The low-key princeling

Tags: Opinion
The east is red, the sun rises.

From China arises a new leader. He strives for the people’s happiness; hurrah! he is the great saviour! Whatever the song said, it definitely gives a few intriguing hints about the man who will be the torchbearer of China’s Communist Party. On Thursday, the Great Hall of the People, situated beside Tiananmen Square, was bustling with people and politburo members. As the hour approached, and the countdown of numbers began, the expectant eyes craned over their shoulders to spot something precious. The people there could have been ushering in a new year or even welcoming a rock star, but it was far from that. They welcomed Xi Jinping, who formally took over from Hu Jintao as the next general secretary.

To be precise: Xi Jinping is the next President of China. He would lead the world’s second-biggest economy and deal with problems ranging from corruption to economic uncertainty. Xi will be steering China for at least the next five years with a team comprising English-speaking, suave next premier Li Keqiang and North Korea-trained economist Zhang Dejiang. The ruling Communist Party unveiled a new leadership line-up consisting of conservatives and respected financial reformers. The 59-year-old Jinping is a striking contrast to his predecessor, Jintao. While Jintao is reserved and low key, Jinping is more open and accessible. Jinping cuts a more striking personality with a six-foot height and confident demeanour. According to political experts, he is a more instinctive and gut-driven politician. In his first acceptance speech, he said, “Inside the party, there are many problems that need be addressed, especially the problems among party members and officials of corruption and taking bribes, being out of touch with the people, undue emphasis on formalities and bureaucracy and other issues,” Jinping said.

He also pledged to improve citizens’ lives, including offering “better schooling, more stable jobs, more satisfying incomes, more reliable social security, higher levels of healthcare, more comfortable housing conditions and a more beautiful environment,” so they can “look forward to their children growing up in better circumstances, finding better work and living in better conditions.”

“People’s striving for a better life is the goal we are struggling for,” he added.

Jinping reiterated the truth about China that is no less startling for being demonstrated time and again: “But we are not complacent, and we will never rest on our laurels. Under the new conditions, our party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities and bureaucratism caused by some party officials.”

Jinping was born in 1953, to Xi Zhongxun, a revolutionary hero who later became a vice-premier, and Qi Xin. He was later appointed the party chief of the neighbouring Zhejiang province, and then appointed Shanghai’s party chief following the dismissal of Chen Liangyu. Jinping studied chemical engineering at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University. He first married Ke Lingling, the daughter of Ke Hua, an ambassador to Britain in the early 1980s, which soon ended in divorce. He married the famous Chinese folk singer Peng Liyuan in 1987.

Media describes Jinping as ‘pragmatic, serious, cautious, hard-working, down-to-earth and low key.’ He is understood to be good at problem-solving and “seemingly uninterested in the trappings of high office.” He is also known to love Hollywood films such as Saving Private Ryan and The Departed.

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