At this week’s annual Chinese legislative meeting, often referred to as the Two Sessions, China’s “paramount leader,” President Xi Jinping, showcased his new style – gray hair – which not only challenges the long-standing norms of the Communist Party, but may also lead to a changing attitude toward aging among Chinese people.
Xi, the most powerful man in China, is more than a political leader. He is also China's most influential fashion icon, though he maintains a limited online presence, his style will be copied and followed by millions of Chinese citizens.
In the past, it was common for China’s elder political leaders to dye their hair black to conceal any signs of aging, which gave the Party a youthful look, indicating its vitality and strength governing the country.
Mr. Xi, 65, is known to be a rule breaker since he assumed the role in 2013. He's often been spotted sporting his signature navy blue windbreaker, which has given him a more "Man of the People" look. And now, by showing his salt-and-pepper hair, he radiates confidence, leading the country in through this transformative period, as well as showing his human side to help soften the hardline policies, as The New York Times noted.
Mr. Xi’s action has certainly attracted a number of followers among the Party’s senior leadership, including but not limited to Wang Yang, Chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Wang Qishan, Vice President of the PRC, Zhao Leji, Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and Hu Chunhua, Vice Premier of the PRC.
What Mr. Xi's new, more natural look means to ordinary Chinese citizens remains to be seen. It could be a reflection on China's growing involvement with the wider world, or it could simply be a passing trend. Only time will tell. But for right now, gray is the new black.