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Friday 22 August 2014

Well disposed to the West, China's incoming president must first tackle problems at home

Liam O'Brien

Published 10/11/2012 | 05:00

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PROFILE: Xi Jinping

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Will he be the new president of China?

In all likelihood, yes. In Beijing, of course, there's no fussing around with general elections, so the people of China have known for some time that Mr Xi was lined up to be their new leader. The Communist Party Congress began yesterday for a week-long session that will end when president Hu Jintao steps down. Barring any major disasters, Mr Xi, the current vice-president, will then rule China for 10 years.

But who is he?

Mr Xi is a reasonably popular figure. Born in 1953, he grew up during Chairman Mao's cultural revolution and his father served as minister of propaganda and education. As such, his life was comfortable and far removed from the starvation experienced by millions of Chinese during the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961.

However, his father was deposed and Mr Xi became one of 30 million "sent-down youth" forced to move from cities to the countryside. Rather than being broken by these changes to his life, Mr Xi thrived.

Neighbours were impressed with his hard work as a farm labourer and promoted him to be chief of the local Communist Party branch.

From there, he went to university and obtained doctorates in chemical engineering and political science while rising rapidly up the party ranks. He married his second wife Peng Liyuan, a folk singer, in 1987. The couple have a daughter, Xi Mingze, who reportedly enrolled at Harvard under a pseudonym in 2010.

What is his agenda?

Mr Xi is believed to want to foster better relations with the West. But first he will have to deal with problems at home.

People are angry with the widening gap between rich and poor as well as the profligacy and corruption of high-level officials. A slowdown in economic growth will also need to be addressed.

Irish Independent

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