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.”
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.