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Rediff.com  » News » China poised for era of 'princelings' as old guard retire

China poised for era of 'princelings' as old guard retire

November 06, 2012 16:15 IST

As China's old guard walks towards the sunset, the country is poised for a new era of 'princelings' with a new pack of rulers, mainly offsprings of erstwhile Communist leaders, gearing up to take on the mantle.

The new leaders hailing from influential families would be formally selected during the key Congress beginning on November 8. To be attended by 2,270 delegates, the conference is expected to last for a week.

The new President-to-be, Xi Jinping, currently the vice president and officially projected as Hu Jintao's successor is the son of Xi Zhongxun, a liberal Communist Party revolutionary and former vice premier who was persecuted by Party founder Mao Zedong during the dreaded Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

Though a privileged son Xi Jinping got the wrong end of the stick of Mao and worked for seven years in Liangjiahe, an obscure village in his native Shaanxi province under the party's grassroots programme before rising in the ranks after the death of the Party founder.

Journalists who recently visited the village found it to be the same as he left it in 1975 though people fondly recall his stay there.

The world opened for Xi after the death Mao and advent of liberal and reformist leader Deng Xiaoping. Born in Beijing in 1953, Xi studied chemical engineering at Tsinghua University before joining the in 1974.

He is married to China's most famous folk singer Peng Liyuan and their daughter is reportedly studying at Harvard.

Not much is known about his personal life though a leaked US diplomatic cable disclosed his liking for Hollywood war movies that he acquired during a brief stay in Iowa under an exchange programme.

Yet another 'princeling', Li Keqiang, 57, currently the vice premier is set to take over as the new Premier, succeeding suave, popular, Wen Jiabao.

With princelings at the helm, analysts say China formally join the ranks of several Asian countries including India and Pakistan where families of the ruling elite emerged as the frontrunners in power politics.

Born in 1955 into the family of a local official Dingyuan County, Li reportedly refused his father's proposition to be groomed to be the leader local county of the Communist Party.

During the Cultural Revolution he was sent to the rural labour camp in Fengyang County, Anhui, where he eventually joined the Communist Party.

So far the party has projected Xi and Li as the new front line leaders and the much about others is not yet known.

Another official, Wang Qishan, currently the second vice premier and tipped to get a top post in the new Standing Committee is also a son of a top official, and is married to Yao Minshan, daughter of former vice-premier Yao Yilin.

Also, Li Yuanchao who heads the communist party's organisation department and slated to get seat at the high table is also princeling as his father was mayor of Shanghai.

Yet another front runner Zhang Dejiang, who succeeded disgraced leader Bo Xilai in Chongqing city is son of PLA General.

The only woman in the Liu Yandong, who could be the first woman to make it to top if she was selected is also the daughter of a former vice-minister of agriculture.

Her husband too is well-connected.

However, the youngest member of the pack Hu Chunhua, 49, comes from a humble background and worked for over three decades in Tibet, regarded as the most difficult province to work for Chinese officials.

Known as 'Little Hu' because of his close ties to President Hu Jintao he is regarded as next generation leader to succeed Xi.

Li, the premier-to-be has a law degree and he was awarded with the honour of Outstanding Individual in the Study of Mao Zedong Thought at that time.

After that he acquired PhD degree in Economics and became the Communist Youth League Secretary at Peking University in 1980, he climbed the ranks while working closely with Hu.

Known to be easy going, he has the reputation for caring the less privileged.

Li's period in the rural areas was marked by some setbacks specially the spread of HIV through contaminated blood.

But he retrieved his image by doing a better job reviving economy of Henan's economy, with a string of reforms to state-owned industries.

Yet another leader, Bo Xilai has fallen foul with the party after his wife Gu Kailai was involved in the murder of British national Neil Heywood.

She was given suspended death sentence.

Bo is awaiting trail for covering up her role in the murder as well his alleged involvement in sex, sleaze and corruption.

Speculation is rife that unlike the outgoing set up, the Standing Committee will be reduced from nine to seven.

Known to be a successful in evolving a collective leadership, the party and in many ways China is ruled by the Standing Committee of the party.

Insiders say that the numbers were being reduced to improve coordination between the leaders.

Image: The new President-to-be, Xi Jinping

K J M Varma in Beijing
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