Chinese media chronicles Xi's troubled youth

Mr Xi Jinping (front) worked on a farm in Ningde in 1989, when he was the Ningde Prefecture Committee secretary.
Mr Xi Jinping (front) worked on a farm in Ningde in 1989, when he was the Ningde Prefecture Committee secretary.PHOTO: CPC NEWS

Article seen as part of campaign to promote his personal authority

BEIJING • China's state media has begun retelling President Xi Jinping's troubled early years, a move Hong Kong's South China Morning Post (SCMP) described as part of a massive public campaign aimed at raising awareness of his personal authority ahead of a power reshuffle later this year.

Lengthy articles and documentaries crediting Mr Xi with overseeing the country's major achievements over the past few years have been published and aired by several official media outlets as part of the campaign, SCMP reported.

An article published last Friday in the Study Times, a publication linked to the party's top academy, said Mr Xi had written 10 application letters to join the Communist Party before finally being admitted as a member of a stained family.

Mr Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, was a revolutionary veteran who was purged for betraying the Communist Party in 1962.

The elder Mr Xi, who was once the former deputy premier of the State Council, was later jailed and publicly humiliated during the Cultural Revolution, the 1966-1976 period when Mao Zedong declared class war.

Despite his 16-year incarceration, the elder Mr Xi's faith in the party and its political ideals remained unshaken, the article said. Those ideals were also a great influence on his son, according to a 2001 letter written by President Xi in celebration of his father's birthday.

The South China Morning Post cited the article as saying that Mr Xi was "at various points besieged by mobs, jailed, homeless and sent to the rural area for hard labour". While it is not the first time that details of Mr Xi's troubled early life have been released in state media, SCMP said the article "underlines Mr Xi's firm determination to serve the Communist Party".

"No matter it was the White Horror (the nationalist crackdown on the communists), or the ultra-leftist era (referring to the Cultural Revolution), despite being framed and being in adverse conditions, my father's faith in communism was unshaken, and he always believed our party is great, righteous and glorious," President Xi wrote in the letter.

SCMP also cited the article as saying that Mr Xi was "at various points besieged by mobs, jailed, homeless and sent to the rural area for hard labour".

While it is not the first time that details of the younger Mr Xi's troubled early life have been released in state media, the newspaper said the article "underlines Mr Xi's firm determination to serve the Communist Party".

The article also recounted Mr Xi's experience of being sent down for seven years of hard labour in Shaanxi in north-western China during the Cultural Revolution. More than 16 million young people were sent down to villages to be remoulded by hard labour during the Cultural Revolution.

China will hold a key party congress later this year, where Mr Xi is expected to cement his grip on power.

Mr Xi last Thursday delivered a wide-ranging speech during which he defended his administration's record.

In it, he hailed the progress made both in tackling corruption and economic imbalances at home as well as helping to solve global problems, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 30, 2017, with the headline 'Chinese media chronicles Xi's troubled youth'. Print Edition | Subscribe