Mr. Hu in many ways personifies China’s recent history of marketization and opening to the outside world.
Mr. Hu, who was born in the northern port city of Tianjin, was among the first generation of students admitted to universities when they reopened after the chaos of the Cultural Revolution. He graduated from Peking University with a degree in history and then studied at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences — and still maintains a scholarly mien, according to industry analysts who say he regularly attended research conferences. As a graduate student, Mr. Hu cowrote a book, “The Art of Entrepreneur Leadership,” according to Chinese business magazine Caijing.
In the mid-1980s, he went to work at the China International Trust & Investment Co., now known as Citic Group. Citic pioneered business contacts between a cautiously reforming communist state and the capitalist outside world with the aim of obtaining foreign technology, capital and resources.