Xi Jinping: Man of the People

Party’s top leader has developed a deep understanding of the public’s needs and vows to improve conditions in future.

It was a pleasant early December morning in a verdant park in Shenzhen, in South China’s Guangdong province. Early risers carrying on their usual morning exercise did not expect to see a big name.
Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan in September 1989.

The park was not cordoned off. There was no red carpet nor were there people waving welcoming banners.

A middle-aged man in a dark suit and white shirt without a tie, laid a wreath at the park’s statue of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Then he walked into the surrounding crowd and began a casual chat.

The visitor was Xi Jinping, the newly elected general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the nation’s top political leader.

During his visit to Guangdong, Xi called on the entire Party and people from all ethnic groups to unswervingly adhere to the path of reform and opening-up and put greater focus on pursuing reform in a more systematic, integrated and coordinated way. Xi vowed to continue reform, and no stop in opening-up.

In his first visit outside Beijing as the top CPC leader, Xi went to Guangdong, the forefront of China’s reform and opening-up, following the route Deng had toured 20 years ago when the country was at a crossroad.

Media reports remarked that Xi is a leader who brings a fresh breeze to the country’s political life, unswervingly pushes forward reform and opening-up and is beginning to lead the Chinese nation in realizing the China Dream.

Xi, 59, who was elected to his new role at the first plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee on Nov 15, is the first top Party leader born after 1949, the year the People’s Republic of China was founded.

He now leads the 91-year-old CPC, the world’s largest political party, with more than 82 million members, as it rules China, the world’s second-largest economy.

The whole country and the world have their eyes on Xi:

What will he do to lead the CPC to better serve the people?

What will he do to lead China’s 1.3 billion people to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC in 2021? Furthermore, what will he do to lead the people to achieve the goal of building an affluent, strong, democratic, civilized and harmonious modern socialist country by the time the PRC marks its centennial in 2049?

What will he do to lead the country to make its contribution to world peace and development?

As he met the press on that November day when the new leadership was formed, Xi summed up the CPC’s mission as comprising three responsibilities – to the nation, the people and the Party.

Advocate of China Dream

‘The people’s longing for a good life is what we are fighting for,” Xi said in his first public speech as general secretary on Nov 15.

Shortly after taking office, Xi and the other six members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, China’s top political authority, visited the exhibition The Road Toward Renewal at the National Museum of China. The comprehensive display illustrates the huge challenges China has surmounted on the road to national revival since 1840.

“Nowadays, everyone is talking about the China Dream,” he said. “In my view, realizing the great renewal of the Chinese nation is the Chinese nation’s greatest dream in modern history.”

To achieve this sacred goal, Xi has clarified his positions on various aspects of the country’s development.

On the country’s economic development, Xi opposes blindly focusing on growth and upholds the principle of scientific development, which seeks sustainability in terms of both resources and the environment.

On political development, he stresses the idea that all power belongs to the people, and he calls for active and steady political reform while adhering to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. He also stresses the rule of law and exercising state power according to the Constitution.

On cultural development, he highlights developing human talent and fostering a Chinese national spirit, especially as typified by the words of the national anthem: “We will use our flesh and blood to build our new Great Wall.”

On social development, he proposes continuous efforts to safeguard and improve people’s lives through economic development. He also supports building a harmonious society and realizing a good life for the people based on hard work, while taking into consideration the country’s practical circumstances.

On ecological progress, he emphasizes a national strategy of resource conservation and environmental protection and a sustainable pattern of development.

From the Loess Plateau to the southeast coast, from localities to the central leadership, Xi has had a well-rounded political career and has developed a deep understanding of the conditions of his country and people.

In 2007, he was promoted to the nine-member Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the 17th CPC Central Committee, after working for decades in various locations, including Shanghai Municipality and the provinces of Shaanxi, Hebei, Fujian and Zhejiang, as well as serving the army.

He served concurrently as a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and as president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee. In 2008, he was elected the country’s vice-president.

Over the past five years, he has participated in the creation of major policies for the Party and the country, and has gained rich leadership experience in all respects.

During that time, Xi was in charge of Party affairs and attached great importance to Party building. He reiterated that the Party must police itself with strict standards as well as listen to the call of ordinary people.

Beginning in 2008, he worked intensively on the campaign to study and implement the Scientific Outlook on Development. The year-and-a-half campaign further made the Scientific Outlook on Development a consensus of the whole Party and country and a driving force for economic and social development.

He also led a group of officials in drafting the 17th CPC Central Committee’s report to the 18th CPC National Congress and the amendment to the CPC Constitution, which were adopted at the congress and have become important guidelines for China’s future.

Xi has had a connection with the armed forces since his early days. After graduating from university, he worked at the General Office of the Central Military Commission for three years, a job that deepened his affection for the army.

In the following years, he served concurrently as Party chief for military sub-areas in addition to holding his Party and government titles. He became familiar with grassroots military affairs.

He became the Central Military Commission vice-chairman in 2010 and was named CMC chairman at the first plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee in November 2012.

Xi is also familiar with work related to Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. His 17 years in Fujian gave him a deep understanding of Taiwan and enterprises from Taiwan. The first Taiwan chamber of commerce on the mainland was established in Xiamen when he worked in Fujian. He solved many problems for Taiwan compatriots and has been seen as a good friend by many of them.

As a top leader in charge of Hong Kong and Macao affairs, Xi helped work out a number of important policies on the long-term stability and prosperity of the two special administrative regions.

In 2008 and 2009, when Hong Kong and Macao were seriously affected by the international financial crisis, Xi visited the cities to show his support.

In 2008, Xi was also tasked with heading up preparations for the much-anticipated 2008 Olympic Games and the subsequent Paralympics, both in Beijing, playing a key role in China’s hosting of these high-standard events with distinctive features.

Man of the people

Xi has expressed his deep feelings for the people on many occasions, saying for example, “How important the people are in the minds of an official will determine how important officials are in the minds of the people.” His love of the people stems from his unique upbringing.

A son of Xi Zhongxun, a Communist revolutionary and former vice-premier, Xi Jinping did not live in comfort as a boy.

Beginning in 1962, when his father was wronged and fell in disgrace, Xi experienced tough times. During the “cultural revolution” (1966-76), he suffered public humiliation and hunger, experienced homelessness and was even held in custody once.

At the age of 16, he volunteered to live in a small village in northwest China’s Shaanxi province as an “educated youth”.

That area, part of the Loess Plateau, was where the Communist revolutionaries, including his father, rose to found New China.

Life there was tough for an urban youth. In the beginning, fleas troubled him so badly he could not even fall asleep. In the Shaanxi countryside, he had to do all sorts of harsh labor, such as carrying manure, hauling a coal cart, farming and building water tanks.

As time passed, tough work became easy. Xi became a hardworking, capable young man in the villagers’ eyes. By gaining their trust, he was elected village Party chief.

He led the farmers to reinforce the riverbank in a bid to prevent erosion, organized a small cooperative of blacksmiths in the village, and built a methane tank, the first in landlocked Shaanxi.

He was once awarded a motorized tricycle after being named a “model educated youth”. However, he exchanged the tricycle for a walking tractor, a flour-milling machine and farm tools to benefit the villagers.

Although he was not in school, Xi never stopped reading. He brought a case of books to the village and was always “reading books as thick as bricks”, the villagers of Liangjiahe recalled.

He formed close ties with the villagers during his seven years in the province. After he was recommended for enrollment at Tsinghua University in 1975, all the villagers lined up to bid him farewell, and a dozen young men walked more than 30 kilometers to take him to the county seat for his trip back to Beijing.

Xi has never forgotten the folks in the Shaanxi village. Even after he left, he helped the village get access to power, build a bridge and renovate a primary school. When he was Party chief of Fuzhou, he returned to the village, going door to door to visit people. He gave elderly villagers pocket money and schoolchildren new schoolbags, school supplies and alarm clocks. When a farmer friend got sick, Xi, then a senior provincial official of Fujian, at his own expense, brought him to Fujian for better medical treatment.

Years of toiling alongside villagers allowed him to get to know the countryside and farmers well. Xi has said that the two groups of people who have given him the greatest help in his life are the older revolutionary generation and the folks in the Shaanxi village where he lived.

He arrived in the village as a slightly lost teenager and left as a 22-year-old man determined to do something for the people.

Xi’s affection for the common people influenced him as he made a number of critical decisions. In the 1980s, when many of his contemporaries were going into business or leaving to study abroad, Xi gave up a comfortable office job in Beijing and went to work as deputy Party chief of a small county in North China’s Hebei province. Later he became Party chief of Ningde prefecture in East China’s Fujian province, one of the poorest regions at the time.

The people weigh most in Xi’s heart and grassroots units are where he pays most visits.

In Ningde, he sometimes traveled for days on the mountain roads to reach the farthest corner of the prefecture. The roads were so bumpy that he often had to take a break to recover from back pain before arriving at destinations. He once walked nearly five hours on a rugged mountain road to get to a township called Xiadang, which was not accessible by highway, and received the most passionate welcome from the residents, who said Xi was “the highest-ranking official who has come to the village”.

He also helped thousands of farmers in Ningde renovate dilapidated thatched huts and guided fishermen to live better lives on the land.

When working as Party chief of Fuzhou, capital of Fujian, he took the lead in the country in establishing a mechanism for officials to meet with petitioners face to face. He introduced the same mechanism in places where he later served.

Once he and other senior officials in Fuzhou met with more than 700 petitioners in two days.

While working in East China’s Zhejiang province, he went down into a coal mine nearly 1,000 meters underground and walked more than 1,500 meters along a narrow and inclined shaft to visit miners and see their working conditions before Spring Festival in 2005.

Xi attaches importance to communication with the people via the news media. He wrote a popular column for Zhejiang Daily, using the pen name Zhexin. In his 232 columns, he discussed everyday problems of interest to the common people.

As mild a person as Xi is, he is very tough in policing officials and preventing them from harming the interests of the common people. In an investigation into illegal housing construction by officials in Ningde, he grew angry and pounded the table, saying, “Shall we offend hundreds of officials, or shall we fail millions of people?” Also, a number of officials in Zhejiang were punished during his tenure of leadership for failing to fulfill their duties.

His work style earned him the nickname “secretary of the people”.

“Officials should love the people in the way they love their parents, work for their benefit and lead them to prosperity,” Xi said.

Leader with foresight

On several recent occasions, Xi showed a strong sense of responsibility toward the future of the nation and declared his determination to push forward reform and opening-up.

Throughout his political career, people have seen his foresight and resolve as well as his willingness to sacrifice personal gain and one-time fame for a bigger cause.

While working in Xiamen, a coastal city in Fujian, he took charge of drafting a development plan for the city from 1985 to 2000 and lobbied for preferential policies from the central government, both of which benefited the city long after he left the province.

When working in Zhengding, Hebei province, he saw potential business opportunities when he learned that the crew of The Dream of Red Mansions, a popular novel-turned-TV drama, was looking for a filming location.

He then proposed building in Zhengding a large residential compound featured within the novel. The compound, which was used by the TV crew, later became a tourist attraction. Tourist income from the compound exceeded 10 million yuan the year it was completed, paying back more than the investment. The compound has been used as the set for more than 170 movies and TV dramas, and visited by up to 1.3 million tourists every year.

In Fuzhou, after intense deliberation and discussion, he and his colleagues devised a strategic development plan for the city for the coming three, eight and 20 years. All the main targets set by the plan were achieved years ago, and a number of enterprises that were set up or brought to Fuzhou when Xi served there remain the industry leaders, playing a significant role in the city’s development over the past two decades.

Working as Fujian governor, he was the first in the country to launch a campaign to crack down on food contamination.

In 1999, he first put forward the idea of improving IT infrastructure and introducing information technology to help the public. Fujian had been the only province in China where all hospitals were linked by computer networks and shared digital medical records by 2010.

In 2002, Fujian launched the reform of the collective forest property right system, becoming the first in the country.

During Xi’s tenure, Fujian was among the first provinces in China to adopt special policies to restore ecological balance and protect the environment. This has made Fujian the province with the best water and air quality as well as the best ecology and environment in the country.

After his transfer to Zhejiang province in 2002, Xi put forward numerous development targets for the economy, public security, culture, the environment and the rule of law.

He initiated local industrial restructuring, transforming the province’s extensive, less-efficient growth pattern, and encouraged quality enterprises from outside the province to invest in Zhejiang.

In addition, he proposed a development mode that would give equal weight to both manufacturing and commerce, a mode based on Zhejiang’s own conditions. He also supported enterprises’ efforts to expand overseas and supported start-ups by ordinary citizens.

At the same time, he encouraged more cooperation among Zhejiang, neighboring Shanghai Municipality and Jiangsu province in order to tap their potential as an integrated economic powerhouse.

In 2004, under Xi’s leadership, Zhejiang made an attempt to improve grassroots democracy. Villages there set up resident committees to supervise the village Party committee and administrative committee on public affairs, a move that received a positive response from the public.

Village supervision committees, which sprang from the Zhejiang model, were later introduced in an amendment to the Organic Law of Villagers’ Committees in 2010 by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the top Chinese legislature.

Shanghai was Xi’s last local post before he was promoted to the central leadership. Despite a relatively short term in the country’s financial hub, he left his mark by promoting the economic integration of the Yangtze River Delta and enhancing Shanghai’s leading role in the region.

Xi added “enlightened, sagacious, open-minded and modest” to the official wording of the Shanghai Spirit slogan, which previously had just read “inclusive and sublime”. The Shanghai Spirit was intended to capture the essence of the city. Media in Shanghai remarked that these additions helped present Shanghai to the rest of the world in a deeper, more thoughtful way. These changes were also noticed by people outside Shanghai.

Being in front ranks requires solid work

‘Making empty talk is harmful to the nation, while doing practical work can help it thrive,” Xi said during a visit to The Road Toward Renewal exhibition in Beijing on the 15th day after his election as the CPC’s new helmsman.

To put “practical work” in place, Xi presided over a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, the Party’s ruling authority, which adopted eight measures to improve Party work style and tighten the bond with the people. The measures include more meetings with the people, traveling light with a small entourage and using fewer traffic controls, shortening meetings and speeches. The new measures have earned acclaim both at home and abroad.

“Only solid work ensures that one will take the lead,” Xi has said. He has demanded concrete efforts to tackle issues the people care about most. He believes that without implementation, the best blueprint will be nothing more than a castle in the sky.

When he served in Zhengding county, Xi said that developing human resources was the key to shaking off poverty and backwardness in the county. He attended to the job himself by inviting professionals to the county and drawing up recruitment advertisements for talented personnel from across the country.

In the winter of 1983, he traveled to the provincial capital of Shijiazhuang to invite a cosmetics expert to work in Zhengding. Without a detailed address for the expert, he went door to door asking where the expert lived and finally found him at night after yelling his name near his home. Xi and the expert talked until midnight, and Xi finally persuaded the man to work in Zhengding. The expert later created more than 300,000 yuan in revenue for the county within the first year.

In the same year, Xi decided to publish nine ways for recruiting talented personnel, something that was rare at the time and became a front-page story in Hebei Daily. He wrote more than 100 letters to experts and scholars, as well as colleges and research institutions, and paid visits to dozens of experts. Within two years, Zhengding attracted 683 talented personnel and hired 53 well-known experts as economic counselors.

Xi, together with his colleague Lu Yulan, then deputy Party chief of Zhengding, despite heavy pressure, told superior authorities about the excessive burden faced by the county due to compulsory grain purchases. The issue was eventually resolved.

In Ningde, Xi was also practical and realistic. He pooled resources to implement aquaculture of the large yellow croaker, a local specialty, and greatly increased the income of local farmers.

He also ordered Party and government offices to make things convenient for the people. When serving in Fuzhou, he advocated the principle of “special procedures for special issues, and do things now” to make the government more efficient. This principle was attractive to numerous Taiwan enterprises and helped boost the local economy. He also proposed the compilation of two handbooks on government procedures for residents and overseas businesspeople.

In 2000, Xi initiated a move across Fujian to make the government more efficient. He proposed changes in government functions and procedures to reduce the number of matters that require government approval. By the end of 2001, the number was reduced by 40.4 percent, or 606 items.

In 2001, Fujian became the first province in China to enact a policy making government affairs public.

In August 2002, Xi published an article in a major newspaper on “The Experience of Jinjiang”, which emphasized the importance of the private economy in the development of the county. Also in 2002, he published an article on Nanping City’s effort to send officials to work in villages. The practice of Nanping was later introduced all over the province, thus enhancing ties between officials and farmers and making officials more oriented toward grassroots achievement.

In Zhejiang, Xi stressed provincial development in the fields of public security, the environment, culture, the rule of law and the marine economy.

To achieve these goals, he made an individual case study in addition to making overall arrangements. In order to know how the localities were affected by provincial policies, he went five times to a less developed mountain village called Xiajiang within less than two years.

He paid special attention to the marine economy. In December 2002, he put forward the goal of building Zhejiang into a province with a strong marine economy, followed by guidelines and plans to realize this goal. The marine economy in Zhejiang has since developed quickly, with annual growth of 19.3 percent. It accounted for nearly 8 percent of the Zhejiang economy in 2005.

He pushed for the integration of Ningbo and Zhoushan harbors. In 2006, Ningbo-Zhoushan harbor had 420 million metric tons of cargo throughput, ranking second in China and among the world’s top three.

He also pushed for the construction of Hangzhou Bay Bridge, an icon of cross-sea bridges in China and once the world’s longest cross-sea bridge.

In 2003, Xi proposed that rural communities should be more like urban communities, and efforts should be made to reduce the urban-rural gap in quality of life.

Zhejiang had realized the development targets one by one during Xi’s tenure. The province had the highest rating in ecology and the environment among all provincial-level regions in 2005. In 2006, 94.77 percent of the people were satisfied with the province’s public security, making Zhejiang one of the safest provinces in the country.

When Xi was in Zhejiang, the province’s GDP exceeded 1 trillion yuan ($160.37 billion) in 2004, GDP per capita exceeded $3,000 in 2005 and stood at nearly $4,000 in 2006. The province ranked fourth in sustainable development in 2006, after Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin.

Furthermore, all the province’s poverty-stricken counties and townships shook off poverty during the period.

In 2007, Xi was appointed secretary of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Committee.

Within a month of his appointment, Xi conducted research on the people’s livelihood, development, the Shanghai World Expo and the fight against corruption. The ninth Shanghai municipal congress of the CPC was successfully held, which invigorated local officials, rebuilt Shanghai’s image and set forth a blueprint for Shanghai for the next five years.

Xi has said that a county Party chief should visit all the villages within the county, a city Party chief all the townships and a provincial Party chief all the counties and cities.

He visited all the villages in Zhengding. In Ningde, he visited nine counties within the first three months and traveled to most townships later on. After he was transferred to Zhejiang in 2002, he visited all 90 counties in just over a year. During his tenure in Shanghai, he visited all 19 districts and counties in seven months. After he came to work in the central authority, he visited all the 31 provinces, regions and municipalities on the mainland.

Statesman aiming for a better world

During a recent meeting with foreign experts working in China, Xi said that China, as a responsible country, will not only manage its own affairs, but also properly handle its relations with the rest of the world, so as to foster a more favorable external environment and make a greater contribution to world peace and development.

“China needs to know more about the world, and the world also needs to know more about China,” Xi said. Whether working at the local level or in the central leadership, Xi attaches great importance to international exchanges and making foreign friends. He has taken every opportunity to meet foreign guests visiting China.

Within the past five years, he traveled to more than 40 countries and regions across five continents and has had extensive contact with people from all walks of life. He frankly and honestly introduces to foreign friends how the Chinese people view their own country and the world, and is always willing to listen to them as well. In the eyes of many foreign dignitaries, Xi is a confident, sagacious and amicable leader.

He often tells foreign friends that the international community has increasingly become an integrated one with a common destiny. China’s continuous rapid development depends on world peace and development. It also provides an opportunity and room for other countries, so together they may achieve win-win results and common development through mutual respect and pragmatic cooperation.

At the World Peace Forum organized by Tsinghua University in July, Xi noted that a country must let others develop as it seeks its own development; must let others feel secure as it seeks its own security; must let others live better when it wants to live better itself. In a meeting with Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, Xi said not all strong countries will seek hegemony. China will stick to the path of peaceful development, a win-win strategy of opening up and the pledge of never seeking hegemony, now or in any future generation.

Xi’s foreign visits have sent out signals that countries should work together to establish a more equal and balanced global partnership so as to safeguard the common interests of all human beings and make the world a better place.

During his five-day visit to the United States, Xi participated in 27 events and engaged in exchange with US politicians and the public alike. “As long as the Chinese and US grasp the thread of common interests, they can explore a path of new partnership for major powers to live in harmony, engage in positive interaction and achieve win-win cooperation.” His remarks elicited positive feedback from many in the U.S.

In a recent meeting with former US president Jimmy Carter, Xi called for more “positive energy” for the China-US partnership.

During his visit to Russia, Xi showed the strong importance China attaches to developing bilateral relations. The Sino-Russian strategic partnership of coordination has become the closest, most dynamic and most profound between major powers, and developing relations with Russia is always a priority of China’s foreign relations. Xi attended the second meeting of the dialogue mechanism between the Chinese and Russian ruling parties, and had extensive and in-depth discussions with leaders of various parties in Russia, further enriching Sino-Russia relations.

Xi highly values relations with developing countries. He has said consolidating and developing relations with developing countries is the starting point and object of China’s foreign policy.

In South Africa, Xi attended the fourth plenary session of the China-South Africa Binational Commission, looking forward, together with South Africa, to a bright future of bilateral cooperation.

In a speech delivered at a seminar marking the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Xi underscored China’s friendship with Africa, emphasizing that “a friend in need is a friend indeed”.

In Saudi Arabia, he said a more prosperous and open China will bring great development opportunities to the Middle East and countries in the Gulf.

In Chile, he proposed that China and Latin America should be good partners in the fields of politics, economics, culture and international affairs, when speaking of the relationship over the next decade.

Xi has been pragmatic and efficient on the international stage. In the course of only one day, while attending the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy, Xi exchanged ideas with leaders from more than 20 countries and international organizations. During his visit to Germany and four other European countries, Xi attended five signing ceremonies for economic and trade agreements, six economic and trade forums and pushed for the signing of 93 cooperation agreements involving a total of $7.4 billion.

Xi has also emphasized the role of cultural exchanges in building a harmonious world. When addressing the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2009, he said that through exchanges between different cultures, people from different countries have come to know Confucius from China, Goethe from Germany and Shakespeare from Britain. Pushing forward world cultural exchange creates important momentum for human progress and the world’s peaceful development.

During his visit to Russia, he launched the “Year of Chinese Language” in Russia, side by side with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. He said in his address, “Culture is enriched, hearts are linked up and friendship is deepened through exchange”.

Xi is good at drawing wisdom from Chinese culture and presenting ideas clearly in a straightforward and humorous way. During his US visit, he borrowed a line from the theme song of the popular Chinese TV drama Monkey King to ease the gravity of the bilateral issue. “The road is right under our feet,” he said when describing the “unprecedented” relations between China and the US, displaying the confidence and courage of Chinese leaders.

When facing questions about China’s human rights situation, he said there is “no best, only better”. Xi said every country’s condition is different and path is different. “Whether the shoe fits or not, only the wearer of the shoe knows.”

Amity between people is the key to sound relations between states. Xi has said the level of state-to-state friendship depends on amity between people. He has humorously said to foreign ministry officials on diplomatic trips that life lies in motion and diplomacy lies in activity. In other words, diplomats should travel widely and make friends broadly and deeply.

During his visit to Laos, he specially arranged a meeting with children of the late Lao leader Quinim Pholsena. Xi joined several children of Pholsena, who had lived and studied in Beijing, in recalling their days at Beijing’s Bayi School. He even remembered the nickname “Chubby Boy” for Pholsena’s second son.

During his US visit, Xi traveled to Iowa to join a dozen of his old acquaintances for tea and conversation at a house in an Iowa farm community. Most of the people at the gathering were friends Xi had made during a 1985 visit to Iowa as a member of an agricultural research delegation.

In Russia, he visited a children’s center that had cared for Chinese students who were affected by the devastating Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, and expressed his gratitude to the staff.

He kicked a Gaelic football in Dublin’s Croke Park when visiting Ireland and watched an NBA game in the US. The media described both activities as evidence of his amicable image.

“He succeeded in not only demonstrating his personal manner and bearing, but also the charm of China’s economic development and social progress,” an overseas media outlet remarked.

Son of revolutionary family, caring husband

Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun, was a Party and State leader. The senior Xi served as chairman of the Shaan-Gan Border Region, a CPC revolutionary base of the 1930s, and was called by Mao Zedong a “leader of the people”.

Xi Zhongxun had suffered political persecution for 16 years beginning in 1962. However, he never gave in to adversity and ultimately helped clear the names of other people who were persecuted. After the end of the “cultural revolution”, he served as Party chief in Guangdong, the forefront of China’s reform and opening-up drive, making important contributions to the establishment of special economic zones in the province and their rapid development.

Xi’s mother Qi Xin, who is nearly 90 years old, is also a veteran cadre and Party member. As a filial son, Xi takes walks and chats with his mother, holding her hand, after he finds time to dine with her.

The Xi family has a tradition of being strict with children and living a simple life. Xi Zhongxun believed if a senior Party official wanted to discipline others, he should begin first with himself and his family. Xi Jinping and his younger brother used to wear clothes and shoes handed down from their older sisters. After Xi Jinping became a leading official, his mother called a family meeting to ban the siblings from engaging in business where Xi Jinping worked.

Xi Jinping has carried on his family’s tradition and has been strict with family members. Wherever he worked, he told the family members not to do business there or do anything in his name, or else he “would be ruthless”. Whether in Fujian, Zhejiang or Shanghai, he pledged at official meetings that no one was allowed to seek personal benefit using his name and welcomed supervision in this regard.

Xi married Peng Liyuan, a renowned and well-liked soprano and opera singer. In 1980, Peng, on behalf of the Shandong provincial delegation, caused quite a stir while attending a national art performance in Beijing.

She was the first in China to obtain a master’s degree in national vocal music. She is a representative figure of national vocal music and one of the founders of the school of national vocal music.

Her most famous works include On the Plains of Hope, People from Our Village, and We Are Yellow River and Taishan Mountain.

She was the winner of many top awards at national vocal music contests. She played the leading roles in the Chinese national operas The White-Haired Girl and Mulan, among others. She also won the highest theatrical award in China, the Plum Blossom Prize, and the highest performance art award, the Wenhua Prize.

Peng has attributed her accomplishments to the people and said she should contribute all her talent to the people. Over the past 30-plus years, she has given hundreds of free performances for people from all walks of life across the country as an expression of gratitude or appreciation. These included performances in impoverished mountain areas, coastal areas, oilfields, mines and barracks, as well as in deserts and the snowy plateau. She also performed in Wenchuan after the devastating earthquake in 2008, in Beijing’s Xiaotangshan after the SARS outbreak and in flood-hit Jiujiang in Jiangxi province.

To better introduce Chinese national vocal music and national opera to the world, Peng took the lead to perform a solo concert in Singapore in 1993. She has also performed in more than 50 countries and regions representing China, becoming a world-famous cultural ambassador for China.

She produced and played the leading role in the opera Mulan, which was performed at New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and at the Vienna State Opera House in Austria.

Peng is currently shifting her focus from performance to education, aiming to nurture more talented people and produce more masterpieces.

Peng is very much committed to charitable work. She is a WHO goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, a national AIDS prevention advocate and an ambassador for the prevention of juvenile delinquency and for tobacco control. At a recent World AIDS Day activity to raise awareness about AIDS, she was called “Mama Peng” by AIDS orphans.

Xi and Peng fell in love at first sight in 1986 and got married the same year. Although they were often separated due to work, they have understood and supported each other and continuously shown concern for each other.

As a member of the People’s Liberation Army, Peng was often tasked with staging performances in remote areas. These tours sometimes kept her on the road for two to three months at a time. Being concerned about his wife, Xi would phone her before bedtime almost every night, no matter how late it was.

On Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve, Peng would often perform in the Spring Festival Gala presented by the China Central Television. Xi would make dumplings while watching the show and wait for her return to begin cooking the family feast.

In the eyes of Peng, Xi is a good husband and father. She always shows care and consideration for him. Peng takes every opportunity to get together with her husband, cooking for him dishes of different styles.

In Peng’s eyes, Xi is both different from anybody else and also an average person. He favors homemade cooking in the Shaanxi and Shandong cuisines, and also drinks a bit during parties with friends. He likes swimming, mountaineering and watching basketball, football and boxing matches. Sometimes he stays up late to watch televised sports games.

The couple has a daughter, Xi Mingze. Mingze in Chinese implies “living an honest life and being a useful person to society”, which is their expectation for her and also a symbol of their family’s simple style.

Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping and some of his old friends, who got to know each other 27years ago, have a chat at a friend’s home during his visit to 

the state ofIowa in the United States in February. Liu Jiansheng / Xinhua



 Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping kicks a Gaelic football as he visits the headquarters of theGaelic Athletic Association in Dublin, Ireland, in February. Xinhua


 Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping in Beijing in 1972.


 Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping in his office in Zhengding county in 1983.


 Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping, then Party chief of the Ningde prefecture in Fujianprovince, participates in farm work in 1988.


 Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping, then Party chief of Zhengding county in Hebeiprovince, during his visit to San Francisco in the United Statesin 1985.


 Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping, then deputy mayor of Xiamen, during an overseasvisit.


 Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping, then Party chief of Zhengding county, listens toopinions of villagers in 1983.


 Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping with his daughter in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province.


 Xi Jinping: Man of the people

Xi Jinping accompanies his mother Qi Xin for a walk.

(China Daily 12/25/2012 page5