As the Communist Party surges ahead in efforts to form a cult of personality around President Xi Jinping, the Chinese had yet to know: “For whom does Uncle Xi shed his tears?”
It was a question answered in an article circulated across China which recounted all four times Mr Xi has claimed to have cried. The most recent event took place in 1985, which raises the possibility that Mr Xi has not exercised his tear ducts in more than three decades.
Those moments, the article suggests, give a glimpse into the man Mr Xi has become.
The first occasion was his sister’s passing. She died during the Cultural Revolution, when Red Guards reportedly “persecuted her to death” (this is the official account, but a historian told The New York Times last September that her death was probably a suicide).
The second was a drawn-out farewell to the rural Shaanxi province, where he lived from 1969 until 1975, when he left for Tsinghua University in Beijing. The 16-year-old Mr Xi travelled to the region to learn from the farmers, forming profound friendships.
“My body departed then, but I left my heart there,” the article quotes Mr Xi saying.
The next tear-jerker concerned his relationship with the writer Jia Dashan, for whom he wrote a 3,200-word tribute after his death in 1997. But the crying took place more than a decade before that. The pair became close friends while Mr Xi was an official in Hebei province, meeting for long talks after dark. In order not to disturb the guards late at night, one man would stand on the other’s shoulders to open and close the government property’s tall gates.
When Mr Xi left in 1985 to take up a position in Fujian province, they both wept.
The final cited cry was revealed during a public event in 2014. In 1969, he recalled, his teacher read an article describing the exemplary Party cadre Jiao Yulu. The teacher cried as he read, prompting Mr Xi and his classmates to follow suit.
Just as the article promised, “Xi Jinping has cried for family, for friends, for heroes”.
The Washington Post
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies