Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's trip to the United States is widely expected to be a visit where he is introduced to the world as China's next top leader.
Xi Jinping was relatively unknown abroad until this past year, when he made a series of high profile appearances with visiting dignitaries.
His father was politically prominent, which makes the vice president what Chinese call a "princeling." Many people in communist China tend to unfavorably view princelings as elitist. But Xi has humble experiences that make him different, said Macau University public policy professor Wang Jianwei.
"Xi’s father was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution so, as a result, he also suffered too and had to go to the countryside," Wang said.
Xi was sent to Liangjiahe village in Shaanxi province when he was only 15 years old. Pictures of the now famous Xi line the walls of the home of Shi Chunyang, the village’s party secretary. Villager Shi Yudong knew Xi then and said he left a favorable impression.
"I feel that, because he climbed up the ladder from the countryside, he knows something about corruption," Shi said. "So there is hope he will do something about it."
Xi spent time in the military and later become governor of Fujian, the mainland province just across the water from Taiwan. Those experiences smoothed his political rise and made him popular at home. Xiong Zhiyong, a diplomacy professor at Beijing’s Foreign Affairs College, said although his rise to president is assured, his continuing popularity is not.
"It doesn’t matter whether people like or dislike him," said Xiong. "Everybody knows that he will be the president of China. But, in regards to whether people will like his policies, it’s too early to say."
Xi echoes other Chinese leaders in talking about their desire for close cooperation with the United States. In January, he spoke about a wide range of global issues where the two countries are already working together.
"We have maintained close dialogue on the international financial crisis, climate change, the Korean peninsula, the Iranian nuclear issue," said Xi. "Sino-American cooperation and coordination are playing an even more important role in world peace, stability and prosperity."
Although his trip is expected to highlight such cooperation, there remain serious points of disagreement, including U.S. allegations of Chinese repression in ethnic Tibetan areas, the standoff over Syria and China’s trade and monetary policies.