Aiming for Top, Xi Forges Ties Early
As Xi Jinping is expected to be anointed as China’s leader next month, Ian Johnson at The New York Times gives a detailed account of Xi’s early years as a county head in Hebei Province, during which time he bolstered his resume and consolidated political ties:
Even three decades into the country’s rapid industrialization, China’s leadership still pays heed to its heritage as a party of peasants, and it has tended to promote officials who can claim to be deeply rooted in the rural struggle. But it has also tended to favor “princelings,” the privileged offspring of former leaders who had ties to the party’s revolutionary history.
After his time in Zhengding, Mr. Xi could check both boxes.
[…] Zhengding was a grain-growing center, with peasants forced to grow huge amounts for central granaries. Mr. Xi formed a clever alliance with Maoists and used his family ties in Beijing to cut Zhengding’s grain quota by one-quarter. That freed up farmers to use their land more lucratively, such as for raising fish, geese or cattle.
[…T]he time in Zhengding helped Mr. Xi hone his skills, setting a template for his rise. It also cemented his bond with Liu Yuan, who is now a senior leader in the People’s Liberation Army. He also made an ally in Li Zhanshu, who was a local official in Hebei at the same time as Mr. Xi. Mr. Li has now been tapped to take over the party’s nerve center, its General Office.
See more on Xi Jinping via CDT.