Xi Jinping was born in 1953 in either Shaanxi Province or in Beijing depending on the biographer. His early youth was spent in relative comfort as the son of Xi Zhongxun, a major party figure and vice premier to Mao. However, Xi Zhongxun was purged during the Cultural Revolution and his son, Xi Jinping, was consequently sent to the countryside. Xi spent nearly six years working on a Shaanxi farm and living in very sparse conditions during the Cultural Revolution. Xi has expressed nostalgia for his life during this time, which has led some to speculate that Xi’s experiences in Shaanxi may make his policies more rural-focused. There is little hard evidence to support this theory.
While in Shaanxi in 1974, Xi applied for and joined the CCP. After the Cultural Revolution he enrolled at the prestigious Tsinghua University and received a degree in chemical engineering. He later returned to Tsinghua to gain a doctoral degree in law.
During his tenure with the CCP, Xi Jinping has held numerous positions including: an early stint as assistant to then-Minister of Defense Geng Biao, prominent mayoralties and a number of governorships. Some have speculated that Xi has developed close ties with various military officers as a result of his time as Geng’s personal secretary, his reportedly close ties to military officers stationed in the same provinces as him, and his current vice chairmanship of the Central Military Commission. Additionally, Xi was governor of two economically successful provinces, Fujian and Zhejiang (and party secretary of the latter). He has also held positions in Shanghai. Xi has therefore gained experience working in both China’s rural inland areas, and its eastern and southern coastal, more prosperous regions.
As a protégé of Jiang Zemin and the Shanghai faction, Xi will have to work with his opposite number, Li Keqiang, who is often associated with Hu Jintao and the Communist Youth League (CYL) faction. With Li expected to focus on economic issues, it will be up to Xi to institute political reforms should the CCP decide to do so.