Carrying China through change

November 17, 2010, 1:01 PM UTC

The likely successor to China’s president is a champion of economic reforms.

By Bill Powell

Xi Jinping is in line to follow Hu Jintao as President of China in 2013.

For Americans who love their football metaphors, high praise for the man likely to be the next President of China came a couple of years ago from Hank Paulson, then Treasury Secretary. “He’s the kind of guy who knows how to get things over the goal line,” Paulson said.

Last month, when it named him to a key post overseeing China’s military, the ruling Communist Party gave the clearest signal yet that Xi Jinping, 57, will succeed President Hu Jintao as Party Secretary in 2012, and then President of China in 2013. As Paulson’s remark suggests, the perception throughout most of the foreign business community in China is that that’s a good thing.

Xi’s résumé, and his track record in key posts as he rose through the party, give every indication that he is a full-throated supporter of the economic reforms that have lifted China out of poverty in the past 30 years. He served as governor in both Fujian province — just across the straits from Taiwan — and in Zhejiang, which neighbors Shanghai. Both have been booming provinces with flourishing private sectors. And in 2007, when the party official who ran Shanghai was ousted for corruption, Xi was the man Beijing installed to run the business capital of China. He moved to the Central Committee in Beijing and helped oversee the Olympics in 2008.

Xi is married to the famous folksinger Peng Liyuan, who is a major general in the People’s Liberation Army (and is featured in the video below). They have a daughter who attends Harvard. Xi will inherit China’s new five-year economic plan, which sets policy in China starting next year and which he obviously had a hand in writing. He will be charged with overseeing a transition from an export-first, production-based economy to one more focused on consumption. Senior economic officials have already been talking up the plan publicly. If Xi Jinping can get that ball over the goal line, no one’s going to be complaining.


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