hile Chinese officials are infamous for attempting to stave off the ravagings of aging by dying their hair jet black, one cadre has gone the other way, now looking 20 years older than his true age, purportedly after years of working hard to reduce poverty in rural Yunnan province.
Li Zhongkai was born in 1980, though you certainly wouldn’t know that from his official government profile picture. Li serves as the local secretary of the party committee in Wanbi town of Dayao county, one of China’s poorest regions. Since the age of 16, he has worked as a civil servant. For the last three years, he has headed efforts to lift local residents out of poverty.
Over the weekend, Li’s photo went viral across Chinese social media with netizens voicing their skepticism that the man in the picture could really be so young. However, the local government has stepped forward to insist that the image is indeed of the 38-year-old Li, claiming that his hair had grown grey after years of hard work.
For his part, Li told reporters that he was surprised by all the attention that his appearance was getting, explaining that he had been too busy with work to consider dying his hair black before the photo was to be taken.
On Weibo, many netizens have praised Li for working hard and “eating bitterness” in order to properly serve the people, calling him a model hard-working official that others should aim to imitate. “Being a grassroots cadre is not an easy life. It’s good that people like him are finally getting some recognition for all of their efforts,” writes one Weibo user.
However, not all net users are convinced. Some have even accused Li of lying about his age in order to try to get promoted.
Though, if he really is only 38, then the sky is the limit for Li. After all, Xi Jinping will surely need to name a successor someday.