PROFILE – China’s President Xi Jinping

China's President Xi Jinping speaks during a media briefing

China's President Xi Jinping speaks during a media briefing at the presidential guest house in Pretoria on 26 March 2013. Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

By Ben Blanchard | Reuters

ON THE WEB, 28 March 2013

Position: President of the People’s Republic of China

Incumbent: Xi Jinping

Date of birth: June 1953

Term: March 2013 to March 2023.

Key Facts:

  • As leader of the most populous country on earth, Xi took up his post as president in 2013 in the second planned, orderly transition since the Communist revolution in 1949. As the chosen heir to his predecessor Hu Jintao, Xi assumed the title of Communist Party chief — where real power lies — in November 2012.
  • In contrast to the stiff and formal Hu, Xi has crafted a more relaxed, sometimes bluff political style. He has complained of officials’ speeches and writings being clogged with party jargon and demanded more plain speaking.
  • Xi is the son of reformist former vice premier and parliament vice-chairman Xi Zhongxun, making him a “princeling” — one of the privileged sons and daughters of China’s incumbent, retired or late leaders. He grew up among the party elite and then watched his father purged from power before the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when Xi himself spent years in the poverty-stricken countryside before going to university. He studied chemical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing, an elite school where Hu also studied. Xi later gained a degree in Marxist theory from Tsinghua and a doctorate in law.
  • Xi shot to fame in the early 1980s as party boss of a rural county in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing. He had rare access to then national party chief Hu Yaobang in the leadership compound, Zhongnanhai, west of the Forbidden City. A native of the remote, inland province of Shaanxi, home of the terracotta warriors, Xi was promoted to governor of the southeastern province of Fujian in August 1999 after a string of provincial officials were caught up in a graft dragnet. In March 2007, the tall and portly Xi secured the top job in China’s commercial capital, Shanghai, when his predecessor, Chen Liangyu, was caught up in another huge corruption case. Seven months later, Xi was promoted to the party’s Standing Committee — the ruling inner-circle.
  • Married to famous singer Peng Liyuan, Xi has waged a campaign against corruption and excess since assuming office, responding to widespread public anger that party members are both above the law and wasteful. He has warned the party’s very existence is under threat from pervasive graft.

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