Xi Jinping’s rise to power in China was an event that many foresaw in the years preceding his election as the President of China. Still, few could have foretold the central role that he now plays within China, and on its behalf on the world stage. His designation as the “leadership core” in 2016, a title that only two other leaders since Mao Tse Tung had earned, is testament to his stature within China.
The son of Zhi Zhongxun, who was a close ally of Mao Tse Tung and a former deputy prime minister of China, the young Xi Jinping has never been a stranger to the corridors of power. However, there is great irony in the fact that it was not his proximity to Beijing’s elite, but rather his years spent doing hard labour in an agricultural commune in rural China that later built his credibility within the communist party.
The cultural revolution of 1966 had seen Xi’s father come to odds with the party leadership, and the “princeling” Xi was sent off to the rural Shaanxi region. It was during these formative years that he found himself in poverty, lived in a cave home that was dug into a hillside, and forged his bond with the Chinese everyman by living the very same life as him.
These are facts he has often referred to in his speeches and interviews. Soon after graduating from Tsinghua University in 1979, Xi began working as the former Defence minister’s secretary at the Central Military Commission. This was the first of many positions that Xi held within the CCP before his career saw him move around the country in various capacities.
The most arduous task for achieving a well-off society in an all-around way lies in the rural areas, especially the impoverished ones. – President Xi Jinping
He gradually rose through the ranks of the party, notably serving as the Party Secretary of the Zhejiang province from 2003 to 2007. The Zhejiang province is often referred to as the economic backbone of China due to its pivotal role in national industry, and It was here that Xi earned the trust of many key figures by fostering a pro-business atmosphere that also took the increasingly valid concerns of sustainable development into account.
In 2007, he was appointed Shanghai’s party secretary and was soon elevated to the standing committee of the Politburo. It was from then onwards that Xi started to become a widely recognized figure; between then and his election as president in 2013, Xi shuffled various crucial assignments in the upper echelons of the Chinese bureaucracy that clearly established him as the heir-apparent of President Hu Jintao.
Upon assuming power, Xi vowed to spearhead an aggressive and indiscriminate campaign against corruption and waste that targeted officials at every level within the CCP. There have since been actions of varying intensity against up to an estimated 1 million officials.
On the economic front, Xi’s government announced early on that market forces would now play a greater role in resource allocation as they attempted to breathe fresh life into the continuous development agenda of China. On the international stage, Xi’s China is decidedly more confident than its predecessors; it is more assertive in the South China sea, in responding to Trump’s trade war, and most recently to Indian transgressions in Ladakh.