Will China's next leader show his hand?

Xi Jinping seeks to boost relations with 'important high-level interaction' as he flies to Washington

Beijing

Xi Jinping, the man widely tipped to become China's next supreme leader, began a visit to the United States and Europe yesterday that will give clues to the future course of the world's most populous nation.

Currently Vice-President, Mr Xi is expected to begin the process of taking over the reins from President Hu Jintao at the 18th Communist Party Congress in October, with his appointment as general secretary of the party.

During his visit, Mr Xi will meet President Barack Obama, and will also head to the Corn Belt to visit Mucatine in Iowa, where he stayed 27 years ago as a junior cadre, and have tea with old friends there. He will then visit Ireland and Turkey.

Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said the visit was an "important high-level interaction" that he hoped would develop relations with the US. "Ultimately, the development of bilateral ties is determined by the relationship between the two peoples," he added.

Mr Xi is a powerful "princeling" – one of the group of young leaders born to the Community Party elite – and a canny political operator, and is seen as being more outgoing than Mr Hu.

While overall relations between the world's two biggest economies are good, the visit takes place at a time of growing tensions. The Americans are annoyed by Beijing's economic policies, believing China keeps its currency weak to boost its exports to the US. It also fears Chinese expansionism in the region. For its part, China feels that Washington is trying to grow its influence in Asia by boosting its military presence there.

We can only speculate about what kind of leadership Mr Xi's will be, and no one knows if he will be a reforming force or not. His leadership looks likely to try to soften China's image abroad, all the while staying firm on domestic political issues such as Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang, where there has been unrest among its Muslim population.

What we do know is that he is much more outspoken than Mr Hu and in 2009, during a visit to Mexico, he rounded on China's critics. "There are some foreigners out there with full bellies, with nothing better to do than to point their fingers at us. Firstly, China does not export revolution. Secondly, it does not export famine and poverty. Thirdly, it doesn't cause you any trouble. What more do you want?" he declared.

Most Chinese people are probably more familiar with his wife, folk singer Peng Liyuan, who can be seen singing patriotic songs in military uniform on TV galas. He has a daughter at Harvard and is known as a charming figure with a sharp mind. He also has a reputation as a graft-buster, having taken over as party boss in Shanghai in 2007 when his predecessor Chen Liangyu was felled by a corruption scandal.

Mr Xi's father was the veteran revolutionary Xi Zhongxun, who was Deputy Prime Minister from 1959 to 1962, making Xi Jinping one of the "princelings". His father was purged during the Cultural Revolution and Mr Xi hunkered down in the countryside until the ideological frenzy abated.

Mr Xi learned his stripes when he dealt with a smuggling scandal in the southern Fujian province and presided over strong economic expansion in the eastern province of Zhejiang. He was put in charge of ensuring the success of the Olympic Games in 2008 and the general view is that he succeeded.

Xi Jinping: The supreme princeling

Born in Beijing in 1953, China's Vice-President is the son of one of the Communist Party's founding fathers, revolutionary Xi Zhongxun.

Having held the offices of Vice-President and vice-chair of the Central Military Commission, Xi Jinping is tipped to succeed President Hu Jintao when he steps down in 2013. Having rapidly risen through the ranks of the Communist Party since joining in 1974, Mr Xi now has a reputation for zero-tolerance towards political corruption.

In China, Mr Xi's wife – singer Peng Liyuan – is more famous than he is. Their daughter, Xi Mingze, is a student at Harvard University. Mr Xi is thought to have a personal fondness for the US. He stayed in rural Iowa learning hog-raising techniques in 1985, and WikiLeaks cables in 2010 revealed him to be a fan of US war films.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker