Flea bites and wading in sewage: Xi Jinping's account of working among peasants goes viral
An interview President Xi Jinping gave 10 years ago about his days working with peasants as the Cultural Revolution raged has become a surprise internet hit.
It has become the latest online sensation for Xi, after he scored a major propaganda coup by queuing up in a steamed bun restaurant in Beijing for lunch in December. He also courted publicity by visiting a hutong in the capital during thick smog in February.
Xi, then party secretary of Zhejiang province, had sat down with a television reporter from Yanan, Shaanxi province, where he worked for seven years during the Cultural Revolution.
Xi spoke warmly of his experience in Yanan and how it taught him about life.
At 16, the future president volunteered to go the rural area from Beijing after his father Xi Zhongxun, a communist revolutionary, was purged. The younger Xi recalled he was the only one smiling when his family were crying as his train left the capital.
"I told my family If I didn’t go I was not sure I would survive. How is that not a good thing?” Xi recalled.
Liangjiahe village, where he was to stay for a total of seven years, became a haven for Xi but at first he struggled.
Xi admitted he was criticised for being wasteful because he fed a dog with a stale bread when the locals did not even know what bread was.
He found the work difficult too at the beginning because he was already exhausted after climbing up a mountain to work in the fields. He learn to smoke because smokers were sometimes allowed a break.
"The hardship of working shocked me,” Xi said.
He left the village after three months but returned six months later because he had no family to stay with in Beijing. This time he was determined to mingle with the locals.
Xi recalled how he endured everything from flea bites to bad food, boredom and having to knit his own woollen socks. He did not eat meat for months and when he did finally have some he ate it raw with his fellow labourers. He aso said he became a strong and tough worker.
"I took 100kg of wheat and it was no sweat to walk 5km on a mountain road,” Xi recalled.
He was later elected party secretary of the village and led the construction of the first sewage system in Shaanxi province, which Xi remembered vividly.
"The pipe from the pond was blocked and I unblocked it. The excrement and urine flew all over my face,” Xi said.
Xi left the village in 1975 when he was admitted to the Tsinghua University. Villagers waited quietly outside his room to say goodbye and Xi was touched to tears.
"It was the second time I cried there. The first time was when I got a letter [saying] that my elder sister passed away,” Xi said.