Born into the family of a former vice premier but tempered by hardships in the countryside, Xi Jinping made his way solidly from a village head to a state leader.
Xi, 54, was elected vice president of the People's Republic of China on Saturday, five months after he was promoted to the nine-member Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, the top decision-making body of the ruling party. His predecessor is 68-year-old Zeng Qinghong.
Outgoing Chinese Vice-President Zeng Qinghong (R) shakes hands with his successor Xi Jinping after Xi was elected vice-president of China during the fifth plenary meeting of the NPC session in Beijing, capital of China, March 15, 2008. (Xinhua Photo)
Xi also takes charge of Party affairs and the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, Hong Kong and Macao affairs, and a top-level leading group for the preparations of the Beijing Olympics and Paralymics.
Before coming to Zhongnanhai, the compound of the country's top leaders in downtown Beijing, in October last year, Xi had just reshaped the image of China's financial center of Shanghai as secretary of the city's Party Committee. A social security fund scandal had led to the downfall of the city's former Party chief Chen Liangyu and more than a dozen senior city officials and businessmen.
Xi pledged to be "a good student, a good civil servant and a good team leader" upon arrival in Shanghai in March last year and urged local officials to be stricter with themselves.
He also called on Shanghai people to be more open-minded, and increase cooperation and share achievements with other regions of the country, instead of just focusing on the development of their own city.
After seven months of hard work, Xi succeeded in not only maintaining stability in Shanghai but also polishing its tarnished image by bringing fresh flood into the city. Shanghai is now more open, harmonious and dynamic.
LOW PROFILE, SOLID STEPS
As son of Xi Zhongxun, a Communist revolutionary hero and former vice premier, Xi Jinping has, nevertheless, kept a low profile for decades.
He was sent to a remote mountain village in the northwestern province of Shaanxi when he was only 16 years old. He spent six years there, chopping hay, reaping wheat and shepherding in the daytime, and reading books in the dim light of a kerosene lamp while enduring the harassment of fleas at night. He was soon elected the village's Party branch secretary because of his prestige among the local people and enthusiasm for work. He was later recommended for the enrollment of Qinghua University.
After graduation from the Chemical Engineering Department of Qinghua in 1979, he became secretary of Geng Biao, the then vice premier and minister of national defense. But three years later, he decided to give up the comfortable life in Beijing and go down to the grassroots to be trained.
In the following two decades, Xi started as deputy secretary of the Party Committee in rural Zhengding County in Hebei Province, and gained more and more work experience in the country's affluentcoastal areas, including Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai Municipality.
"DO IT NOW"
Officials in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian Province, still remember Xi's order on working style in the 1990s when he worked as secretary of the city's Party Committee: Do it now.
Xi explained that "Do it now" requires not only a high work efficiency but also the quickest response to problems emerging from fierce competition. "Do it now" soon became a common practice of Fuzhou officials.
Xi worked in Fujian for as long as 17 years, being promoted from vice mayor of Xiamen in the mid-1980s to provincial governor in the early 2000s. During his tenure, Xi dedicated himself to building a service-oriented government, conserving the ecological environment and resources, and promoting cooperation with Taiwan across the Taiwan Straits.
Xi moved to Zhejiang in 2002, when the fast growing province was faced with a predicament -- the extensive economic growth mode could not support a sustainable development.
After thorough study of Zhejiang's actual conditions, Xi concluded that the province must start all over again with overall industrial restructuring. As secretary of the provincial Party Committee, Xi ordered local authorities to shut down or move away highly polluting and highly energy-consuming businesses, and join hands with neighboring Shanghai Municipality and Jiangsu Province to achieve a scientific and sustainable development. Zhejiang has secured its position as one of the wealthiest provinces in China with rapid economic growth.
In Zhejiang, Xi is also best remembered for arranging the timely evacuation of about 1 million people within just three days ahead of the landing of Typhoon Saomai in August 2006 -- the strongest typhoon that hit China in more than half a century, reducing casualties and property losses to the minimum.
Retired senior officials in Zhejiang spoke highly of Xi's performance after a long period of observation, saying that he is a man of action without making shows, an open-minded man with a down-to-earth style of work.
AFFECTIONS FOR COMMON FOLK
"Do more practical things for the common folk" is the goal Xi has pursued all along, sources close to him said.
Xi's affections for the common folk were believed to come from his six years of rural life. As a young man at that time, he lived with fellow villagers in the cave dwellings on the barren Loess Plateau in Shaanxi, doing hard farm work together and chatting with each other.
"Many of my practical ideas stem from the life during that period, which has influenced me every minute, even till today," Xi later recalled his experience in Shaanxi. "It's the most fundamental thing (for an official) to truly understand the common folk and society."
To learn more about the opinions of the general public in Zhejiang, he went to the markets of farm produce to inquire about stall owners' earnings, boarded fishing boats to listen to fishermen's domestic trivia, and visited coal mine workers in shafts hundreds of meters underground. His down-to-earth working style influenced his colleagues a lot.
During south China's snow havoc in January and February this year, Xi went to snow-hit villages in Guizhou Province to express sympathy to local residents and make sure that they could enjoy a safe and happy Spring Festival.
In addition to his affections for the common folk, Xi is well known for amicability.
During an inspection tour in Hebei Province in January this year, Xi paid a special visit to his old colleagues in Zhengding County. They later recalled that Xi is almost the same as what he was more than two decades ago -- still so amiable and easy going.
Xi's work experience at the General Office of the Central Military Commission in the late 1970s and early 1980s also gave him special affections for the army. In the subsequent years, wherever he worked, he would visit the troops stationed there. From 1988 to 1990 when he served as secretary of the CPC Ningde Prefectural Committee in Fujian, he was said to often join the soldiers in watching movies in open air at night.
Xi was married to Peng Liyuan, a renowned folk song singer in China, in 1987. The couple has a daughter. Source:Xinhua