The Mystery of Xi Jinping


Jiang Zemin was a mystery even when he was retiring after being spotlighted for more than a decade. So is Hu Jintao now. There were lots of speculation that Jiang was unwilling to retire, that there would be fierce power struggle between Hu and Jiang or Jiang’s protégés in the politburo, etc. that have never turned out to be true.

As the official history distorts the facts, I wanted for quite a long time to write about China to tell the truth based on my own sources and personal experience. However, there must be some authoritative source to support my book. Zhao Ziyang’s memoir provides such a source and what I have written in my book was further confirmed later by the memoirs of former politburo members Qiu Huizuo, Li Zuopeng and Wu Faxian and the books written by Qiu’s and another member Huang Yongsheng’s sons.

Even well-known diplomat Henry Kissinger helped the Chinese Communist Party to beautify Mao era in his book “On China”. I had to write a long review to tell readers his ignorance about China that caused his book to be full of misinformation about not only Mao era but also Chinese history and culture.

It is good that as the speculation about Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao was proved wrong by later developments, people now regard Xi Jinping as a mystery instead of giving their views based on speculation.

Still, as China is the second biggest economy in the world now, knowledge about Xi Jinping, its leader-in-waiting, is indispensable for other countries and people doing business in or with China. Therefore, I believe that I have to give my view on him based on the little information available and my contacts with people of his generation.

How can we know more about Xi Jinping? As a Chinese who has been able to reduce the trouble I might be in when my father was imprisoned for a framed-up active counterrevolutionary crime, I am more sensitive to learn what lies underneath the limited available information.

We have enough information about Xi’s moral integrity, but that is not enough for the top leader of a state. He must be wise. Obviously he was wise in making critical choice in his life. First when he was to go the countryside, he chose his father’s base area where the officials and people still respected his father as his father was persecuted because of a fiction praising the contributions of the former leaders of those officials and people.

Second, all young boys of his age (13 years old then) were happy when they no longer had to study as school education ceased due to the Cultural Revolution. Xi, however, chose to go on studying on his own. When he was sent down to the village in northern Shaanxi, his major luggage was a box of books. He is thus one of the new generation of talented intellectuals with moral integrity that emerged during the Cultural Revolution.

Third, almost everyone who had been sent down to a rural area, wanted to leave for an urban job as soon as possible in order to improve his livelihood, but he preferred to stay as he was very clear with his father’s problems, the village in the area his father was popular is the best place for him to develop his career in the Party.

Fourth, he persisted in joining the Party despite his application has been rejected about 10 times. In my book, I described the emergence of a new generation of talented intellectuals with moral integrity in Shanghai. Judging by the emergence of quite a few good officials, academics, writers, artists, entrepreneurs of that age group throughout China, such scholars also emerged in other areas of China.

What is most important for a top leader is the ability to choose talented assistants with moral integrity. When Xi has just replaced Hu Jintao, he has no choice but to be assisted by those chosen by the core and Hu Jintao. Whether he has this wisdom has to be judged later by his own choice of assistants.

I described a meeting of the new generation of scholars I personally attended in Shanghai, where the way to save the nation was discussed. Some attendants suggested that they should join the Party, climb to the top and transform the Party. It turned out later that their way was the wise way that has transformed the Party without bloodshed. Xi is as wise as them in trying to join the Party and rise to the top though he was not in Shanghai at that time.

Domestically, he paid great attention to development of agriculture to make farmers rich. The increase in farmers’ income will force employers to raise wages for migrant workers as they will return home if the wages they earn are lower than what they may earn as farmers back home. Supplemented by the policies of provision of low-rent housing for migrant workers and equal educational opportunities for their children, there will be great increase in demand in Chinese domestic market.

As for his diplomatic policy, in the beginning he will continue to carry out Hu Jintao’s policy to strive for harmony. I hope and believe that he will try hard to ease tension between China and America during his current visit to America. As for his attitude when he is really in charge, judging by his hardline speeches when he visited Mexico, I think that due to his populist tendency, he will not easily submit to US pressure.