Xi-Profile

Xi Jinping

After five years in office, in 2018 Xi Jinping became the supreme leader of China, or ‘president for life.’ Xi has a clear plan ahead for how to make China “great again”; from the one belt one road initiative to strengthening relations with western leaders. His background and career development have shaped his way of thinking and approaching the global community greatly: He has been known throughout his career to be strong-willed, goal-driven, and an advocate of anti-corruption. These qualities aided him to reach his high position in office yet, what seems to be Xi’s greatest motivator is making China a respected and vital global player.

Who is Xi Jinping?

  • + Age: 66 born 15 June 1953
  • + Gender: Male
  • + Culture: nationality, religion, ethnicity: Chinese ethnicity
    • + From Fuping County, Shaanxi, and Xi could further trace his patrilineal descent from Xiying in Dengzhou, Henan.
    • + Religion: Non-religious and opposes religion altogether.
  • + Social Class – Chinese government divided Chinese people into four classes: landlord, peasant, craftsmen, and merchant. Landlords and peasants constituted the two major classes, while merchant and craftsmen were collected into the two minors.
    • + Xi was considered princeling, basically royal status, and now topping it as the supreme leader. from a wealthy and politically important background 
  • + Family and peers
    • + First spouse: Peng Liyuan, second spouse: Ke Lingling.
    • + Daughter: Xi Mingze (Peng Liyuan) (Harvard educated)
    • + Siblings/ relatives: Xi Yuanping, Qi Qiaoqiao, Xi Heping, Xi Zhengning, Xi An’an, Xi Qianping

Personal experiences of Xi

Xi grew up in the gated communities and elite schools of China’s red aristocracy. Like many of the princelings, Xi has used family connections to smooth his career. But while other princelings have gone into business to make vast fortunes, Xi used his network for political advancement.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about Xi is his second wife, Peng Liyuan. Peng is one of China’s most famous folk-singers. As the long-time host of CCTV’s Chinese new-year gala – the most important event in Chinese television – Peng was probably more famous than her husband, at least until recently. 

His father was later thrown into prison in 1968 when Xi was aged 15 and would not see his father again until 1972. Hence, without the protection of his father, Xi was sent to work in Liangjiahe Village, Wen’anyi Town, Yanchuan County, Yan’an, Shaanxi, in 1969 in Mao Zedong’s Down to the Countryside Movement. After a few months, unable to stand rural life, he ran away to Beijing. He was arrested during a crackdown on deserters from the countryside and sent to a work camp to dig ditches.

Xi, according to the childhood friend cited in a United States diplomatic cable, has been single-minded and exceptionally ambitious in his pursuit of high office. Even though his father was denounced and tortured during the cultural revolution, Xi decided to join the CCP during this turbulent period.

President Xi's Career

From 1975 to 1979, Xi studied chemical engineering at Beijing’s Tsinghua University as a “Worker-Peasant-Soldier student”. Nonetheless, his education was influenced by Marxist and socialist thought; 15 per cent of their time studying Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong thought and 5 per cent of their time doing farm work and “learning from the People’s Liberation Army.” 

The influences of Marxist thought can be seen as Xi joined the Communist Youth League of China in 1971. From 1973, he applied to join the Communist Party of China 10 times and was finally accepted on his tenth attempt in 1974. Definitely showing his determined and goal-oriented characteristic.  

In 1985, Xi took a part in a Chinese delegation to study U.S. agriculture, he stayed in the home of an American family in the town of Muscatine, Iowa. This trip, and his two-week stay with a U.S. family, gave Xi a better understanding of how American think and how they view the world. Also brought him in contact with a highly capitalist society focused on the individual. We would argue that this trip gave his crucial insight into the capitalist culture that will be useful in his later career. 

Fast forward few years and various positions, Xi was promoted in 1983 to the secretary, becoming the top official of the county. This was a very important period as he made this region more prosperous showing to the Communist party that he has it in him to become a high ranked official. Xi subsequently served in four provinces during his regional political career: Hebei (1982–1985), Fujian (1985–2002), Zhejiang (2002–2007), and Shanghai (2007). 

In 1999, he was promoted to the office of Vice Governor of Fujian, then he became governor a year later. In Fujian, Xi made efforts to attract investment from Taiwan and to strengthen the private sector of the provincial economy. Hence, Xi climbed the social latter and began applying his methodology to expand the private sector. 

In 2002, Xi left Fujian and took up leading political positions in neighbouring Zhejiang. He eventually took over as provincial party chief after several months as acting governor, occupying a top provincial office for the first time in his career. He was also elected a full member of the 16th Central Committee, marking his ascension to the national stage. While in Zhejiang, Xi presided over reported growth rates averaging 14% per year. His career in Zhejiang was marked by a tough and straightforward stance against corrupt officials. This earned him a name in the national media and drew the attention of China’s top leaders.

In his later position in Shanghai, he worked on preserving the unity of the local party organisation. He pledged there would be no ‘purges’ during his administration, on most issues Xi largely echoed the line of the central leadership. This possibly shows that he was not ready to make big moves against other party members and advance his position in the Party. 

On 15 November 2012, Xi was elected to the post of general secretary of the Communist Party and chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission by the 18-th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. This made him, informally, the paramount leader and the first to be born after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Achieving his position in (mostly) a traditional way, climbing the social latter without too many aggressive movements against other party members. 

In a marked departure from the common practice of Chinese leaders, Xi’s first speech as general secretary Xi mentioned the aspirations of the average person, remarking, education, stable jobs, better income and security. Xi also vowed to tackle corruption at the highest levels, alluding that it would threaten the Party’s survival; he was reticent about far-reaching economic reforms

Overall, from this statement of facts, we should be able to analyse how his career experience has influenced his foreign policy; as we can see, Xi is devoted to the Party’s cause and has worked hard to get where he is at. He sees himself as part of the people, and he emphasised throughout his career on countering corruption.

Xi Jinping thought

In September 2017, the Communist Party Central Committee decided that Xi’s political philosophies, generally referred to as “Xi Jinping Thought”, would become part of the Party Constitution. Xi first made mention of the “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” in his opening day speech delivered to the 19th Party Congress in October 2017. Since the 19th Party Congress approved the incorporation of Xi Jinping Thought into the Constitution of the Communist Party of China.

Xi himself has described the Thought as part of the broad framework created around Socialism with Chinese Characteristics placing China in the “primary stage of socialism”. It is said to be a continuation of Marxism–Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the “Three Represents”, and the Scientific Development Perspective, as part of a series of guiding ideologies that embody “Marxism adopted to Chinese conditions” and contemporary considerations. 

 The concepts are elaborated in Xi’s The Governance of China book series, published by the Foreign Languages Press for an international audience. The first volume was published in 2014and its sequel was published in 2017.Interestingly, a way of teaching “Xi Jinping Thought” has become the most popular smartphone app in China: Xuexi Qiangguo, which translates to “Study powerful country”, is now the most downloaded item on Apple’s domestic App Store, surpassing in-demand social media apps such as WeChat and TikTok – known as Weixin and Douyin, in mainland China.

Ariel Eva Segal

Team Member of Research & Analysis