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Chinese media plays up human face of Xi Jinping

Love at first sight, loves late-night sports, drinks with friends, Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Dec 25, 2012 02:32 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

It was love at first sight when recently crowned Communist Party of China (CPC) general secretary Xi Jinping met opera singer Peng Liyuan in 1986. A year later, they were married.

Years later, Peng finds Xi a good husband, a good father and is always ready to cook him his favourite dishes from Shaanxi and Shandong.

In spite of being the most powerful man in the country, Xi likes to drink a bit at parties with friends. And like millions of men across the world, the general secretary likes to stay up late and watch his favourite sports on television – basketball, football and boxing.

These personal details were revealed in a 6300 word essay on Xi on state-run Xinhua under the title: "Xi Jinping: Man of the people, statesman of vision" on Monday.

In an apparent attempt to give some shine to the staid details of China’s top leaders’ lives, the news agency also published a lengthy feature on Vice-Premier Li Keqiang: “A man who puts people first.”

Normally, few details are available about the personal lives of the country’s leaders in China's public domain; online, searches on them are usually blocked except what has appeared in the state media, seldom going beyond official speeches.

Xi’s profile gave details about he did not live “in comfort as a boy.” After his father Xi Zhongxun, a revolutionary and former Vice-Premier “was wronged and fell in disgrace, Xi experienced tough times. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), he suffered public humiliation and hunger, experienced homelessness and was even held in custody once,” the profile said.

“At the age of 16, he volunteered to live in a small village in northwest China's Shaanxi Province as an "educated youth"…Life there was tough for an urban youth. In the beginning, fleas troubled him so badly he could not even fall asleep. In the Shaanxi countryside, he had to do all sorts of harsh labor, such as carrying manure, hauling a coal cart, farming and building water tanks.As time passed, tough work became easy. Xi became a hardworking capable young man in the villagers' eyes. By gaining their trust, he was elected village Party chief,” it said.

“The top leadership has been very much detached from the people, so they want to give them a human face to show that this generation is a little different, a little bit closer to the people,” Bo Zhiyue, senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s East Asia Institute told Bloomberg. “Whether this will be successful is really a big question mark. The reputation of the Communist Party is really suffering from a huge deficit as a result of corruption.”