China seems to have solved one of the problems that usually plagues authoritarian states - transition of power from one generation to the next. Xi Jinping looks set to succeed Hu Jintao as president next year.
Xi Jinping has planned his way up to the top from day one
Xi Jinping has always had his eye on the highest post in the country. This was revealed in one of the US embassy cables published by WikiLeaks last year, in which one of the crown prince’s childhood friends was quoted as saying that Xi had planned his rise from the day he joined the party.
This was in 1974 when the Cultural Revolution was in its final stages. Xi had spent seven years in the countryside and his father, a veteran revolutionary commander, was in jail. He would later create China's first Special Economic Zone as chief of Guangdong province - the city of Shenzhen is now booming.
Xi (r) is thought to be less wooden than President Hu Jintao
Xi studied chemical engineering and earned his stripes in poor areas of northern China before occupying high positions in the south's economic powerhouses.
"He has a power basis in the party because of the children of veteran revolutionaries," Gu Xuewu, the head of the Center for Global Studies at the University of Bonn, told Deutsche Welle.
"This is a very strong group in the Communist Party. And they have already seized power in many provinces as well as in the central government and of course the army," he pointed out.
They are also the first generation of leaders not to be chosen by Deng Xiaoping, the architect of economic reform.
Business as usual
Xi Jinping has been a member of the country’s most important decision-making body, the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party, since 2007. As vice-president he is sixth in the party hierarchy and since becoming vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission last fall, there has been little doubt that he will succeed Hu Jintao as president next year.
The Standing Committee of the Communist Party is China's most important decision-making body
"Xi Jinping is a middle of the road, moderate person," explained Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics based in Hong Kong.
"He has been able to get his job precisely because he is trusted by the party leadership to maintain this ship of state on an even keel, to continue existing policy, not to rock the boat, not to experiment with excessively ambitious or liberal policies, so it’s pretty much business as usual."
As opposed to many other party bosses, Xi Jinping is not considered to be corrupt. He is already a man of means and his wife, a general major in the People’s Liberation Army and a famous singer, also contributes considerably to the family income.
Gu Xuewu also points out that Xi differs from Hu when he appears in public. He comes across as more "flexible."
"It is obvious that Hu Jintao has learned everything by heart but Xi Jinping is sometimes spontaneous."
Author: Matthias von Hein/act
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein