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April 30, 2017

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Pie's the limit for China president's look-alike

BEIJING -- Business is booming for one meat-pie vendor in central China, but it is the trader's uncanny likeness to President Xi Jinping that sets him apart from the competition.

Photos posted online by the state-run China Youth Network show throngs of young people surrounding and taking photos of the man, Shao Jianhua, who runs the stall in the city of Changsha in Hunan province.

Shao, who opened his no-frills operation in 2009 after moving to Changsha from east China's Hangzhou, told the website that his busiest time is when students from nearby Hunan University are just getting out of class.

"When business is at its peak, I make 1,600 pies a day," he said.

Xi was not mentioned by name in any of the state-run media reports, but users of China's popular online social networks were quick to note the likeness, with some on Thursday joking that Shao was the president's "long-lost brother."

Others joked that the doppelganger was actually Xi in disguise.

The head of China's ruling Communist Party has sought to burnish his public image since taking office in 2012 by carrying his own umbrella, showing off his football skills and eating steamed buns at a Beijing restaurant.

"Is he going incognito, to observe the people's condition?" asked one user of Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.

Last year, a report by a Hong Kong newspaper that Xi had taken a taxi in Beijing spread like wildfire on the web. China's official Xinhua news agency quickly denied the report, and keyword searches using the words "Jinping" and "taxi" were soon blocked from social media sites.

Xi is not the only leader who has a street vendor look-alike.

In March, photos circulated of a skewered-meat vendor in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang who bore a striking resemblance to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, drawing thousands of comments online.

"If Kim Jong Un saw these pictures, I'm sure he'd hire him as a body double," one wrote at the time of the vendor, who — like Kim — has a round face and sports a side-shaved haircut.

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