Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From Cave to Chairman

The New York Times has a good piece on the soon-to-be president of China, Xi Jinping, and the time he spent in Shaanxi Province's countryside as a youth:

LIANGJIAHE, China — The cave is dim and narrow and musty. A platform bed covered with a reed mat sits by the door. A green canvas satchel and a lantern hang from two rusty nails on a wall — possessions supposedly left behind by a lanky teenage boy from Beijing sent here four decades ago to do hard labor.

“He liked reading books,” said Lü Nengzhong, 80, a farmer who housed the boy, Xi Jinping, for three years. “They were thick books, but I don’t know what they were about. He read until he fell asleep.”

These days, Mr. Xi’s reading materials veer more toward speeches and government planning documents — the vice president of China, age 57, he is expected to take over from Hu Jintao next year as the nation’s top leader. His official biography is being airbrushed. Village officials here have received orders to bar journalists from sniffing around Mr. Xi’s old home.

Liangjiahe is the foundation of a by-the-bootstraps creation myth that Mr. Xi has long cultivated. In an essay for a 2003 book Mr. Xi said his seven years here led to a life transformation. Using standard Marxist-Leninist-Maoist language, he wrote about learning to serve the people.

We “mustn’t stand high above the masses nor consider the masses as our fish and meat,” he said. He went on: “The hard life of the grass roots can cultivate one’s will. With that kind of experience, whatever difficulties I would encounter in the future, I am fully charged with courage to take on any challenge, to believe in the impossible and to conquer obstacles without panic.”

Read On

Photo of Xi Jinping from the AP

I highlighted a few basic facts about Xi Jinping a couple years ago. I noted at the time that I'd heard very positive things about Xi Jinping from people in Xi'an, which is in Shaanxi Province where Xi spent a significant part of his youth and where his father is from. (Read his dad's Wikipedia page. Very prominent guy.)

The best thing I've read on Xi is from a Wikileaks cable from 2007. Fascinating stuff, this. Hearing Xi speak in an unadulterated fashion about the prosperity he oversaw in Zhejiang Province, China's income inequality, and his affinity for World War II films is only something Julian Assange could've provided the world.

Edit: Here is another longer profile on Xi from Reuters.

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

Why bar journalists from the home ??? I would have thought he would have actually encouraged coverage to counteract the common criticism of his being a princeling.

The power change is going to be one to watch. Only once before - the Hu Jintao succession - has it been peaceful. Because of the opacity surrounding the transfer, we hardly know the goings on. But if the transition wasn't smooth, there will be massive implications for China. As we know the disciplined facade of the Party, is just that. Human nature, being what it is, there's every chance of some rumblings and maybe even something more.