Amid a state media campaign to highlight the "man of the people" charm of Chinese president Xi Jinping, a Communist Party mouthpiece has republished a 15-year-old article penned by Xi in memory of a dead writer friend.
Xi recalled in the article his friendship with Jia Dashan, a novelist he befriended and confided in while working as a local party official in the rural Zhengding County, Hebei province between 1982 and 1985.
In Xi's eulogy of his writer friend, who passed away in 1997, the Communist Party leader recounted that Jia was the first local that he paid a home visit to after he transferred to the rural county as a deputy party secretary. Xi was previously working in Beijing as a secretary at the General Office of the State Council and the Central Military Committee.
Upon his first visit to the writer, they had a long conversation that ranged from literature, art, operas, films to social issues, and the two quickly became good friends, Xi wrote.
Jia, then a public servant at the county cultural office and a part-time writer, was promoted to the head of the county Cultural Bureau by the end of the year. He oversaw the construction of many cultural facilities and renovation of many ancient cultural relics in the county, Xi wrote.
Jia, who was not a Communist Party member, later became "a window on public opinions" for Xi as he often shared "unique, insightful analyses and reasonable advice on social issues that people had strong reactions to" with Xi, then a rising political star in his early 30s.
Xi got a promotion in May 1985 to become deputy mayor in the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen, and the two friends "shed tears of emotion" during their last long meeting before Xi's departure. The pair kept up their friendship in the years that followed, occasionally writing and calling each other, said the article.
Xi originally published the article, titled "In Memory of Dashan," in a Hebei-based literary magazine in 1998, on the first anniversary of Jia's death. Guangming Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, reprinted the 3000-word article on Monday.
"The article was full of genuine emotions and very touching," said a Guangming Daily editor's note that was published along with Xi's eulogy. Guangming also carried a short novel by Jia and another memorial article by a student of Jia's on its second page on Monday.