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The rise of Xi Jinping
China correspondent Huey Fern Tay looks at Xi Jinping’s life and his path to becoming China’s next leader.

Xi Jinping's father was a revolutionary hero and he grew up as a Party Princeling, one of the privileged children of the founders of the Communist state.

But during the Cultural Revolution the young Xi went into exile.

His rehabilitation and rise through the ranks began in the coastal provinces that became the engines of China's economic transformation.
(Footage of rural China is shown)

HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: The birth place of China's Communist Revolution is poor, remote and dusty.

Like in many parts of rural China, most of the young people here have left to work in the big city, leaving behind the elderly like Lau Xialan (phonetic) and her husband Liu Xiumin (phonetic).

LIU XIUMIN (subtitled): We won't leave.

HUEY FERN TAY (subtitled): Why?

LIU XIUMIN (subtitled): I don't really like the city (laughs).

(Footage of the couple's home is shown)

HUEY FERN TAY: The couple have lived in this village all their lives and, like generations before them, they have always made their home in a cave. They moved into this one about a decade ago, a simple dwelling that is naturally cool in summer and warm in winter. Life is basic.

But times were much tougher 30 years ago. And back then, as they toiled, so did a teenager in the village next door. He did so for seven years. The teenager was Xi Jinping, now China's most powerful man.

LIU XIUMIN (subtitled): (Pointing) He used to live over there.

HUEY FERN TAY: China's next president Xi Jinping may have grown up within the privileged walls of Zhongnanhai in Beijing where the Party's elite lived, but his family's fortunes changed during the Cultural Revolution. His father was sent to a labour camp for 16 years while Xi Jinping was sent here to one of China's poorest provinces where he lived in a cave home similar to this one.

Xi Jinping's years in exile give China's new leader a romanticised link with the country's poor.

But when we attempt to probe further into this period of hardship, it soon becomes clear we aren't welcome in the area. Local officials have received a tip-off that the foreign media were in town.

(Footage of Huey Fern Tay talking to local officials)

(To James): James, your press card.

(On Asia Pacific Focus): They let us go, but a village official appeared soon afterwards and ordered us to leave.

(Footage of Fujian is shown)

By his own admission, the hard years on the land transformed Xi Jinping. But the man who will guide the world's second biggest economy really began his rise to the top far from China's peasant heartland.

Fujian is one of three thriving coastal provinces that Xi Jinping led. It's here Mr Xi spent the longest time, building his political career over a period of 17 years.

Wang Jing is the cofounder of a Newland computer company. She's one of the few people who has not only worked closely with Mr Xi, but more significantly is prepared to go on the record about her experience.

The company received Mr Xi's backing from the moment it was formed in the early 90s when he was senior party official in the provincial capital.

(Footage of Wang Jing showing Huey Fern Tay photographs of herself and Xi Jinping plays)

WANG JING, NEWLAND COMPUTER (translation): We've met many times before. In the early days he was the leader of this area. I feel he's a very warm, kind and realistic person. He doesn't put on a front or put on my airs. I feel at ease talking to him.

HUEY FERN TAY: Like many of China's leaders, the views of Xi Jinping are difficult to pin down. But for a long time people have been looking for clues on where he stands on various issues and where he might lead China.

DAVID ZWEIG, HONG KONG UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: China's in big trouble and I think that the leadership knows it. They know the worries of inflation, corruption, they watched Tiananmen. These are the people who experienced Tiananmen, and so they understand that society can revolt. But on the other hand they've had 10 years of watching Hu Jintao do nothing. And I feel fairly confident that they will try to take on some of those problems.

(Footage of the Communist Party Congress plays)

HUEY FERN TAY: Xi Jinping assumes the presidency in March next year. But the horse trading and jostling along the corridors of power won't necessarily end there. China's new leaders will move to consolidate their power.

But much like Xi Jinping's past, and the infighting that has led up to this leadership transition, any power struggle will be kept mostly a secret.
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