The early years: the troubled times that ‘forged Xi Jinping’
Tales of struggle and loyalty from Xi Jinping’s early years retold in campaign to bolster president’s authority ahead of power reshuffle
The strongman now presiding over China failed nine times to join the Communist Party as a young man before finally being accepted.
The anecdote about President Xi Jinping is one of several about his early years in the latest of a string of media reports to cement Xi’s personal authority ahead of a power reshuffle set for autumn.
The report on Friday in the Study Times, a journal affiliated with the party’s top academy, underscored his determination to join the party despite the persecution of his family.
Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun, was a communist revolutionary and rose to become a vice-premier.
But he became a target of internal party persecution in 1962 and was jailed and publicly humiliated during the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long era of political and social turmoil that started in 1966.
During the upheaval in his family, Xi Jinping was also besieged by mobs, jailed, made homeless and sent to the countryside for hard labour, according to the report.
However, his father’s faith in the party and its political ideals – which remained unshaken, despite his 16 years of imprisonment – greatly influenced the son, the report said.
“No matter whether it was the White Terror (the Kuomintang crackdown on the communists), or the ultra-leftist era (the Cultural Revolution); despite being framed and encountering adversity, my father’s faith in communism was unshaken, and he always believed our party was great, righteous and glorious,” the report recounted Xi Jinping writing in a letter celebrating his father’s birthday in 2001.
The report also recounted Xi’s memories of being sent down to the countryside for seven years of hard labour in Shaanxi province.
“[I] did everything, blazing the trail, seeding, herding, carrying manure … I barely took a rest,” he was quoted as saying in 1995.
It also said Xi used to carry 100kg loads of wheat on one shoulder along a 5km stretch of mountainous road.
This is not the first time state media has offered details of the president’s turbulent early life and how some of the experiences apparently helped shape the tough and resilient leader portrayed on the mainland.
But the latest retelling is part of a massive public campaign designed to raise awareness of Xi’s personal authority ahead of the party’s five-yearly national congress later this year.
The campaign includes lengthy articles and documentaries published or aired by several official media outlets, which have credited Xi with the country’s major achievements of the past few years.