President, People's Republic of China (2003-2013)
Date of Birth: 21/12/1942
Place of Birth: Jiangyan, Jiangsu
In April 2009, China's leader embarked on his fourth tour of Africa. The itinerary - Mali, Mauritius, Senegal and Tanzania - shows the range of relationships built up under Hu Jintao. These are medium-size economies with multi-party systems; three are Francophone, much to Paris's irritation.
Hu, a former engineer, joined the Communist Party in 1964 and soon answered Mao Zedong's
call to go to the countryside: he spent the 1970s in Gansu, an
underdeveloped province, diligently climbing provincial party ranks.
Where the Party sent him, Hu went. He became Party chief of Guizhou,
then Tibet, where he stifled unrest in Lhasa in December 1988 with
martial law. He returned to Beijing in 1992 as the youngest-ever member
of the Politboro Standing Committee, and was groomed to succeed
President Jiang Zemin (1989-2002).
Some analysts saw Hu
as a weak candidate: a bureaucrat with no military allies. By 2005, he
had confounded the sceptics and consolidated his position; Jiang was
pushed into full retirement and handed control of the military to Hu.
Hu has won plaudits in China: he took power without major
political ructions and will hand it over in the same way to
Vice-President Xi Jinping in 2012. China, despite the global slowdown, remains a rising economic and diplomatic power and a counter to the United States. Yet Hu lacks the charisma of his Premier, Wen Jiabao;
his appearance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics was wooden, not triumphant.
However, the stern exterior may hide a more adventurous soul: Hu's old
biography spoke of his enthusiasm for dancing as a student – lines
since purged from the official record. Will African warmth summon the
rhythms within? Will the call of Terpsichore overcome years of Party discipline?
Hu stepped down on 15 November 2012 and was succeeded, as planned, by Xi Jinping, in early 2013.