Mr Xi has been in pole position to become the next president since 2007, when he won a place on the party’s standing committee. But most Chinese know much more about his wife, the popular singer Peng Liyuan, than they do about their next leader. Little is known about his attitude to the big policy questions of the day, the priorities he wants to pursue when he assumes the top job or even why he was chosen.
This vacuum was less of a problem a decade ago when Mr Hu was preparing to take office, because China was more peripheral to the international system. But now that China is the second most influential voice on so many issues, Mr Xi’s mindset is a matter of huge importance.
A few intelligent guesses can be made. His father, Xi Zhongxun, was one of Deng Xiaoping’s right-hand men when he was pushing market reforms in the 1980s and the younger Mr Xi made his career as an official in Fujian and Zhejiang, two coastal provinces that have been hotbeds of entrepreneurial, private companies. That might make him a natural supporter of economic reform, but there is a caveat – it is the coastal provinces, which are China’s big exporters, that are blocking the reformers at the central bank from pushing through a bigger currency appreciation.