Xi Jinping: A star-esque Chinese leader on the rise

Less than four months after he took the helm of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Central Military Commission, Xi Jinping is about to officially become China’s Head of State - President of the People’s Republic of China. The new leader, distinctively different from his predecessors in style, also stands out in the fact that he’s already got a fan base on Weibo, China’s twitter-like micro-blogging platform.

Xi Jinping, the charismatic new leader of China. Photo: WSJ

Red Background and Rough Past

Xi Jinping’s “red” background and his legendish early experiences draw much attention from the Chinese public and gain him many credits.

Born on 15 June 1953 in Beijing, Xi is the eldest son of communist veteran Xi Zhongxun who passed away at the age of 89 in 2002. Xi Zhongxun was one of the founders of the Communist guerrilla movement in Shaanxi province and was close to Mao Zedong, who thought highly of him, praising him as a “people’s leader coming from the people” and “a living Marxist”. Yet even so, Xi Zhongxun was framed in 1962 and was at one time, prisoned. Xi Jinping, as the eldest son, suffered from his father’s fall. According to a profile by Xinhua News Agency, he faced “public humiliation and hunger, experienced homelessness and was even held in custody once.”

In 1969, at the age of 16, Xi Jinping volunteered to be reeducated in a small village in Shaanxi province, which is his father’s home province in northwest China. Xi did all sorts of hard labor, farming, hauling coal carts, building water tanks, and even carrying manure. Gradually, he earned the villagers' trust. They praised him, “clever and knowledgeable”; “never spare any effort”. He was elected village Party chief, “led the farmers to reinforce the river bank in a bid to prevent erosion, organized a small cooperative of blacksmiths in the village, and built a methane tank, the first in landlocked Shaanxi.” For an imprisoned official’s son to have done that in a remote village, during the Cultural Revolution, it was a feat in itself.

For seven years, Xi worked in the village and forged a strong bond with the villagers. When he was recommended for enrollment at Tsinghua University in 1975, the villagers queued to bid him farewell, many with tears in their eyes. A dozen young men walked more than 30 kilometers to take him to the county seat for his trip back to Beijing. These early tales of Xi add much luster to his name.

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