■ In an interview describing his experiences during the Cultural Revolution, Mr. Xi said he was smiling when he was sent to work in the countryside along with millions of other “sent-down youth,” while everyone else on the train from Beijing was crying. He said he was happy because he knew that leaving the capital meant he would survive.
Showing a deft political touch early on
■ After the Cultural Revolution, when people were still trying to return to the cities from the countryside, Mr. Xi made an unusual request to be given a leadership post in a poor rural area. The move revealed his shrewdness as he built Communist Party ties and developed a record of local leadership.
■ Later, he took up positions in Fujian and Zhejiang, coastal provinces that have been centers of economic growth. There, he showed a pragmatic style and an ability to balance the interests of powerful officials and big business.
Confronting corruption and centralizing power
■ After rising to the top of the Communist Party in November 2012 and the presidency four months later, Mr. Xi began an aggressive campaign against corruption that sidelined many key political rivals, or “tigers,” and punished tens of thousands of lower officials, or “flies.” The “most dangerous tiger yet,” Zhou Yongkang, the former head of domestic security, was sentenced to life in prison for abuse of power, accepting bribes and revealing state secrets. Mr. Zhou was the first retired or active member of the elite Politburo Standing Committee to face charges.
■ While the announcement about ending term limits was itself a surprise, Mr. Xi has sent consistent signals that he wanted to stick around longer than his predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, who each served two five-year terms as president. Last fall the Communist Party revealed a new Politburo Standing Committee, but not one of the six men standing with Mr. Xi was his heir apparent. At the same meeting, the party added “Xi Jinping Thought” to the Constitution, an ideological status equivalent to Mao.
Projecting a softer image
■ While Mr. Xi has used a steely edge to consolidate power, he has tried to convey an image of a softer, more human leader than his predecessors. “He has made the sorts of casual visits that were rare for modern Chinese leaders — for example, visiting a steamed bun shop for lunch in 2013.”
Controlling the military and economic leadership
■ Mr. Xi has moved to strengthen control over China’s military, toppling top generals in the anticorruption campaign and shrinking troop numbers while investing more in the ability of air and naval forces to project power.
■ He has also played a central role in economic decision making, a role that traditionally has been taken up by China’s premier. His promotion of infrastructure projects around the world under the Belt and Road initiative aims to “use China’s wealth and industrial know-how to create a new kind of globalization that will dispense with the rules of the aging Western-dominated institutions.”
Crackdown on dissent and tough talk for Hong Kong
■ Mr. Xi has also carried out a broad crackdown on dissent, “sidelining lawyers, journalists, academics and activists who stand in the party’s way.” Last year Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was imprisoned for organizing a pro-democracy manifesto, died under guard in a hospital.
■ Mr. Xi has also taken a tough stance on Taiwan, the self-ruled island that China claims as part of its territory, and Hong Kong, the semiautonomous Chinese city where people have protested against Beijing’s growing influence. In a speech in Hong Kong last year he warned against “any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security” or to “challenge the power of the central government.”
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