Michael Day posted the following on the MCLC Facebook page as a response to my query:
“Well, it wasn’t until the 1990s that pets were even allowed in China (for obvious reasons, I should think)… so, only Hu and Xi would be fair game on this one…. so, nothing I can find on Hu, but lots on Xi … as in his wife and him have a dog as a pet, and pics like this: http://english.sina.com/china/p/2012/0219/441270.html“–Michael Day
I still can’t find traces of dictator Xi having his own dog — but will keep looking. Would be fascinating to look at how the dog is presented to the public, if it is.
(It’s hard to believe that he would keep a dog. Many dogs owned by the rich and powerful in China seem to be mainly for social prestige, not for petting or companionship, and it still is surely an un-Communist thing to do, insofar as the powerful still pretend to be Communists – as Xi would. There is also a certain newly antagonistic social gap between the masses, and those rich cadres who can keep dogs for prestige or other purposes, as opposed to the pets of the middle classes. Example: https://www.refworld.org/docid/51b0458d18.html.)
-The pictures included in the comment seem a bit off. They show Xi inspecting an animal ready for slaughter (a cow’s calf), in Ireland. Is there kindness shown to the calf? I doubt it, it could rather just be polite appreciation of the hosts’ impressive cattle-raising productivity. Also, the accompanying hugging and petting of human children from the target audience is a classic political pose used since Stalin, Hitler, and before — there is some discussion of this in Ohnuki-Tierney’s book Flowers That Kill. Those are instrumental acts, different from meaningful kindness, in recognition of the animal just by itself.
So far I can’t find anything like that anywhere outside of the “friendly foreign visit” setting, and, can’t find it in China.
… I found a picture here of Xi’s first lady hugging a koala, which at first looks more like it. But, the gesture is clearly not spontaneous, but choreographed on demand, in the Australian setting: the editors explain that “The rule for politicians visiting Australia seems clear: You must be photographed with an animal.” So it’s actually more like the polite gesture towards the Irish calf.
Also, as a staunchly nationalistic advocate of “traditional medicine” quackery, Xi Jinping would probably never do like Yao Ming, the retired basketball star who visited wild Chinese black bears recovering after being rescued from the cruel force-tapping for “medicinal” bile while they sit captive in cages (as I wrote about in Ch 10 of The Art of Neigboring):