Xi Jinping: The 'compromise' Communist with the popstar wife who became China's new leader

Chris Parsons

The new Head of China's ruling Communist Party may be married to one of the country's biggest popstars, but little is know about Xi Jinping and his rise to power.

The 59-year-old military chief, officially unveiled as China's new president today, has pledged to make the country 'stronger and more powerful'.

The air of mystery which surrounded Xi was heightened in the run-up to the change of power, when the president-in-waiting disappeared from public life for two weeks, sparking concerns about his health.

When Mr Xi takes over as party general secretary in China, it will be only the second orderly transfer of power the country has seen in 63 years.

Mr Xi, who will lead the Chinese Communist Party for at least 10 years once a full handover is completed in the next few months, says he 'understands the peoples' desire for a better life'.

Yahoo! News takes a look at the man dubbed the 'compromise candidate', and outlines what can be expected from him.


Born in Beijing in 1953, Xi Jinping is a so-called 'princeling' as the priveleged son of former top leader Xi Zhonxun.

He initially grew up in the lap of luxury while his father was appointed vice-premier, and had an interest in Chinese politics from an early age.

However, he would experience a chastening change in lifestyle when his father was imprisoned after falling out with the party Chairman.

A young Mr Xi was sent to work in the Chinese countryside, spending most of his teenage years living in a cave as he worked the field in the country's poorest areas.

He later described how he 'hated the fleas, the farm work and the food' and attempted to run away to Beijing, only to be found and returned. The grueling work in the Chinese countryside is said to have given Xi an improved work ethic, and when he returned he went on to study chemical engineering while seeking the approval of the Communist Party's youth league.

Mr Xi also spent time working on a farm in Iowa in 1985 while visiting to study American agriculture.

His time spent in the U.S. saw him develop a love for basketball and American war movies like 'Saving Private Ryan'.

In 1987 he married the famous Chinese folk singer Peng Liyuan, with whom he has a daughter who has just enrolled at Harvard.

Little is known about the pair's marriage, and they are rarely seen together due to their conflicting working lives, but they are seen as a star couple in China.

After joining the party in 1974, Mr Xi quickly rose through the ranks with a succession of Deputy Secretary and Secretary roles in provincial party committees.

Related: SLIDESHOW: Chinese Communist Party Congress prepares for leadership change

He served in four Chinese provinces during his early political career, and after holding progressively more senior positions in the CPC Fuzhou Municipal Committee, Xi was named Governor of Fujian province in 2000.

It was as Governor of Zhejiang province that Mr Xi gained national attention, as he became an alternate member of 15th CPC Central Committee while overseeing economic success in the coastal province.

Mr Xi was named Shanghai Party chief in 2007, taking over from Chen Liangyu when his predecessor became embroiled in a social security find scandal.

From here he emerged as one of the favoured candidates to become the 'paramount leader' in China's fifth generation of leadership.

His case was further strengthened by the success of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Mr Xi had previously lacked significant national leadership, but in being a key figure in organising the Games, the president-in-waiting's leadership qualities did not go unnoticed.

As well as his political strengths, analysts say Mr Xi's friendship and alliance with Hu Yaobang, former chairman and general secretary of the Communist Party, won him favour with senior party members.

This friendship is how Mr Xi became known as the 'compromise candidate' in China, as he was deemed acceptable by the two most powerful factions of the CCP.


Most of China's new ruling party committee are seen as relatively conservative.

Mr Xi has pledged to address corruption and discipline within the party, and has declared that 'the whole party must stay on full alert'.

The new leader is also expected to tackle inequality in China, where the nation's poor are discontented and seen as a potential source of instability.

After leading the new Politiburo Standing Committee onto the stage at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Mr Xi conceded that the country faced great challenges, but would try to meet 'expectations of both history and the people'.

Standing alongside Li Keqiang, the man set to succeed Premier Wen Jiabao, and five other senior members, Mr Xi said: "The party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities and bureaucratism caused by some party officials."

Many observers praised the new leader for his more informal style in delivering his speech, where he was seen as 'more of a human being'.

Xi and Li are expected to continue to build up a sense of security and to focus on stabilizing home prices, according to experts.

The duo will prioritise building up the feeling of 'security among the Chines middle and lower middle income classes'.

They will also tackle the 'new three mountains' on the Chinese households: housing prices, education expenses, and healthcare.

Perceived as a hard-working and down to Earth politician, Mr Xi is also tough-talking and not afraid to air his views.

During a visit to Mexico in 2009, he showed his intolerance for Western criticism of China with a comment that is believed to have been directed at the U.S. (via Asia One): "'There are some foreigners who have eaten their fill and have nothing better to do than point their fingers at our affairs.

'China does not, first, export revolution; second, export poverty and hunger; or third, cause unnecessary trouble for them. What else is there to say?'"