Talking the talk: Festive seasons are never complete without leaders’ annual speeches
By Dang Zheng

2017-01-01 16:03 GMT+8

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday delivered his fourth annual New Year speech since taking office in 2013.
Xi’s New Year addresses are more than an overview of the country’s latest accomplishments. They are a window into the president’s style of speaking, known for its unadorned language and use of Internet terms; and an opportunity to get a sneak peek into his office.
The Chinese president is one of many world leaders who extend their greetings during the year-end festive season. From elegant accents to distinctive presentation styles, we have identified characteristics of global leaders’ speech-making techniques.
Chinese President Xi: Plain language and office furniture
Instead of employing flowery phrases, platitude after platitude and perplexing economic and political terminologies, President Xi has always opted for the use of a language that is understandable and relatable to the ordinary people.
From “giving a thumbs up to all our great people” to “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” as well as “roll up our sleeves to work harder,” Xi’s style is idiomatic, articulate and eloquent, with his choices of words making recurrent headlines in domestic media.
Over the past three years during and after the broadcast of the president’s New Year message, scores of netizens would also fix their attention on the interior fittings of Xi’s office, as a way to gain insight on his personal hobbies and interests. While books revealed by close-up shots of his bookshelves have embodied the president’s wide spectrum of reading interests and would serve as an inspiration for people across the nation to read more, framed photos and paintings have given the public a better understanding of some of the most historical or personal moments cherished by the president.
Queen Elizabeth II of the UK: Regal accent and elegant style
Listening to the Queen’s Christmas Message on December 25 has long been an indispensable part of the festive celebrations for many households across the Commonwealth realms, ever since the Queen took over the mantle from her father, King George V, and sent her first Christmas greetings in 1952.
The Queen is capturing during her addresses, speaking in a rather slow-paced rhythm with a gracious royal British accent and elegant style.
The Queen’s lines are as sophisticated and smart as her mannerism, bearing insightful sentences such as “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” in her 2015 speech and “unsung heroes whose dedication makes them special” in the latest aired broadcast. Her annual Christmas deliveries through the decades have also been well-received around the world as curious English language learners would regard them as an exemplar of British eloquence.
US President Barack Obama: Cozy family atmosphere
US President Barack Obama is one of very few state leaders who appear for their Christmas addresses with company – his spouse, giving the occasion an informal and lighthearted dimension.
Photo/The White House
This year, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama took a trip down the memory lane during their last Christmas speech before exiting the White House, and introduced a clip of their first Christmas appearance in 2009. The two were seen giggling and staring into each other’s eyes, adding a cozy and joyful family atmosphere just as it has been for the last eight years.
The topic of family, however, has not only been highlighted through the warm conjugal interaction, but also the recurring tributes the duo has paid to the country’s military households. In 2015, they called on the public to honor the families struggling with the bitter sadness from being apart from the serving troop members; while this year, the couple spared no efforts in encouraging Americans to offer help to those defending the country’s values as well as “their families (who) are serving and sacrificing right along with them”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin: Serious facial expression and strong will
Different from other heads of state who would don smiles when sending greetings during the festive season, Russian President Vladimir Putin, known for his tough guy image, does not make an exception during his annual New Year address, adopting a stern and stiff demeanor.
His speeches show the president’s as well as the country’s strong will. In 2015, Putin said the country’s troop members and the predecessors who had devoted their lives to safeguard the country’s interest are the incarnations of will, determination, and strength of character. Putin also urged the public to follow their footsteps, taking on arduous challenges and demonstrating “strength of spirit.”
Each president has his or her own delivery style, and topics of interest that are crucial to tackle during the occasion. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has included the refugee crisis in her recent speeches, while French President François Hollande’s address has touched on his country’s fight against terrorism.
From messages to personal styles, what impresses you the most about their speeches?
(Story by Cai Mengxiao)