From when he slept in caves to when he became “the heir to the revolution”: Who is Xi Jinping? – Democrat Blog

Xi Jinping’s application to join the Chinese Communist Party has been repeatedly rejected. (File)


When Xi Jinping took power in 2012, some observers predicted that he would be the most liberal Communist Party leader in Chinese history, due to his low profile, family background, and perhaps some degree of misplaced hope.

Ten years on, those forecasts are in tatters, only proving how little is understood about the man who looks set to become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong at a major party congress this month. -this.

Xi has been ruthless in his ambition, intolerant of dissent, with a desire for control that has infiltrated nearly every aspect of life in modern China.

He went from being the husband of a famous singer to someone whose apparent charisma and ability to tell political stories created a cult of personality not seen since the days of Mao.

The quaint details of his early life have been rinsed and repackaged in official party lore, but the man himself – and what drives him – remains little more of an enigma.

“I challenge the conventional view that Xi Jinping struggles for power for the sake of power,” Alfred L. Chan, author of a book on Xi’s life, told AFP.

“I would suggest that he struggles for power as an instrument (…) to achieve his vision”.

Another biographer, Adrian Geiges, told AFP he did not believe Xi was motivated by a desire for personal enrichment, despite international media investigations revealing his family’s amassed wealth.

“It’s not his interest,” Mr. Geiges said.

“He really has a vision for China, he wants to see China as the most powerful country in the world.”

At the heart of this vision — what Xi calls the “Chinese dream” or the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” — is the role of the Communist Party (CCP).

“Xi is a man of faith…to him, God is the Communist Party,” wrote Kerry Brown, author of “Xi: A Study in Power.”

“The biggest mistake the rest of the world is making about Xi is not taking that faith seriously.”

– Traumatized –

Xi doesn’t seem like an obvious candidate to become a CCP diehard, though he grew up as a “princeling,” or member of the party elite.

His father Xi Zhongxun was a revolutionary hero turned deputy prime minister, whose “severity towards his family members was so great that even those close to him considered it inhuman”, according to the elder’s biographer, Joseph Torigian.

But when Zhongxun was purged by Mao and targeted during the Cultural Revolution, “(Jinping) and his family were traumatized,” Chan said.

Her status disappeared overnight, and the family was divided. One of her half-sisters reportedly committed suicide due to the persecution.

Xi said he was ostracized by classmates, an experience that political scientist David Shambaugh said contributed to a “sense of emotional and psychological detachment and self-reliance from an early age.”

At just 15, Xi was sent to rural central China, where he spent years hauling grain and sleeping in caves.

“The intensity of the work shocked me,” he said later.

He also had to participate in “struggle sessions” during which he had to denounce his father.

“Even if you don’t understand, you’re forced to understand,” he said, describing those sessions to a Washington Post reporter “with a trace of bitterness” in a 1992 interview.

“It makes you mature earlier.”

Biographer Chan said the experiences of his youth gave him “toughness”.

“He tends to go all the way. He tends to use a two-fisted approach when addressing issues. But he also has a certain appreciation for the arbitrariness of power and that is why he also emphasizes law-based governance. »

– Systematic, low profile –

Today, the cave Xi slept in is a national tourist attraction, used to highlight features such as his concern for China’s poorest people.

During a visit by AFP in 2016, a resident painted a portrait of an almost legendary character, reading books between breaks from hard labor “so that we could see that he was not a man ordinary “.

It doesn’t seem to have been obvious at the time though. Xi himself said he was not even ranked “as high as women” when he arrived.

His application to join the CCP was repeatedly rejected due to family stigma, before finally being accepted.

First party leader in a village in 1974, Xi rose through the ranks to governor of coastal Fujian province in 1999, then party leader of Zhejiang province in 2002 and finally Shanghai in 2007 .

“He worked very systematically…to gain experience starting at a very low level, in a village, then in a prefecture…and so on,” said biographer Geiges.

“And he was very smart in keeping a low profile.”

Xi’s father was rehabilitated in the late 1970s after Mao’s death, which greatly strengthened his son’s position.

After divorcing his first wife, Xi married superstar soprano Peng Liyuan in 1987, at a time when she was much better known than he was.

Still, its potential was not obvious to all, as evidenced by the comments of its host during a trip to the United States in 1985.

“No sane person would ever think that this guy who stayed with me would become president,” Eleanor Dvorchak reportedly told New Yorker magazine years later.

Cai Xia, a former high-ranking CCP official who now lives in exile in the United States, believes that Xi “suffers from an inferiority complex, knowing that he is poorly educated compared to other senior leaders in the country.” CCP”.

As a result, he is “touchy, stubborn and dictatorial,” she wrote in a recent Foreign Affairs article.

– The heir to the revolution

But Xi always considered himself “an heir to the revolution,” Chan said.

In 2007, he was appointed to the Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s highest decision-making body.

When he replaced Hu Jintao five years later, Xi’s administrative record held little promise for his actions once installed as the country’s leader.

He has cracked down on civil society movements, independent media and academic freedom, overseeing alleged human rights abuses in the northwest region of Xinjiang, and promoting a far more aggressive foreign policy than his predecessor.

With no access to Xi or anyone close to him, researchers must examine his earlier writings and speeches for clues to his motives.

“The absolute centrality of the party’s mission to make China great again is evident from Xi’s earliest recorded statements,” Brown writes.

Xi has exploited this narrative of a rising China to great effect, using nationalism as a tool for his own and the party’s legitimacy with the people.

But there is also evidence that he fears his grip on power is waning.

“The fall of the Soviet Union and socialism in Eastern Europe was a great shock,” Geiges said, adding that Xi attributes the collapse to his political openness.

“So he has decided that something like this must not happen to China… that is why he wants a strong leadership of the Communist Party, with a strong leader. »

(With the exception of the title, this story has not been edited by staff and is published from a syndicated feed).

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From when he slept in caves to when he became “the heir to the revolution”: Who is Xi Jinping? – Democrat Blog

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