BEIJING — Chinese officials say they want to clean up a pollution scourge fouling the capital and government centers nationwide: bureaucratic gasbags.
The problem, Communist Party functionaries say, is that civil servants talk too much — at meetings, in speeches and when speaking off-the-cuff in public. It's the official Chinese version of yada-yada-yada, blah-blah-blah.
To set an example for his peers, Li Yuanchao, a top member of a key Central Committee department, told the state-run New China News Agency that he is keeping his speeches short during meetings. In one recent video-conference, he kept his remarks to just 10 minutes, officials said.
Vice President Xi Jinping scolded underlings at a recent Central Party orientation meeting, declaring that bureaucratic long-windedness lengthened meetings and cut productivity.
So there's a new unwritten policy among bureaucrats: When it comes to speechifying, less is more.
Scholars say long speeches by Chinese officials are legendary, often making a U.S. congressional filibuster seem like a haiku in comparison.
"This wordiness has become a symbol of Chinese politics," said Liang Musheng, a professor at Huazhong University of Science and Technology.
Liang sees a method to the intolerably long windups and preambles. "Officials live in fear of their superiors," he said. "Speakers make sure to give their bosses ample credit, so they recite their ideas at length before speaking their own minds. This makes every speech go on forever."