By John Ruwitch
President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, is re-elected to a second five-year term as president by the rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress
The son of Communist Party revolutionary and one-time deputy prime minister Xi Zhongxun, the younger Xi spent decades working his way up party and government ranks, but his consolidation of power since becoming head of the party in 2012 has been unprecedented.
Xi’s ascent culminated last week in parliament’s passing of a constitutional amendment that eliminated term limits for the presidency, discarding a rule that had helped keep leaders in check and underpinned collective decision-making for 35 years.
Following are some key dates in Xi’s life and rise to power:
June 15, 1953 – XI IS BORN
Xi Jinping is born in Beijing a “princeling” child of an official. His father, Xi Zhongxun, fought in the Communist revolution and later served as an official, rising to become a liberal-minded vice premier. The young Xi grew up among the party elite but saw his father purged and later jailed during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, only to be rehabilitated and allowed back into government after Mao’s death.
1974 – PARTY MAN
After being sent to work in the poverty-stricken countryside, in Shaanxi province, as a teenager during the Cultural Revolution, Xi joins the Communist Youth League and then, in 1974, the party, at the age of about 21.
Sept. 9, 1976 – MAO DIES
Mao Zedong, the “Great Helmsman“, dies at the age of 82. Xi is 23 and a chemical engineering student at Tsinghua University. China goes into mourning and Hua Guofeng, Mao’s handpicked successor, takes over. For a time, Hua is treated like Mao, but he is eventually sidelined by Deng Xiaoping who sets China on a more practical, less dogmatic, path.
Dec. 4, 1982 – TERM LIMITS INTRODUCED
The National People’s Congress adopts a new constitution that includes provisions that limit presidents and vice presidents to two five-year terms. The introduction of term limits was an attempt to prevent China from sliding back into strongman rule after Mao’s tumultuous 27-year reign.
Oct. 21, 2007 – ELITE COMMITTEE
Xi is promoted into the Politburo Standing Committee, the most elite political body, directly from the Central Committee, after stints in the government and party in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai. He and Li Keqiang, the current premier, are considered to be likely successors to then-president and party chief Hu Jintao. Xi also becomes a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission.
March 15, 2008 – VICE PRESIDENT
The National People’s Congress elects Xi vice president.
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