Xi Jinping took the reins of China’s Communist Party nearly three years ago and consolidated power across the military and officialdom much more rapidly than expected. Mr. Xi has shaken up the ruling elite with an aggressive anti-corruption campaign. He’s also asserted China’s global influence more forcefully, from launching a new development bank to finance infrastructure around the world to building islands atop semi-submerged reefs in disputed waters of the South China Sea. The quickly cooling economy, however, is proving more nettlesome for him. Here are some things to know about the 62-year-old Chinese leader.
Mr. Xi’s father was a leading figure in the revolution and served as a vice premier in the Communist government. That background, however, didn’t save Mr. Xi from being rusticated to a rural backwater in the radical Cultural Revolution. Many political insiders say his pedigree, rather than his later career in provincial posts, was instrumental in Mr. Xi’s elevation to party chief.
Soon after taking office, Mr. Xi tapped into Chinese aspirations for personal advancement and national greatness by promoting the slogan “the China Dream.” Even more popular is the full-throttle corruption crackdown that has felled droves of local officials as well as a few senior party members. Detractors say Mr. Xi is using the campaign to weaken influential rivals and strengthen his hand.
Unlike his recent predecessors, Mr. Xi has shaken up the consensus-driven collective management-style of the party leadership. He’s placed himself in charge of committees overseeing everything from national security and cyberspace to the economy. That latter portfolio is usually the preserve of the premier, Li Keqiang, whom Mr. Xi has overshadowed.
Mr. Xi heads to Washington next month amid relations grown testy over cyber-spying, business disputes and China’s tightening controls over activists and foreign non-profits. He and President Barack Obama have tried to build a rapport, holding interpreters-only chats in California and in Beijing. Mr. Xi, however, has shown greater affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is returning the regard by attending China’s World War II Victory Day parade on Sept. 3. Mr. Obama is not.
Mr. Xi got a freer hand with the military as soon as he became party chief in 2012, with his predecessor, Hu Jintao, breaking recent precedent and resigning his commander-in-chief role. Since then, Mr. Xi has ordered the armed forces to drastically improve their combat readiness and taken a more forceful approach to territorial disputes. He’s also targeted senior officers, including at least 30 generals, in his anti-corruption campaign.
Text: The Wall Street Journal by Charles Hutzler 30-08-2015