Dr. Thomas Lairson Professor of Political Science XI Jinping This is a collection of materials relating to the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and President of China, XI Jinping. Nyt

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Dr. Thomas Lairson
Professor of Political Science

Xi Jinping

This is a collection of materials relating to the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and President of China, Xi Jinping.


Cultural Revolution Shaped Xi Jinping, From Schoolboy to Survivor

点击查看本文中文版 Read in Chinese



Xi Jinping during a visit to Beijing in 1972. He has rarely spoken publicly about his experiences as a teenager in the capital during the early years of the Cultural Revolution. Credit Xinhua Press, via Corbis

BEIJING — When the pandemonium of the Cultural Revolution erupted, he was a slight, softly spoken 13-year-old who loved classical Chinese poetry. Two years later, adrift in a city torn apart by warring Red Guards, Xi Jinping had hardened into a combative street survivor.

His father, a senior Communist Party official who had been purged a few years earlier, was seized and repeatedly beaten. Student militants ransacked his family’s home, forcing the family to flee, and one of his sisters died in the mayhem. Paraded before a crowd as an enemy of the revolution and denounced by his own mother, the future president of China was on the edge of being thrown into a prison for delinquent children of the party elite.

Visiting the United States this week, Mr. Xi, 62, has presented himself as a polished statesman, at ease hobnobbing with American capitalists in Seattle and attending a state dinner at the White House in his honor, set for Friday. Yet his first immersion in politics came on the streets of the Chinese capital during the most tumultuous era of Communist rule, when Mao Zedong exhorted students “to bombard the headquarters” of order.

“I always had a stubborn streak and wouldn’t put up with being bullied,” Mr. Xi recalled in an interview in 2000, one of the few times he has spoken about his experience as a teenager in Beijing. “I riled the radicals, and they blamed me for everything that went wrong.”

Mr. Xi has often discussed the seven years he spent exiled to a rural village during the latter part of the Cultural Revolution, including in a speech in Seattle on Tuesday, casting that chapter of his life as an uplifting story of a city boy who discovers the suffering of ordinary Chinese in the countryside and resolves to make a difference.

But Mr. Xi has rarely spoken in public about his experiences from 1966 to 1968 at the tumultuous start of the Cultural Revolution, and his close contemporaries refuse to talk to foreign journalists about those years.

An examination of memoirs written by them and by members of Mr. Xi’s family, though, offers an unusually vivid look at how a shy, bookish youth, raised in the bosom of party privilege, was tested and changed by the chaos that unfolded after Mao’s decision to turn the masses against the party establishment.

Mr. Xi started his transformation in the equivalent of the seventh grade in the August 1 School, a cloistered boarding school largely reserved for children with parents in the senior ranks of the party and the military. When Cultural Revolution militants shut it down, he ended up at the No. 25 School, which was a hotbed of discontent with the party elite, said Qian Peizhen, chairwoman of the school’s alumni association.

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