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courage is contagious

Viewing cable 09BEIJING3128, PORTRAIT OF VICE PRESIDENT XI JINPING: "AMBITIOUS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BEIJING3128 2009-11-16 12:12 2010-12-28 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
VZCZCXRO9016
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #3128/01 3201220
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 161220Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6865
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 BEIJING 003128 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2034 
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL CH TW
SUBJECT: PORTRAIT OF VICE PRESIDENT XI JINPING: "AMBITIOUS 
SURVIVOR" OF THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION 

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Aubrey Carlson. Reasons 1. 
4 (b/d). 

Summary 
------- 

1. (C) According to a well connected Embassy contact, 
Politburo Standing Committee Member and Vice President Xi 
Jinping is "exceptionally ambitious," confident and focused, 
and has had his "eye on the prize" from early adulthood. 
Unlike many youth who "made up for lost time by having fun" 
after the Cultural Revolution, Xi "chose to survive by 
becoming redder than the red." He joined the Party and began 
mapping out a career plan that would take him to the top of 
the system. In our contact's view, Xi is supremely pragmatic 
and a realist, driven not by ideology but by a combination of 
ambition and "self-protection." Xi is a true "elitist" at 
heart, according to our contact, believing that rule by a 
dedicated and committed Communist Party leadership is the key 
to enduring social stability and national strength. The most 
permanent influences shaping Xi's worldview were his 
"princeling" pedigree and formative years growing up with 
families of first-generation CCP revolutionaries in Beijing's 
exclusive residential compounds. Our contact is convinced 
that Xi has a genuine sense of "entitlement," believing that 
members of his generation are the "legitimate heirs" to the 
revolutionary achievements of their parents and therefore 
"deserve to rule China." 

2. (C) Xi is not corrupt and does not care about money, but 
could be "corrupted by power," in our contact's view. Xi at 
one point early in his career was quite taken with Buddhist 
mysticism, displaying a fascination with (and knowledge of) 
Buddhist martial arts and mystical powers said to aid health. 
The contact stated that Xi is very familiar with the West, 
including the United States, and has a favorable outlook 
toward the United States. He also understands Taiwan and the 
Taiwan people from his long tenure as an official in Fujian 
Province. End Summary. 

Introduction 
------------ 

3. (C) A longtime Embassy contact and former close friend of 
Politburo Standing Committee Member and Vice President Xi 
Jinping has shared with PolOff his first-hand knowledge of 
Xi's family background, upbringing, early adulthood, and 
political career, as well as his impressions and assessments 
of Xi's personality and political views. The information was 
acquired in multiple conversations over a two-year period 
2007-2009. The contact is an American citizen of Chinese 
descent who teaches political science at XXXXXXXXXXXX " 

Fifteen-Year Relationship with Xi 
--------------------------------- 

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX and Xi Jinping were 
both born in 1953 and grew up in similar circumstances. 
According to the professor, they lived with other sons and 
daughters of China's first-generation revolutionaries in the 
senior leaders' compounds in Beijing and were groomed to 
become China's ruling elite. The professor did not know Xi 
personally until they had both reached their late teens, when 
the professor began to hear about Xi from the professor's 
best friend, XXXXXXXXXXXX, who was later sent to the 
same village as Xi in Shaanxi province during the Cultural 
Revolution. (Note: According to the professor, Zhou 
Sanhua's father was a former editor-in-chief of the People's 
Liberation Army (PLA) Daily.) By the time the professor and 
Xi had returned separately from the countryside, they had 
come to know each other personally, initially through Zhou 
Sanhua's introduction, and maintained a relationship for the 
next 15 years (ca. 1972 to 1987), even though their lives and 
careers took markedly different paths. 

Revolutionary Fathers 
--------------------- 

5. (C) Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, was a communist guerilla 
leader in northwest China in the 1930s, when Mao and the CCP 
leaders reached Yan'an at the end of the Long March. Xi 
Zhongxun was one of the few local leaders to survive later 
purges, siding with the Mao Zedong faction and rising quickly 
through Party ranks to become a Vice Premier in the 1950s 
while still in his thirties. According to the professor, Xi 
Zhongxun was the youngest Vice Premier among the early 
generation of CCP leaders. Despite his association with 
Mao's group, said the professor, Xi Zhongxun was also "good 
friends" with Deng Xiaoping and was "actually closer to Deng 
than to Mao." 

BEIJING 00003128 002 OF 006 



6. (C) The professor's father was also an early revolutionary 
and contemporary of Mao, from a neighboring county to Mao's 
in Hunan province. The professor's father participated in 
the revolution periodically but also spent time in Japan and 
Hong Kong, distinguishing himself as a labor leader. In 
1949, according to the professor, his father agreed to return 
to Beijing at Mao's insistence and became the PRC's first 
Minister of Labor and a member of the first Chinese People's 
Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Standing Committee. 

7. (C) Despite Communist Party rhetoric regarding the 
creation of a "classless" society, the professor described, 
the pre-Cultural Revolution society and leadership compounds 
in which he and Xi Jinping grew up were, ironically, the 
"most precisely class-based mini-society ever constructed." 
Everything was determined by one's "internal party class 
status," the professor asserted, including the kindergarten 
one attended, the place where one shopped, and the type of 
car one could own. All of these "benefits" were determined 
by Party rank, such as Politburo Standing Committee member, 
Vice Minister, or Central Committee member. One's every 
action, every day, was in some way an indication of one's 
"class" status, the professor stated. The children of this 
revolutionary elite were told that they, too, would someday 
take their rightful place in the Chinese leadership. All of 
this came to an end in the Cultural Revolution, the professor 
said, but consciousness of membership in an entitled, elite 
generation of future rulers has remained among most of the 
members of this class. 

Cultural Revolution and Return to Beijing 
----------------------------------------- 

8. (C) Both Xi Zhongxun and the professor's father were 
purged during the Cultural Revolution and spent time in 
prison, according to the professor. (Note: Xi Zhongxun was 
purged in the early 1960s, several years before the Cultural 
Revolution began, but things got worse for him and his family 
once the Cultural Revolution started.) The professor's 
father was falsely accused of supporting Liu Shaoqi and spent 
most of the Cultural Revolution years (1966-1976) in prison. 
Both Xi Zhongxun and the professor's father were later 
rehabilitated when Deng Xiaoping returned to power. Xi was 
rehabilitated by Deng in 1978 and was appointed by Deng as 
Party Secretary in Guangdong in the 1980s. 

9. (C) In the early 1970s, the circle of youthful friends, 
including Xi Jinping and the professor, managed to return to 
Beijing from the countryside. The professor described 
themselves as "fugitives" of one kind or another. The 
professor himself served prison time and spent "years on the 
run" due to his father's status as a "counter-revolutionary." 
At this time, the professor said, he knew Xi, but they did 
not spend a great deal of time together. 

10. (C) The professor said that he and others found 
dramatically different ways to "survive" the aftermath of the 
Cultural Revolution. While the professor and his closest 
circle of friends descended into the pursuit of romantic 
relationships, drink, movies and Western literature as a 
release from the hardships of the time, Xi Jinping, by 
contrast "chose to survive by becoming redder than the red." 
(Note: The professor commented that, in a continuation of 
his attempt to deal with the Cultural Revolution, the 
professor eventually decided to "flee" China and pursue 
graduate study -- and a new life -- in the United States.) 
Unlike the professor and others who shared his Cultural 
Revolution experience in rural villages, Xi turned to serious 
politics upon his return to Beijing, joining the CCP in 1974 
while his father was still in prison. The professor and his 
friends were reading DeGaulle and Nixon and "trying to catch 
up for lost years by having fun," while Xi was reading Marx 
and laying the foundation for a career in politics. Xi even 
went off to join a "worker-peasant-soldier revolutionary 
committee" (note: a label given provincial governing units 
during the Cultural Revolution), after which the professor 
had presumed he would never see Xi again. It was an "open 
secret," the professor said, that it was through the 
"worker-peasant-soldier revolutionary committee" that Xi got 
his "bachelor's education." The professor said Xi's first 
degree was not a "real" university education, but instead a 
three-year degree in applied Marxism. (Note: Xi's official 
biography provides no information on Xi between his 
assignment to Yanchuan county, Shaanxi province, in 1969, and 
1975, when, it states, he became a student at Tsinghua 
University, graduating in 1979.) 

Neighbors, 1977-1982 
-------------------- 


BEIJING 00003128 003 OF 006 


11. (C) When Xi and the professor's fathers were 
rehabilitated following the Cultural Revolution, the 
professor said, their respective families were relocated to 
the "Nanshagou" housing compound in western Beijing, directly 
across from Diaoyutai. The professor opened his Nanshagou 
apartment door one day in 1977 and there was Xi, standing 
across the hall from him. The two friends lived directly 
across from one another and, the professor said, talked 
almost daily for the next five years. Xi became a PLA 
officer "and wore his uniform every day," while the professor 
became a student at Beijing Shifan Daxue (Beijing Normal 
University). There were many prominent leaders in Nanshagou, 
including Wang Daohan, Jiang Zemin's mentor. Jiang 
frequently rode his bike there, and Jia Qinglin (currently 
Politburo Standing Committee member) also had a connection to 
Wang from that time, the professor said. 

Sporadic Contact, 1982-1987 
--------------------------- 

12. (C) From 1982 to 1987, the professor only saw Xi 
periodically, most memorably during a visit to Xiamen in the 
mid-1980s, where Xi was serving as a local official, and in 
1987 when Xi visited the professor in Washington, D.C. In 
Xiamen, Xi treated the professor like royalty, but they did 
not spend much time together during the professor's visit 
there, and Xi said very little of substance. The professor, 
in turn, hosted Xi in Washington, D.C., where the professor 
was a graduate student. Xi's 1987 visit to the United States 
was the last time the two men met face to face. The last 
time the professor spoke with Xi was when his father, Xi 
Zhongxun, passed away several years ago, at which time the 
two spoke briefly over the phone when the professor called to 
offer his condolences. Xi was serving as the Party Secretary 
of Zhejiang Province at the time. 

Xi's Family 
----------- 

13. (C) Xi was the middle child in a family of three children 
that included an older sister and a younger brother, all of 
whom were apparently from his father's second marriage, 
according to the professor. Xi's older sister, Xi An'an, at 
some point left China for Canada, and as far as the professor 
knows, still resides there. Xi An'an's husband was in the 
PLA, the professor said. Xi's younger brother, Xi Yuanping, 
moved to Hong Kong when it was under British rule. The last 
time the professor saw Xi Yuanping was in the 1980s, at a 
time when Xi's father Xi Zhongxun was still Party Secretary 
in Guangdong province. The brother had become both obese and 
very wealthy, the professor said, sporting "expensive jewelry 
and designer clothing." The professor has lost contact with 
him since. (Note: Unofficial biographies published in Hong 
Kong claim Xi had other siblings as well.) 

Marriage and Divorce 
-------------------- 

14. (C) Xi Jinping's first marriage was to Ke Xiaoming, the 
daughter of China's 1978-1983 ambassador to Great Britain, Ke 
Hua. According to the professor, Ke Xiaoming was elegant and 
well educated. The couple initially lived with Xi's parents 
in the Nanshagou housing compound, but as his father's 
political fortunes rose, his parents moved to a new house in 
"East" Beijing, near the Drum Tower and close to the houses 
of Deng Xiaoping and Yang Shangkun, leaving the young couple 
to themselves in the Nanshagou apartment. The couple fought 
"almost every day," the professor said, and the marriage 
ended when Ke Xiaoming returned to England and Xi refused to 
go with her. The professor remarked that he thought Xi's 
"distant" quality contributed to the couple's divorce. He 
noted that he had watched Xi "drift" further and further from 
Ke Xiaoming, until she finally left for England. There was, 
"of course," no way that Xi would go with her, the professor 
said. Xi later married a famous PLA singer. 

Xi's Early Career: Single-Minded Pursuit of Power 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 

15. (C) According to the professor, Xi was always 
"exceptionally ambitious" and had his "eye on the prize" from 
the very beginning. Once Xi had returned from his education 
in the worker-soldier-peasant revolutionary committee, he 
carefully laid out a career plan that would maximize his 
opportunities to rise to the top levels of the Party 
hierarchy, first becoming a PLA officer in the late 1970s and 
then serving in a variety of provincial leadership positions, 
progressively rising through the ranks. By 1979, Xi was on 
the staffs of the State Council and the Central Military 
Commission (CMC), serving as an assistant to the CMC 
Secretary General and later Minister of National Defense 

BEIJING 00003128 004 OF 006 


(1982), General Geng Biao, a revolutionary comrade of his 
father's. The professor said he had the impression that Geng 
Biao had helped Xi Jinping get the PLA job, and that Xi 
Zhongxun had, in turn, given Geng's daughter a position in 
Guangdong when he was Party Secretary there. 

16. (C) According to the professor, Xi subsequently became 
even more serious in plotting a career path to the top. By 
all appearances, with his father having been politically 
rehabilitated and rapidly regaining his power, Xi Jinping 
could have continued to rise quickly in the Central Party 
apparatus. Xi, however, reasoned that in the long run, 
staying in Beijing would limit his career potential. Xi told 
the professor that staying with Geng Biao would eventually 
shrink his power base, which would ultimately rest primarily 
on his father's and Geng's networks and political support. 
Moreover, in time, people would turn against him if he stayed 
in the Center. 

17. (C) So in a calculated move to lay the basis for a future 
return as a Central leader, Xi asked for a position in the 
countryside and, in 1982, became a local official in 
Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province. Xi later became 
the Deputy Party Secretary in Zhengding county, also in 
Hebei. Xi told the professor at the time that he "would be 
back one day." (Note: Xi later served for many years in 
Fujian province, becoming Governor in 2000, then moving to 
Zhejiang province in 2002 to be Party Secretary, and then to 
Shanghai as Party Secretary in 2007. He was elevated to the 
Politburo Standing Committee at the 17th National CCP 
Congress in October 2007 and was appointed Vice President at 
the National People's Congress in March 2008.) 

18. (C) Xi told the professor at the time that going to the 
provinces was his "only path to central power." Xi thought 
it was important to know people in the Central Organization 
Department and to keep his eyes on the Center, even as he 
worked his way up the ladder as a local official. According 
to the professor, Xi "had promotion to the Center in mind 
from day one." Xi knew how to develop personal networks and 
work the system, first using his father's networks and later 
building his own. 

Xi the Person 
------------- 

19. (C) The professor offered his personal assessment -- 
based on their similar upbringing and his long association 
with Xi during his formative years -- of Xi's personality and 
political views. Although he had not seen Xi in person in 
more than 20 years, "one cannot entirely escape one's past," 
he asserted, and "Xi does not want to." The professor on 
repeated occasions painted a portrait of Xi Jinping as an 
ambitious, calculating, confident and focused person who in 
early adulthood demonstrated his singleness of purpose by 
distinguishing himself from his peers and turning his 
attention to politics even before the Cultural Revolution had 
concluded. The professor marveled that Xi joined the 
Communist Party while his father still languished in a Party 
prison for alleged political crimes. At the time, the 
professor and his friend Zhou felt "betrayed" by Xi's embrace 
of the CCP, but both realized this was one way to "survive." 
Xi chose to "join the system" to get ahead. Although Xi 
never said so explicitly, he sent a message that, in China, 
there was a better way forward than what the professor had 
chosen: namely, do not give up on the system. Xi was 
reserved and detached and "difficult to read," said the 
professor. He had a "strong mind" and understood power, but 
"from day one, never showed his hand." 

20. (C) Unlike those in the social circles the professor ran 
in, Xi Jinping could not talk about women and movies and did 
not drink or do drugs. Xi was considered of only average 
intelligence, the professor said, and not as smart as the 
professor's peer group. Women thought Xi was "boring." The 
professor never felt completely relaxed around Xi, who seemed 
extremely "driven." Nevertheless, despite Xi's lack of 
popularity in the conventional sense and his "cold and 
calculating" demeanor in these early years, the professor 
said, Xi was "not cold-hearted." He was still considered a 
"good guy" in other ways. Xi was outwardly friendly, "always 
knew the answers" to questions, and would "always take care 
of you." The professor surmised that Xi's newfound 
popularity today, which the professor found surprising, must 
stem in part from Xi's being "generous and loyal." Xi also 
does not care at all about money and is not corrupt, the 
professor stated. Xi can afford to be incorruptible, the 
professor wryly noted, given that he was born with a silver 
spoon in his mouth. It is likely that Xi could, however, be 
"corrupted by power." 


BEIJING 00003128 005 OF 006 


Xi's Political Instincts and Biases 
----------------------------------- 

21. (C) In the professor's view, Xi Jinping is supremely 
pragmatic, a realist, driven not by ideology but by a 
combination of ambition and "self-protection." The professor 
saw Xi's early calculations to carefully lay out a realistic 
career path as an illustration of his pragmatism. The most 
permanent influences shaping Xi's worldview were his 
princeling pedigree and formative years growing up with 
families of first-generation CCP revolutionaries in Beijing's 
elite residential compounds. These influences were amplified 
by Xi's decision in his early twenties to join the CCP and 
then the PLA. Xi solidified these views and values during 
his subsequent very successful 30-year career as a Party 
official, the professor concluded. 

22. (C) Xi is a true "elitist" at heart, according to the 
professor, and believes that rule by a dedicated and 
committed Communist Party leadership is the key to enduring 
social stability and national strength, as in the 
(self-perceived) elite-dominated society of his youth, knit 
together by family ties, elders and male authority. After 
years of conversations with Xi, and having shared a common 
upbringing with him, the professor said, he is convinced that 
Xi has a genuine sense of "entitlement," believing that 
members of his generation are the "legitimate heirs" to the 
revolutionary achievements of their parents and therefore 
"deserve to rule China." For this reason, the professor 
maintained, Xi could never be a "true member" of current 
President Hu Jintao's camp, even if Xi did not give any 
indication of opposition to Hu Jintao now. Xi and other 
first-generation princelings derisively refer to people with 
non-Party, non-elite, commercial backgrounds like Hu Jintao 
as "shopkeepers' sons," whose parents did not fight and die 
for the revolution and therefore do not deserve positions of 
power. 

23. (C) Xi knows how very corrupt China is and is repulsed by 
the all-encompassing commercialization of Chinese society, 
with its attendant nouveau riche, official corruption, loss 
of values, dignity, and self-respect, and such "moral evils" 
as drugs and prostitution, the professor stated. The 
professor speculated that if Xi were to become the Party 
General Secretary, he would likely aggressively attempt to 
address these evils, perhaps at the expense of the new 
moneyed class. 

24. (C) Xi at one point early in his career was quite taken 
with Buddhist mysticism, according to the professor. In 
comments Xi made to the professor, including during the 
professor's visit to Xiamen while Xi was serving as an 
official there, Xi displayed a fascination with Buddhist 
martial arts, qigong, and other mystical powers said to aid 
health, as well as with Buddhist sacred sites such as 
Wutaishan. The professor said he does not know whether Xi 
was actually religious, or whether he was simply looking for 
a way to aid his health and well-being. Regardless, the 
professor said, he was extremely surprised by how much Xi 
knew about the subject and Xi's seeming belief in 
supernatural forces. 

Familiarity with the West and Taiwan 
------------------------------------ 

25. (C) Based on personal experience, the professor noted, Xi 
is very familiar with the West, with a sister in Canada, an 
ex-wife in England, a brother in Hong Kong, many friends 
overseas, and prior travel to the United States. As far as 
the professor can discern, Xi's family and friends have had a 
good experience in the West. The professor contrasted Xi's 
experience and attitudes toward the West with those of people 
sent to the United States by their work units, such as the 
nationalist and sometime anti-U.S. Tsinghua University 
scholar Yan Xuetong. Xi was the only one of his immediate 
family to stay behind in China, the professor noted, 
speculating that Xi knew early on that he would "not be 
special" outside of China. 

26. (C) Xi is favorably disposed toward the United States, 
the professor maintained, and would want to maintain good 
relations with Washington. The professor said Xi has "no 
ambition" to "confront" the United States. During Xi's visit 
to Washington, D.C., in 1987, he told the professor that he 
had no strong impressions of the United States. Although Xi 
was not particularly impressed by the United States, he had 
nothing bad to say about it either. Xi took a detached 
stance, as if observing from a distance, viewing what he saw 
as just a normal part of life, not strange, the professor 
said. 


BEIJING 00003128 006 OF 006 


27. (C) Xi also knows Taiwan and the Taiwan people very well, 
the professor said, noting that Xi was in Fujian province for 
more than twenty years. Attracting Taiwan investment to 
Fujian was an important part of his accomplishments as a 
Xiamen official. 
HUNTSMAN 
HUNTSMAN