Special Report: Cables Show U.S. Sizing up China’s Next Leader

With Xi Jinping poised to take over from President Hu Jintao in 2012, China observers are trying to piece together the little information available about him to figure out what kind of a leader he might be. A profile in the New York Times looked at his history in a small village in Shaanxi during the Cultural Revolution. And now Wikileaks has shed some light on what U.S. diplomats know about China’s future leader. Reuters reports:

An unpublished WikiLeaks batch of U.S. diplomatic cables portrays the 57-year-old Xi as untainted by corruption — he is referred to as “Mr Clean” — and disdainful of China’s nouveau riche and consumer culture.

He is also depicted as an elitist who believes that the offspring of Maoist revolutionaries are the rightful rulers of China. His father was a major Communist leader who fought alongside Mao Zedong and helped implement Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms.

On human rights, the cables leave the question open. They note that Xi’s father was critical of the military crackdown against Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989 and that the Dalai Lama had “great affection” for the elder Xi.

The cables, which Reuters obtained through a third party, trace Xi’s rapid rise from provincial official to national leader, covering a period from October 2006 to February 2010. They are based on conversations with numerous Chinese sources — scholars, senior journalists, businessmen, relatives or friends of senior officials and the occasional government official.

Read more about Xi Jinping via CDT.

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