Xi Jinping, leader of the Chinese Communist Party, took charge as the president of the world’s most populous country Thursday, succeeding Hu Jintao.
Some 3,000 delegates attending the 12th National People's Congress, the annual parliament session, took part in the vote at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Xi was elected by 2,952 votes to one, with three abstentions.
He was named secretary-general of the Communist Party Nov. 8 last year, and also given the leadership of the Central Military Commission, country’s chief military body.
Li Keqiang is expected to be named the new premier replacing Wen Jiabao in an NPC session, Friday.
Li Yuanchao, a close ally of Hu and a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, was elected as the vice-president.
Xi Jinping, 59, is the son of the revolutionary hero, Xi Zhongxun, who served as a minister under China’s paramount leader Mao Zedong, according to his official biographical sketch by state-run Xinhua news agency.
Xi’s father fought alongside Mao in the revolution that brought the party to power in 1949 and went on to serve as vice-premier until he fell out of favor with Mao’s administration. He was rehabilitated after Mao’s death in 1976 under reformist leader Deng Xiaoping.
His father’s rise and fall during Mao’s rule had caused extreme lifestyle changes for Xi during his childhood and youth. After having enjoyed an elitist life in Beijing as a child, Xi had to spend his youth in the remote community of Liangjiahe in northwest Shaanxi province working with peasants and living in a dug-out cave.
Xi studied chemical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing, an elite school where his predecessor Hu Jintao also studied. Xi later gained a degree in Marxist theory from Tsinghua and a doctorate in law.
He is married to Peng Liyuan, a renowned singer whose popularity in China matches that of her husband’s.
Xi is expected to make his first overseas visit as president to attend the meeting of BRICS, a grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — in Durban at the end of the month. He is also expected to visit Russia, news agencies reported citing officials.
Communist party officials have reportedly said the new First Lady would be given an independent speaking engagement in South Africa, according to a Telegraph report. Since wives of high-profile political leaders in China are often restricted to the background, Peng’s public engagement in a foreign country is seen as a departure from the tradition.
Xi bolstered his influence in the party in the early 1980s as the party leader of a rural county in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing. He was promoted as governor of the south eastern province of Fujian in 1999 after a string of provincial officials were caught up in corruption allegations.
He oversaw the reformist provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, before taking the top post in the commercial hub of Shanghai in 2007, which earned him his reputation as an economic reformer.
His name is not associated with any bold reforms, nor is he known as an exceptional leader, though he is supposedly open to private industry and economic and administrative reforms.
Xi has a relatively clean reputation, though there were reports last June about the wealth of his extended family, which Bloomberg estimates runs into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
In his visit to the U.S. in February last year, Xi called for a better strategic trust between Washington and Beijing and also endorsed the “one-China policy,” which rejects independence for Taiwan and Tibet.
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