We all know that Hu Jintao is the man, and currently the highest ranking political leader in China. But who’s the man behind the man? After all, Hu Jintao is expected to step down and pass the torch this year. With China’s rise as a regional superpower and economic juggernaut, people want to know who’s behind Hu? Who is destined to inherit and lead China for the next decade?
As Xi visits Washington D.C. and formally meets with President Obama today, the questions surrounding the next leader of the world’s largest economy continue to grow. Is he a lame duck politician like his predecessor or is he capable of handling the growing problems within and outside of the mainland?
Fortunately, we know a substantial amount about Hu’s successor, Xí Jìnpíng (习近平)–much more than the elusive Mr. Hu. Xi Jinping, unlike Hu, is well versed in the art of politics, has a strong understanding of economics and has deeper ties to the Peoples’ Liberation Army (人民解放軍 or rénmín jiěfàngjūn). Put simply, he is a savvy politician that knows how to play the game. Dare I say, he’s the Chinese answer to Bill Clinton?
Xi Jinping is the Vice President of the CPC. He is also senior leader of the People’s Republic of China. He currently serves as the top-ranking member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China, Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Principal of the Central Party School and the 6th ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s true top political entity.
Xi Jinping was born in June 1953 in Beijing and is, by Chinese convention, a native of Fuping County, Shaanxi–his ancestral home. He is the youngest son of Xi Zhongxun and one of the founders of the Communist guerrilla movement in Shaanxi Province in northern China. At the time his father served as the head of the Communist Party’s propaganda department, and later Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress. Yet when Xi was only ten years old, during the harsh propagandist movements of Cultural Revolution, his father was purged and was sent to work in a factory in Luoyang, and jailed in 1968. Without the protection of his father, Xi went to work in Yanchuan County, Yan’an, Shaanxi, in 1969 in Mao Zedong’s Down to the Countryside Movement. He later became the Party branch Secretary of the production team.
Later, from 1975 to 1979, Xi gained entrance at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, graduating with a degree in Chemical Engineering . There were some questions about his educational background as it is believed he entered university without studying or completing high school and went to gain a doctorate without previously holding a masters. Maybe he learned his social and political skills by schmoozing his way through secondary school….Then from 1979 to 1982 he served as secretary for his father’s former subordinate Geng Biao, the then vice premier and Secretary-General of the Central Military Commission. This gained Xi some military background and strengthened his long term ties to the PLA.
Xi held Party positions in the CPC Fuzhou Municipal Committee, and became the president of the Party School in Fuzhou in 1990. In 1999 he was promoted to the Deputy Governor of Fujian province, then became Governor a year later. In 2002 Xi took up senior government and Party positions in Zhejiang Province, and eventually took over as party chief after several months as acting Governor, becoming the first-in-charge in the economically successful coastal province. Xi was then made an alternate member of the 15th CPC Central Committee and holds the membership of the 16th CPC Central Committee, marking his ascension to the national stage. After a stint in Shanghai and scandal accusations, Xi quietly navigated through the upper echelons of CPC leadership, gaining good standing and political support throughout the politburo. Xi was later elected as Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China on March 15th, 2008.
Xi is considered to be one of the most successful members of the Crown Prince Party, a quasi-clique of politicians who are descendants of early Chinese revolutionaries. Senior leaders consider Xi to be an emerging figure that is open to serious dialogue about deep-seated market economic reforms and even political reform, even though Xi’s personal political views are relatively murky. He’s preached anti-US sentiment in Mexico, but welcomed Chinese-US cooperation within economic relations. Time will tell what direction his overall domestic and foreign policies will be, but you can bet that Xi will expand his presidential influence among CPC leadership.
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