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

Out of the Ordinary

Xi’s path as a rising political star, though low-profile, is rather different from many of his contemporaries. He is steadfast in style: people-first and ahead of his time.

After graduating in Chemical Engineering from Tsinghua University in 1979, Xi first served as secretary for Geng Biao for three years, the then vice premier and secretary-general of the Central Military Commission. In 1982, when many young people broke into business or went to study abroad, Xi, however, chose to go to a small county Zhengding in Hebei province and worked as Party chief for three years. He lived in his office, ate at the canteen, and frequented the countryside by bike to learn about the lives of the people. During his time in Zhengding, he proposed and acquired the contract for the construction of the movie studio “Rongguofu" for the shooting of the later wildly popular classic TV series “The Dream of Red Mansions”. The studio, later turned into a major film base, is the first of its kind in China and brought the small county millions of visitors and revenues over the years, earning Zhengding the title of “Oriental Hollywood”.

An 1983 photo of  Xi Jinping in Zhengding County, north China's Hebei Province. Photo: Xinhua

From Zhengding, Xi went to southeast China for a 17-year-long stint in Fujian province, which, at that time, was nothing like what it is today. Xi’s first stop was Xiamen, one of China’s six special economic zones. Under his leadership, the 1985-2000 Xiamen Economic and Social Development Strategy was adopted, which provided guidelines for the later development of the city.

In 1988, Xi was appointed as Party chief in Ningde, which then was one of the poorest areas in China. Xi visited all the villages in the area which often involved days of bumpy ride on the rugged roads, even the mountainous regions which cannot be reached by car and Xi would go in on foot along the muddy and slippery path. His personable and down-to-earth style as well as his solid work on the grassroots level earned him the title “Secretary of the People”.

After Ningde, Xi was made Party chief of Fujian’s capital city Fuzhou from 1990 to 1993. During this time, he set detailed development goals and measures for three-year, eight-year and 20-year periods. The many industries and enterprised that flourished because of his efforts of bringing in outside investments, such as AOC Electronics, Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd., Soueast Motor, and Southern Aluminum Industry Co.Ltd. are still major forces in the economic development of the city today.

From 1993 to 2002, Xi Jinping held a number of positions in Fujian, and eventually became both the governor and Party chief of the province. As early as 1999, he first raised the concept of building a “digital Fujian”, which was a rather avantgarde idea at that time. Till 2010, Fujian was the only province in the country that allowed its residents to have access to medical care with just a Medicare card. In 2001, Xi was also the first to start the campaign against food pollution and “Safe Food Project” which was much praised by the public. The Forest Right System Reform in Wuping county which he endorsed and supported was later adopted as a nation-wide model. In 2002, Xi put forward the plan of turning Fujian into an eco-province with measures to control and reverse the water and soil erosion in Changting county. After 10 years of efforts, Changting is once more a green-clad place and Fujian is the only province in China that is said to have clean water, clean air and an unpolluted environment.

In this photo taken in August 1993, Xi Jinping (1st L), then secretary of the Fuzhou Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China is meeting with citizens in Fuzhou, capital of southeast China's Fujian province. This photo is particularly eye-catching because written on the blackboard is a sentence that is essentially the same as Xi's latest slogan: “Empty talk harms the nation while practical work makes it thrive.” Photo: Xinhua

In 2002, Xi Jinping was moved to head Zhejiang province, one of the most developed provinces in East China. In nine months, Xi visited all 69 counties in the province. By the time he left in 2007, he had left his steps all over Zhejiang. In these five years, he implemented a series of policies to build a safe, green, cultural, and law-ruled Zhejiang with a  strong sea-based economy. In 2005, the environment index of Zhejiang ranked the first in China. In 2006, with a 94.77% approval rating, Zhejing was considered China’s safest province. It was also the first province to have gotten rid of poverty in all its counties and towns.

After Zhejiang, Xi Jinping briefly served as Shanghai's Party secretary following the dismissal of Chen Liangyu and from there he was promoted to the central leadership in October 2007, entering the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee. He was then elected Vice-President at the 11th National People's Congress which marked a new stage in his political life.

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