Next Chinese leader ‘redder than reds’: Wikileaks

Sunday, December 19, 2010

BERLIN - Leaked US diplomatic cables portray the anointed Chinese leader Xi Jinping as incorruptible, disinterested in extra marital affairs and a Communist hardliner who is “redder than reds”.

Der Spiegel, the German magazine which reproduced the cables leaked by whistleblower web site WikiLeaks, says money seems unimportant to Xi as he apparently has enough. He likes the US and was at one time fascinated by the mysteries of Buddhism and Asian martial arts.

On Oct 18, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party appointed 57-year-old Xi Jinping vice-president of the powerful Central Military Commission. This makes it all but certain that he will succeed Hu Jintao as Communist Party leader and Chinese president in 2012, Der Spiegel said.

The US embassy in Beijing has remarkably precise information about China’s future leader. Xi is “extremely ambitious”, and a good man, according to a US source.

He also has a privileged upbringing.

Xi is the son of former guerilla fighter and later deputy prime minister Xi Zhongxun. Xi is a “princeling”, one of an influential class of sons and daughters of loyal functionaries that steadily rise up the Communist Party hierarchy under their parents’ influence.

During Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution Xis father was purged and young Xi sent to the countryside.

In the early 1970s Xi and many princelings were permitted to return to Beijing. But while many of his young contemporaries set about enjoying their newfound freedom, “he chose to survive by becoming redder than red”, the US embassy’s source says.

Xi realised that he could only become a career politician if he temporarily removed himself from Beijing’s power clique and gathered experience in rural areas, US cables say.

He believed that his father’s connections weren’t enough - and that the risk of making too many enemies in the capital was too great.

He slowly worked his way up the ladder in Heibei, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces. Because Fujian faces the breakaway island of Taiwan, US dispatches say, Xi has an understanding for the plight of the Taiwanese people.

During his time in eastern China, Xi developed a fascination with the mysticism of Buddhism, the Qigong breathing technique and martial arts. It appears he also believed in supernatural forces.

In 2007 the leadership made him the Party leader in Shanghai. At the time, the Communist Party was embroiled in a corruption scandal and desperately needed a clean pair of hands. He was seen as incorruptible and as having sufficient authority to clean up the party’s ranks.

Xi spent just seven months in China’s financial centre before the leadership brought him to Beijing and anointed him vice president.

“Xi had promotion to the Center in mind from day one,” a US Embassy dispatch says. He is said to be a realist and a pragmatist, one who keeps his cards close to his chest before coldly playing his ace when the time is right.

Xi appears uninterested in drinking and extramarital affairs, the pursuits preferred by many high-ranking officials. Women consider him boring, a trait he shares with his stern superior, President Hu Jintao.

Xi, US cables say, knows his own country extremely well. He is well aware how corrupt many of his comrades are. He abhors the pursuit of money, much as he does China’s nouveau-riche. His greatest fear is that the new, free-market era will rob people of their dignity and respect.

But he refrains from showing political initiative or promoting his own ideas, realising that such things are not good for a career within the Chinese Communist Party.

In spite of Xi’s background and current position, the current Party chairman and president, Hu does not consider him his successor.

Hu’s favourite for the post is Li Keqiang, whose career began in the Communist youth organization. But a group of older comrades, including former party chairman Jiang Zemin, reject their president’s preferred successor.

Hu relented, and now it is thought that Li will soon replace Wen Jiabao as prime minister instead.

Xi, the winner of this power struggle, thinks little of democratic reform. He is convinced that only a small elite can maintain China’s social stability and lead the country to new heights.

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