Channel 4 News' China correspondent Lindsey Hilsum tried not to nod off while attending the 17th Party Congress in Beijing. She was not alone:
Never before have I felt at one with the former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin. But halfway through President Hu Jintao's two-and-a-half-hour speech at the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of China, as the 81-year-old's eyelids drooped and his head flopped on to his chest, I experienced a certain fellow feeling.
The speech had the pithy title "Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive for New Victories in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects". It was delivered in a monotone. President Hu clapped himself at the best bits, as a cue for his audience of apparatchiks. Two frail and elderly delegates had to be ushered off the stage, presumably for resuscitation.
The speech contained not a single new thought, but rehashed a dozen tired slogans: "Harmonious Society", "Scientific Outlook on Development", "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics". China-watchers - an even more specialised and possibly eccentric bunch than birdwatchers - will now be analysing all 64 pages for clues to what it all means for China's future.
Why so dull?
Chinese leaders don't have to spark excitement among the public, because they are not courting anyone's vote. As I sat in the Great Hall, trying not to nod off like Jiang, I thought of how China's leaders have brought prosperity to hundreds of millions. Universities are graduating well-qualified students; the stock market is soaring; the trade surplus has reached $1.4trn. Yet the party still claims to be following Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. Real achievements are submerged in mind-deadening verbiage. No wonder the Chinese people aren't listening.
The Chinese economy is like a runaway horse - the government is torn between trying to rein it back, or just clinging on and hoping that it slows down of its own accord. The leaders' main fear is of falling off.