quite sure how the conversation would turn. Thursday, somewhat surprised delegates found themsevles discussing pork delicacies, strong liquor and relaxing vacations in the mountains with him.
Xi, being a delegate of Guizhou himself, joined a panel discussion with other delegates from the southwest China province who are in Beijing for the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
With poverty reduction never far from his mind, Xi became most animated on learning that two neighboring poor villages in Panzhou City of Guizhou had come together to build a farm and a ham processing plant to raise villagers' income.
Xi asked, "What is the name of the ham you produce?"
"Panxian Ham. It is on a par with Xuanwei Ham and Jinhua Ham," Party delegate Yu Liufen replied.
Xuanwei and Jinhua are both household name brands of ham in China.
"You need better publicity," Xi replied. "I am only familiar with the other two."
Xi has great enthusiasm for new industries in poor regions. Guizhou is one of China's poorest provinces with per capita GDP of around 33,000 yuan (about 4,986 U.S. dollars), about 20,000 yuan lower than the national average in 2016.
Xi has pledged to lift the country's remaining more than 43 million people, or three percent of the country's total population, out of poverty by 2020.
He is pleased to hear of a distillery in Panzhou owned by shareholders from more than 1,000 households.
"What is your drink called?" Xi asked.
"Yanbo," Yu answered.
"How much does it cost?" Xi continued.
"Our price is reasonable for ordinary people," Yu said.
"What, may I ask, is the price?" Xi said.
"It sells for only 99 yuan," Yu replied.
"That's not cheap! A high price is not the key! It may not be so popular if it gets too expensive," Xi said.
"Thank you, general secretary, for your advice which will be sure to take on board," Yu said.
"The price should be determined by the market. You cannot reduce it to 30 yuan on the basis of what I just said," Xi said.
Hearty chuckles rang around the room as Xi moved on to local tourism.
"Where are the tourists from? Are they mainly from nearby regions or far away? Do they stay in the village?" he asked.
"Our hometown has a very pleasant environment. Some tourists stay for as long as a week at a time," said Pan Kegang, a delegate and Party chief of Huamao Village in Zunyi, also in Guizhou.
"If it's very nice, it can help you raise your income significantly," Xi said.
Pan presented him with a photo showing the changes in Huamao. "It's like a landscape painting, very beautiful," Xi said.
From ham to liquor to tourism, Xi is always interested in the little things that make a real difference, drivers of change that help people carve out a better life for themselves.
"There is a frankness and sense of ease in the way Xi is relaxed among us, and we like his style," said delegate Huang Junqiong.
Such is the new era.