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Too young to be mayor? Many Chinese think so.

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BEIJING – Yicheng is the sort of nowheresville in the hinterlands of China that few people outside the city have ever heard of (even though its population is 5.6 million). So when Zhou Senfeng was elected mayor last Saturday, he probably wasn't expecting to garner much publicity.

Instead, he has become the target of the latest brouhaha on the Chinese Internet for the crime of ... being too young.

At 29, Mr. Zhou is believed to be the youngest city mayor in China. And in a country where age is respected above all else, his elevation has proved highly controversial.

“I do not think a young man can handle” all the problems facing a city mayor, said one resident of Yicheng, responding to an online poll that attracted more than 20,000 votes.

This runs counter to official policy, however, which is to promote younger people. This is “of great importance for the lasting stability of the Party and the state,” Vice President Xi Jinping said last March.

Though Britain’s Prince Charles memorably described China’s leaders a decade or so ago as “appalling old waxworks,” the ruling Communist party now retires senior officials at 68 (which is probably younger than Prince Charles will be by the time he becomes king.)

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