When US vice president Joe Biden visits China this week, his official host will be his counterpart, vice president Xi Jinping, who has been tapped to take over the leadership of his country and its ruling Communist Party in a carefully managed succession that is to begin next year.
Little is known, beyond the official biography, about Xi's specific ideas or how he and his cohorts might manage China differently than the current leadership team.
But those who have seen Xi's working style in the two provinces, Fujian and Zhejiang, where he spent more than two decades in various jobs working his way up to the top position, use similar words to describe him: pragmatic, serious, cautious, hard-working, down to earth and low-key. They also say he is a problem-solver and a leader seemingly uninterested in the trappings of high office.
In Fujian, where he served as deputy governor and governor, Xi immersed himself in details of China's relationship with Taiwan and helped attract Taiwanese investment to the province, say Taiwanese businessmen and Chinese academics. In Zhejiang province, where Xi moved after Fujian and served as governor and Communist Party chief from 2002 until March 2007, local businessmen and scholars said that civil society groups enjoyed a rare and prolonged period of openness.
Thousands of new groups formed - many of them business associations representing the provinces' legions of small industries. Independent candidates took seats in the local political bodies, the district congresses. While in Zhejiang province, he also became a regular newspaper columnist. In an essay against graft, Xi said that "transparency is the best anti-corrosive" and that "as long as we follow democracy, go through a proper process [and] avoid 'black' case work fighting against corruption won't become some empty words."
(In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post)