The Belt and Road Forum was a feast for the eyes and tastebuds, as well as the mind.
IMAGES of the illuminated night views of Beijing during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation flooded China’s social media sites and online news channels.
A rare scene in this capital city, the jaw-dropping lighting extravaganza took place after an “eight-day light up order” was given to all landmarks and tourist attractions, to welcome the guests attending the forum.
Beijing is a city that strictly controls its lighting, and this was the highest level of lighting permission given, the same as for important celebrations such as the National Day and Spring Festival.
All landmarks – including the two main venues for the forum, the China National Convention Centre and the Yanqi Lake International Conference Centre – were required to light up between 7.30pm and midnight, from May 11 to May 18.
The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, touted as a project of the century aimed at pooling knowledge and resources to boost the global economy, has ended successfully with fruitful results.
The first of its kind since China proposed the concept in 2013, the event – held last Sunday and Monday – attracted heads of state and government from 29 countries, including Malaysia.
Also present were about 1,500 representatives of over 70 international organisations and 130 countries, as well as more than 4,000 media workers.
As it was the biggest international event hosted by China after the 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese were excited, with national televisions and most of the provincial-based stations broadcasting the opening of the forum live on both days.
Apart from the speeches delivered by Chinese president Xi Jinping and the achievements reached at the two-day event, dubbed the “New Silk Road forum”, food was the most talked about topic.
As an old Chinese saying goes, min yi shi wei tian (food is the prime concern of the people), and the Chinese have taken food as an art and not just something to fill hungry stomachs.
This can be seen from the variety of Chinese cuisines and their cooking methods, which range from steaming, pan-frying, deep-frying, stewing and braising to roasting and toasting.
So, what did their supreme leader offer his guests at the welcome banquet at the Great Hall of the People on May 14?
According to the menu, the guests were served four dishes during the main course, as well as a cold dish as the starter, a variety of desserts and fruits.
Among the main courses, there was a soup cooked with quail eggs and scallops in chicken broth. It is named hua hao yue yuan (blooming flowers and full moon, which indicate perfection and happiness).
The rest were prosperity lobster, braised beef in brown sauce and vanilla cod fish – a combination of native Huaiyang cuisine and a contemporary recipe.
Huaiyang cuisine originates from the Yangzhou and Huaian regions along the Yangtze river delta. Together with Cantonese, Shandong and Sichuan dishes, they are known as the four main Chinese cuisines.
Among the popular Huaiyang dishes in Malaysia are Yong Chow fried rice, pan fried dumplings, siew mai and beggar chicken.
A senior chef, who has participated in several state banquets, said they would pick food and ingredients that could be largely accepted by most leaders from around the world.
“Fish is a must-have, but one very important requirement is that the fish must be boneless,” he said, adding that the cooking should not be oily and spicy.
Chinese writer Jun Dui Xiao Ba Wang, who has been closely following news of the forum, has named Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as the “King of Social Media”.
“From his departure from Malaysia on May 11 until the morning of May 15, in a short 100 hours, (Malaysian) Prime Minister Najib has posted 22 times on social media.
“He is no doubt the No. 1 ‘screen swiper’ of all heads of state and government, applause,” he wrote.
A check on his Twitter page shows that Najib shared about his visit to Hangzhou and Beijing, from May 11 to May 16, more than 30 times with his followers.
Among the posts were his meetings with Xi, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, leaders of various countries, Chinese e-commerce giant Jack Ma, Malaysian businessmen, embassy staff and journalists.
Najib also tweeted a photo message of a cup of Chinese tea, in which he wrote: “Had Longjing or the Dragon Well tea this morning. Very smooth and refreshing.”
Despite his busy schedule, he did not forget to show his appreciation to all mothers and teachers, wishing them a Happy Mothers Day and Happy Teachers Day on May 14 and 15 respectively.
Meanwhile, Malaysia has been shortlisted by China Daily, an English newspaper in China, as one of the Top 10 Belt and Road tourism destinations for Chinese, taking the sixth place in the list.
Quoting Lvmama.com, a Chinese online travel agency, the daily reported that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Asean countries last year rose to nearly three times from 2015, based on bookings made on the website.