He’s the president in waiting who’s set to take the hot seat of one of the most powerful and prosperous countries on earth, but to many China’s Xi Jinping remains something of a mystery.
The 59 year old is expected take over from President Hu Jintao after the Communist Party Congress kicks off on 8 November, and his journey to the top has been anything but ordinary.
Born in 1953 as the second of seven children fathered by communist revolutionary Xi Zhongxun, he led a privileged life the son of a man with close ties to leader of the country Chairman Mao.
But his life took a sharp turn when at the age 15, his father was denounced by Mao and sent to live in a lice-infested cave to learn the communist way. During these desperate times, Xi spent his nights in the cave reading books on Marxism, maths and chemistry. It was these smarts that saw him gain a degree in chemical engineering and rise up the political ranks after joining the party in 1974.
Up until now his ascent to the top has been low-key, and residents in Beijing admitted they were not sure what life will be like under Xi’s rule.
“I don’t know much about him, but I think he should be the next leader. I think it will be better than before. Because now each generation is better than the last.”
“I think in terms of overall direction, he should be pretty similar to President Hu. But in terms of style, I think he will be a bit tougher. That’s from my own personal speculation, and from some discussion online.”
But to many, Xi cuts an elusive and enigmatic figure. Back in September, the heir apparent seemed to have vanished after cancelling a series of high profile meetings without explanation, including a visit from US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. He reappeared just as suddenly, with officials claiming he had been suffering a bad back after a swimming accident. Once he takes the reigns of the emerging superpower, it’s going to be a lot harder for Xi to avoid the limelight.
Presented by Ann Salter
Written by Alfred Joyner
Vice President Xi Jinping of China: Bilateral Meeting with President Obama (2012)
Xi Jinping (pronounced [ɕǐ tɕînpʰǐŋ] English approx.:SHEE JIN PING; born 1 June 1953) is a high-ranking politician of the People’s Republic of China. He currently serves as the top-ranked member of the Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of China, the country’s Vice President, Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission, President of the Central Party School and the 6th ranked member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee, China’s de facto top power organ.
Son of communist veteran Xi Zhongxun, Xi Jinping served mostly in Fujian province in his early career. He was later appointed party chief of the neighboring Zhejiang province, and then was appointed as Shanghai’s party chief following the dismissal of Chen Liangyu. Known for his tough stance on corruption and a frank openness about political and market economy reforms, Xi’s combination of positions makes him the presumptive heir to current General Secretary and President Hu Jintao and the Paramount leader of the Communist Party of China’s fifth generation of leadership.
In February 2009, in his capacity as Vice-President, Xi Jinping embarked on a Latin American foreign trip to Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil to promote Chinese ties in the region and boost the country’s reputation in the wake of the global financial crisis. Xi met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
On 11 February, while visiting Mexico, Xi spoke in front of a group of overseas Chinese and explained China’s contributions to the financial crisis, saying that it was “the greatest contribution towards the whole of human race, made by China, to prevent its 1.3 billion people from hunger”. He followed with a rather direct accusation for “foreigners” trying to interfere in Chinese affairs, a subject that has always been sensitive in Chinese political circles. In Chinese, Xi remarked: “There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us [China]. First, China doesn’t export revolution; second, China doesn’t export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn’t come and cause you headaches, what more is there to be said?”
The story was reported on some local television stations. The news led to a flood of discussions on Chinese internet forums. It was reported that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was caught off-guard by Xi’s non-diplomatic remarks, as the actual video was shot by some accompanying Hong Kong reporters and broadcast on Hong Kong TV, which then turned up in various internet video websites.
Xi has since gone on a series of foreign visits, some say to burnish his foreign affairs credentials before he takes the helm of China’s leadership. Xi visited Belgium, Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania from 7 to 21 October 2009. Xi visited Japan, South Korea, Cambodia and Myanmar on his Asian trip from 14 to 22 December 2009.
Xi visited the United States, Ireland and Turkey in February 2012. The visit included meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House and Vice President Joe Biden, with whom he had met extensively in China in August, 2011; and stops in California and Iowa, where he met with the family which previously hosted him during his 1985 tour as a Hebei provincial official. Noted as absent was a visit with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who has spoken critically about Chinese currency policy.
Xi Jinping’s wife performing “Laundry Song” interlude