A closed-door conclave of the Communist Party of China has paved the way for the man most likely to be President after Hu Jintao in 2012-13.
Vice-president and heir apparent Xi Jinping, 57, was on Monday appointed as vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission that controls the 2.3 million strong People’s Liberation Army — the world’s largest military with the second-largest defence budget.
The decision was announced in the official news agency Xinhua after a four-day conclave of the central committee’s fifth plenary inside a heavily guarded Beijing hotel. The session deliberated the next five-year plan and reforms, but no details were revealed.
The appointment, which will give Xi two years to consolidate his leadership with the military, was not a surprise. Xi, who was in charge of organising the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and communist China’s 60th anniversary celebrations in 2009, was tipped a successor for the leadership congress in 2012.
Hu chairs the central military commission and was its vice-chairman in 1999, before he became President. Like Hu, Xi is an alumnus of the elite Tsinghua University where he studied law, chemical engineering and Marxist ideology.
Xi’s father Xi Zhongxun was an associate of Mao Zedong and a former vice-premier. During
the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), Xi Jinping was dispatched to the northwest countryside to work the farms. He rose through the ranks to be the sixth-highest leader.
He became Shanghai Party chief in 2007 after a major anti-corruption purge. In former official posts he spearheaded development in wealthy coastal provinces of Fujian near Taiwan and Zhejiang near Shanghai.
“The general impression of Xi Jinping is, he is very circumspect,’ political commentator Gao Zhikai told CNN. “In public he is very careful, very prudent. He is not a very emotional person at least in public.” But last year in Mexico he was famously quoted criticising ‘foreigners with full stomachs who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us’.