Xi Jinping (born June 1, 1953) is a 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, the country’s Vice President, Principal of the Central Party School, and the 6th ranked member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s de facto top power organ. On October 18, 2010, he was elected as the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission which implies that he is going to take over the highest ranking leadership by 2012.
Son of Communist veteran Xi Zhongxun, Xi Jinping served mostly in Fujian province in his early career, and was later appointed party chief of the neighbor Zhejiang province, and then was appointed as Shanghai’s party chief following the dismissal of Chen Liangyu. Known for his liberal policies, tough stance on corruption, and a frank openness about political and market economy reforms, Xi’s combination of positions makes him the heir presumptive to current General Secretary, President Hu Jintao and the emerging leader of the People’s Republic of China’s fifth generation of leadership.
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, one of the founders of the Communist guerrilla movement in Shaanxi Province in northern China and former Vice-Premier.
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. When Xi was 10, during the 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, Shanxi, in 1969 in Mao Zedong’s Down to the Countryside Movement (simplified Chinese: 知识青年上山下乡运动; traditional Chinese: 知識青年上山下鄉運動). He later became the Party branch Secretary of the production team. When he left in 1975, he was only 22 years old. When asked about this experience later by state television, Xi recalled it saying, “…it was emotional. It was a mood. And when the ideals of the Cultural Revolution could not be realised, it proved an illusion…”
From 1975 to 1979, Xi studied Chemical Engineering at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University. 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.
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.
Rising through the ranks
Xi joined the Communist Youth League in 1971 and the Communist Party of China in 1974. In 1982 he was sent to Zhengding County in Hebei as its party secretary. Xi subsequently served in four provinces during his political career: Shaanxi, Hebei, Fujian and Zhejiang.
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.
While there he made efforts to attract investment from Taiwan and to boost free market economy. In February 2000 he and provincial Party Secretary Chen Mingyi were called before the top four members of the Politburo Standing Committee – General Secretary, President Jiang Zemin, Premier Zhu Rongji, Vice-President Hu Jintao and Discipline Inspection head Wei Jianxing to explain aspects of the Yuanhua scandal.
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.
While in Zhejiang, one of China’s most affluent provinces and a center of China’s successful economic development, Xi provided the economic environment which secured growth rates averaging 14% per year. His career in Zhejiang was marked by tough and straightforward stance against corrupt officials, which earned him a name on the national media and drew the attention of China’s top leaders.
Following the dismissal of Shanghai Party Chief Chen Liangyu in September 2006 due to a social security fund scandal, Xi was transferred to Shanghai in March 2007 to become the new Party Chief of Shanghai.
Xi’s appointment to one of the most important regional posts in China was clearly a sign of confidence from the Central Government. While in Shanghai he was careful not to touch any controversial issues while largely echoing the line of the central leadership.
Xi’s career is notable in that during his regional tenures, he was never implicated in any serious scandals, nor did he face serious political opposition.
Elevation to centre
Xi’s appointment to the Party Secretary post in Shanghai was seen as a stepping stone for him to become an emerging member of the fifth generation of Chinese leadership.
This was solidified by his appointment as a member of the nine-man Politburo Standing Committee at the 17th Party Congress in October 2007.
Interestingly, Xi was ranked above Li Keqiang, which made him the most likely candidate for China’s next core figure – the paramount leader. This assessment was further supported at the 11th National People’s Congress, Xi was elected as Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China on March 15, 2008.
Some suggest this was because Xi had kept friendly relations with both Hu Jintao and the other power figure in the central leadership, Zeng Qinghong. In addition to these posts, Xi also held the top-ranking membership of the Communist Party’s Secretariat.
Since his elevation Xi has held a broad range of portfolios. He was put in charge of the comprehensive preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, as well as the central government’s leading figure in Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
In addition, he also became the new Principal of the Central Party School, the cadre-training and ideological education wing of the Communist Party.
In the wake of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, Xi went and visited disaster areas in Shaanxi and Gansu. Xi made his first foreign visit after his vice presidency to visit North Korea, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen from June 17 to 25, 2008.
After the Olympics, Xi was assigned the post of Committee Chair for the preparations of the 60th Anniversary Celebrations of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
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, although Xi’s personal political views are relatively murky.
He is generally popular with foreign dignitaries, who are intrigued by his openness and pragmatism. Former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, when asked about Xi, said he felt he was “a thoughtful man who has gone through many trials and tribulations.”
Lee also commented: “I would put him in the Nelson Mandela class of persons. A person with enormous emotional stability who does not allow his personal misfortunes or sufferings affect his judgment. In other words, he is impressive”.
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is said to be a friend of Xi describing him as “the kind of guy who knows how to get things over the goal line.”
Latin American tour
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 February 11, 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 October 7 to 21, 2009. Xi visited Japan, South Korea, Cambodia and Myanmar on his Asian trip from December 14 to 22, 2009.
Xi was named as one of the most influential people in the world in the 2009 Time 100 list
In September 2009, at the Fourth Plenum of the 17th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping was not selected as the Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) as expected, raising some questions about his succession. Political analyst Cheng Li believes that Xi’s failure to secure the CMC promotion was evidence that the Communist Party was developing internal checks and balances, giving way to more sophisticated mechanisms for leadership succession.
Hong Kong media outlet The Mirror (鏡報) reported that Xi himself was reluctant to enter the position and wrote a letter to General Secretary Hu Jintao and the party leadership, saying he needed to “focus on tasks at hand”, and that discussing leadership changes at the Fourth Plenum would serve as a “distraction” for more important matters.
The British magazine New Statesman listed Xi Jinping at number 4 in their annual survey of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures 2010″.
Xi has been appointed as one of the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on October 18, 2010, a position Hu Jintao once held back in 1999 before taking over the presidency years later.
Xi married the famous Chinese folk singer Peng Liyuan in 1987, his second marriage. Peng Liyuan, a household name in China, was much better known to the public than Xi until his political elevation. The couple frequently live apart due to their largely separate lives. They are sometimes considered China’s emerging star political couple. They have a daughter named Xi Mingze
Peng has described Xi as frugal, hardworking and down to earth. “When he comes home, I’ve never thought of it as though there’s some leader in the house. In my eyes, he’s just my husband.