Xi JINPING was born into the Communist elite, but after his father fell out of favour with Mao Zedong – and before his later rehabilitation –the young Xi was sent to a rural hinterland at 15 to learn peasant virtues.
The Liangjiahe years are among the scant details known about Mr Xi’s life and personality, partly because he himself chronicled them as a formative experience.
He rose quietly through the ranks by making the most of two facets: he has an elite, educated background, and at the same time he has successfully cultivated a common-man mystique that helps him appeal to a broad constituency.
He even gave up a promising Beijing post in his late 20s to return to the countryside. However, he did not at first go willingly to Liangjiahe. He tried to escape and was detained. Villagers remember a tall bookworm who eventually earned their respect.
Tall, heavy-set and married to a popular folk singer in the military, Mr Xi is at ease in groups, in contrast to China’s typically stiff and aloof leaders.