Date of Birth: 01/06/1953
Place of Birth: Beijing
Born in 1953 to a prominent Communist revolutionary, Xi Zhongxun, China’s presumed president-in-waiting, is a ‘princeling’ groomed to the elite class. Xi Jinping grew up in privilege in Beijing until the Cultural Revolution when Mao Zedong’s Red Guards turned on the bureaucracy. His father was imprisoned and Xi was ‘sent down’ to countryside labour in Shaanxi Province. When he was able to return to Beijing in 1975, Xi joined the Communist Party and enrolled in Tsinghua University, where he studied chemical engineering.
The blank expressions on the faces of the Chinese Politburo leadership allow China-watchers to project their own hopes and fears. Hu Jintao was thought to be a reform-minded sort, but those hopes were quickly dashed. In November, Xi travelled to South Africa, Angola and Botswana, further cementing relations and tying down energy and mineral agreements.
Xi’s rise in the party ranks was largely outside of Beijing, circumventing central intrigues and giving him wide-ranging experience. He was Deputy Secretary of the Fujian Province Committee from 1997 to 2002, then promoted to Chairman of the Zhejiang Province Committee, where he remained until 2007. That year, Xi moved to Shanghai to become the city’s party chief, after a swathe of its leaders were embroiled in a corruption scandal.
He joined the party’s Standing Committee in October 2007 and was made Vice-President in 2008. For some time, it was thought fellow Vice-President Li Keqiang had the edge in the succession – Li was Hu Jintao’s preferred candidate – but Xi’s position seemed secure when he was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission in October. Barring any surprises, Xi will take over the Party in late 2012 and the government a few months later.