Yao Ming attends a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference meeting on January 13th, 2012.
BEIJING – That’s Comrade Yao to you.
Nearly six months after Yao Ming formally retired from basketball, the 7-foot-6, eight-time NBA All-Star has been anything but idle. In that time, Yao has started college, spearheaded a campaign to end shark-finning, and even started his own vineyard.
But last week he added a new title: Standing committee member of Shanghai’s Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
At 31, Yao is the youngest member of the 142 member committee charged with advising the Communist Party on issues that affect the public interest.
Zhang Chi, a spokesman for Yao Ming told the China Daily that despite taking the position, Yao had no political aspirations beyond pushing policies related to sports and charity, saying, “Yao wants to use his influence to do good deeds for society, but not to seek a political position.”
Judging by what he saw on the first few days on the job, who can blame him?
On Sunday, Yao took his seat on the committee to much fanfare. Unfortunately for the other members there, the assembled media stuck around long enough to catch – and publish – what many of these consultative meetings often look like: a snooze-fest.
With arms-folded and intent gaze, Yao is seen in one picture listening attentively while his fellow committee members doze off.
The picture was picked up on by China’s microblogging sphere and soon went viral. Some netizens pointedly suggested that the photos may have come during a break in the committee hearings, but most people responded with amusement to the scene they’ve come to expect from such events.
“Poor Yao, he probably regrets being that tall and not being able to sleep!” wrote one commentator on China’s twitter-like service, Weibo.
“Yao Ming is still new to meetings like this,” wrote another before continuing, “He’ll be just like the rest of them soon enough.”