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Xi Jinping Profile

  • VOA News

Chinese Vice President Xi (file photo)

Chinese Vice President Xi (file photo)

China's newly appointed leader Xi Jinping is one of the so-called "princelings," children of high-ranking Communist Party officials whose political success is widely resented among the Chinese public.

But the 59-year-old Xi, who on Thursday was named as the Secretary General of the party, has also worked hard to cultivate a softer image that is more relatable than most of China's technocratic Communist leaders.

Xi was born into wealth, but during his teenage years his family was banished to the countryside after his father, a former vice premier and revolutionary hero, had a falling out with Mao Zedong.

Those who knew Xi during his time in Liangjiahe village in Shaanxi Province say he left a favorable impression, and many hope his time in the countryside will help shape his attitudes toward governing.

But not much is known about how the largely private Xi will lead the world's second largest economy. Observers say he rose through the ranks of the Communist Party by being cautious and building consensus.

In his speech Thursday, Xi did not hint at any groundbreaking changes. He instead vowed to continue China's policy of reforming and opening up, saying the improvement of peoples' lives is one of his main priorities.

"Our people love life and yearn for better education, stable jobs, more satisfactory income, greater social security, improved medical and health care, more comfortable living conditions and a better environment," he said. "We want our children to grow up well and have better jobs and more fulfilling lives. The peoples' desire for a better life is what we should fight for."

David Kelly, research director at the Beijing-based China Policy organization, echoed the thoughts of many observers, who said Xi's speech was refreshingly frank and relatively free of the jargon that usually fills Communist Party speeches.

"He was quite relaxed and he showed a kind of affable nature that I think will do him a lot of good. There was no high drama," said Kelly. "I think he showed a little bit of the experience that he's had internationally. He has, after all, you know, been a resident of the United States."

Xi's relationship with the United States will be crucial, as China enters a new period of increasing foreign policy assertiveness. His U.S. ties stretch back to 1985, when he traveled to a small midwestern town in Iowa with a Chinese delegation studying American agriculture. He is known to be a fan of the National Basketball Association and Hollywood-produced World War II movies.

He is married to popular folk singer Peng Liyuan, who for many years was more famous than her husband. Their daughter studies at the prestigious Harvard University under a pseudonym, like the children of many of China's Communist leaders.

Xi, who has served as vice president since 2007, took over as both secretary general of the party and head of the country's Central Military Commission on Thursday. He will not be named to the largely ceremonial post of president until March.