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Xi Jinping: How His Youth Shaped China's Next President

Updated on February 13, 2012

China's next president can be said to be of the "next generation" after Mao's revolution. What this means is he was born in 1953, is 58 yr. old, and the youngest Chinese president. His experiences were far different than his father, Xi Zhongxuan, who rose in the ranks with Mao and was part of the Chinese elite, until the 1966-68 purges, when he fell from grace. His wife is a famous folk singer in China. Xi Jinping (pronounced shee jin ping) grew up in the upper class until his teenage years in the 1960's when his father was exiled and they were forced to live in a cave in the hills of Shaanxi province. His teen years had him working in the fields during the tough cultural revolution. As a teen, he dug ditches, handled and shoveled pig shit and it was a rude awakening for a boy who up to then, lived a "good" life with special schools, cars, food to a rural one where you had none of that. His friends indicate that this created a fierce ambition to reclaim the prosperity for his family. Then, his clothes consisted of worn hand me downs from his elder sisters.

Up until 1966, the family had a Soviet car, had cooks and nice house with a courtyard. They had books and access to foreign books and films, in school, they were told that they would be the next leaders. He had even heard of The Beatles then. In 1966, Xi was still to young to join the radical Red Guards so he and his friends spent much of their time reading books, many of them stolen from deserted schools closed libraries. In fact, Xi and others read classics like jack London, Mark twain, memoirs of Charles DeGaulle, Richard Nixon's 1962 book and many books on Marx and Lenin. These teens did what teens do-drank, joked and chased girls. By 1968, the purge worsened and he and others escaped to Liangjiahe in the Yannan sector near Shaanxi. In 1969, many of his friends entered into the military, yet Xi did not and instead lived a lonely life in the village and lived in a cave. Oddly, he became a sort of "sounding board" for many villagers and older officials about conditions, the future, and specific problems affecting them. He tried 10 times to become part of the Communist party, all failed, until the 10th attempt. He tried three times to be accepted into Beijing's Tsinghua University. It was only when his father pleaded was he allowed in on his third attempt. in the 1980's, Xi visited the US and stayed with a farming family for a time. It was this event that impressed him and he realized that Americans are not all different than Chinese in terms of family, goals and daily life. While he preferred soccer, he attended basketball games and found the experience refreshing.

Xi's experiences in China and his US visit will no doubt shape his policy towards America.

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