Xi Jinping

Xi names low-key outsider as personal secretary

Ding Xuexiang is appointed personal secretary to the president, a powerful position that is often a gateway to higher office

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 4:37am

A rising political star known for his ability to keep a low profile while carrying out the will of his boss has been appointed President Xi Jinping's personal secretary.

Ding Xuexiang, who was seen accompanying Xi during his three-day trip to Hubei this week, has been formally appointed director of the General Secretary's Office, as revealed by Hubei Daily yesterday.

The tour was Ding's first public appearance since being appointed deputy director of the General Office of the Communist Party's Central Committee in mid-May. Much like former president Hu Jintao's secretary, Chen Shiju , Ding is expected to serve the president and the Central Committee concurrently.

A source close to Ding said that he is known for quickly turning his bosses' public remarks on trips into official notices without referring to notes.

"Ding boasts some remarkable traits, ranging from perfect writing skills to a famously strong memory," the source said.

Ding boasts some remarkable traits, ranging from perfect writing skills to a famously strong memory

Ding comes from an unremarkable family in Jiangsu province and has no special political connections in Beijing. Along with his natural low-key personality, that could be a key advantage in his new role.

"Xi needs someone with a clean background who does not know too many people in Beijing, so he won't discuss Xi's private thinking with outsiders," said the source. "In this regard, Ding has long ago proven to Xi that he is reliable."

Xi's relationship with Ding dates back to March 2007, when the future president was named to succeed the disgraced Chen Liangyu as party secretary in Shanghai.

Ding, a deputy secretary general of the municipal party committee, quickly won Xi's confidence and was promoted to the secretary general's post within a couple of months.

The source said Ding has also won the confidence and support of Yu Zhengsheng , another former Shanghai party secretary who is now the No 4 member of the Politiburo's decision-making Standing Committee.

"Yu, the immediate successor of Xi as Shanghai party secretary in late 2007, hugely appreciates Ding's outstanding ability in drafting speeches on his behalf," the source said.

"Ding appeared stunned when he learned that Xi would like him to head his office earlier this year," the source said, adding: "Ding didn't hesitate in planning to end his political career in Shanghai before [taking up his new post]."

Other secretaries named by Xi include Zhong Shaojun and He Yiting.

In Chinese politics, secretaries often wield great influence during their bosses' time in power and often move on to promotion in their political careers.

Xi himself served as the secretary of former defence minister Geng Biao from 1979 to 1982. Current Politburo member Li Jianguo was once the secretary of former Standing Committee member Li Ruihuan in 1980s.