MEANWHILE, TODAY IN CHINA
After the hoopla yesterday of the American Presidential election, today brings the quiet, almost secretive ascension of a new Chinese President.
China is about to get a new leader and two thirds of the country’s top decision makers will be replaced. Big news as we push harder and deeper into the Asia Century.
Today at the 18th National Congress in Beijing, 2,000 hand picked delegates representing more than 82 million members of the Chinese Communist Party, will get the show started when they select 200 people for the Central Committee.
These Central Committee members will then choose 25 members of the Politburo – the highest organ of power in China. They’ll also pick who will sit on the Politburo Standing Committee, led by the General Secretary.
That will make him the most powerful man in China.
So who is Xi and how did he get to this point?
It helps to be ”of the party” and Xi, young at 59, is certainly this. His background is fascinating and speaks to what he might bring to the job.
His father Xi Zhonxun was a revolutionary general, amongst the first generation of leaders of the Peoples Republic. He was vice premiere until he fell from grace and was thrown into jail. When he was rehabilitated after the Cultural Revolution, he was appointed Governor and political commissar of the Guangdong Military region, where he began a process of economic liberalization which no doubt influenced the son.
But another influence in the young Xi’s life was his time in the Chinese countryside where he was sent during his father’s imprisonment. He said “much of my pragmatic thinking took root back then, and still exerts a constant influence on me.”
He has described the hardships he faced, and how he chose to ensure his survival by becoming, as one academic put it, “redder than red”.
When he returned to Beijing, Xi turned to the giver of all good – the communist party, and after studying chemical engineering, it appointed him to an important post with a powerful military leader. Indeed Xi’s links to and understanding of the Chinese military are said, as a result, to be far deeper than Hu’s were when he ascended to the top post.
It was as an official in the Hebei province that Xi first went on a state visit to the United States. This, presumably, gave him his love of basketball and American war movies, not to mention an appreciation of the merits of western education: his daughter studies at Harvard University.
But Xi had ambitions beyond the provinces. Next up, in 2007, was the top job in Shanghai where he “courted investors and built up business, proving willing to adopt new ideas.”
Within 6 months, he was elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee and a mere three years later he was vice chair of the central military commission.
As the man-in-charge of preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Xi won even more praise. Logistically, the Games worked smoothly. There were no riots or terrorist incidents. Xi made Beijing shine when Beijing wanted and needed to shine.
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