Chinese President Xi Jinping's year of diplomacy

WION Web Team Beijing, China Dec 27, 2018, 12.44 PM(IST)

File photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The young Xi grew up among the party elite but saw his father purged and later jailed during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

President Xi Jinping, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, was re-elected to a second five-year term as president in March this year by the country's rubber-stamp parliament.

As China asserts itself on the world stage, its president has, at the same time, consolidated his power in an unprecedented way.

Xi's ascent culminated in parliament's passing of a constitutional amendment that eliminated term limits for the presidency, discarding a rule that had helped keep leaders in check and underpinned collective decision-making for 35 years.

Xi was named general secretary of China's ruling Communist Party, and also the chairman of Central Military Commission in 2012 and soon started manoeuvring to consolidate his power. This year, he has met a flurry of global leaders in a bid to cement China's increasing international footprint.

He is already overseeing his ambitious project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which seeks to connect Africa, Asia and Europe through a trade route. China has been spending billions, investing heavily in countries through which the BRI will pass.

He met US President Donald Trump after a bitter trade war between the two countries threatened to disrupt the global economy. At the G20 summit in Argentina on December 1, the two leaders agreed to a 90-day truce to look into the US grievances over trade imbalance.

Xi also met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un thrice this year amid rants from the hermit kingdom about its nuclear programme and pressue from the West. The first meeting was held in March, when Kim secretly travelled to Beijing in an armoured train. And then in May, after the inter-Korean summit. Xi and Kim met for the third time in June ahead of meeting with Trump for facilitating preace process between North and South Korea led by the US.

Amid signs of thaw, Xi met Japanese Prime Minister Shizo Abe in Beijing and signed a number of business deals.

Xi was born in Beijing a "princeling" child of an official. His father, Xi Zhongxun, fought in the Communist revolution and later served as an official, rising to become a liberal-minded vice premier. The young Xi grew up among the party elite but saw his father purged and later jailed during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, only to be rehabilitated and allowed back into government after Mao Zedong's death.

After being sent to work in the poverty-stricken countryside, in Shaanxi province, as a teenager during the Cultural Revolution, Xi joined the Communist Youth League and then, in 1974, the party, at the age of about 21.

In 2007, Xi was promoted into the Politburo Standing Committee, the most elite political body, directly from the Central Committee, after stints in the government and party in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai. He and Li Keqiang, the current premier, were seen as likely successors to then-president and party chief Hu Jintao. Xi also became a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Xi was elected vice president by the National People's Congress in 2008 and four years later, was named general secretary of the Communist Party. He also became chairman of the Central Military Commission in the same year. Soon after taking over, Xi launched China's most sweeping anti-corruption drive. Xi used the campaign to clean out the senior ranks of the military, thousands of officials were punished for corruption or "discipline violations".

The National People's Congress elected Xi president in March, 2013. By 2017, Xi's political thinking - "Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" - was enshrined into the party’s constitution. Because Xi is still serving in office, this move is widely interpreted as placing him in the same company as the founder of modern China, Mao, and cementing his power.

Xi was handed a second term as general secretary of the party during the 19th Party Congress in October, 2017, and within six months, the National People's Congress voted nearly unanimously to abolish term limits for the presidency.