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Hu Jintao

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Hu Jintao
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Hu Jintao

Hanyu PinyinH Jǐntāo
Wade-GilesHu Chin-t'ao
Simplified Chinese胡锦涛
Traditional Chinese胡錦濤
Family nameHu
Order:4th President
Term of Office:March 15 2003 - present
Predecessor:Jiang Zemin
Successor: ---
Date of Birth:December 21, 1942
Place of Birth: Jiangyan, Jiangsu, China
Wife:Liu Yongqing
Political Party:Communist Party of China

H Jǐntāo (born December 21, 1942) became General Secretary of the Communist Party of China on November 15, 2002. He became President of the People's Republic of China, replacing Jiang Zemin, on March 15, 2003, following his election by the National People's Congress.

Contents

Early life

According to official biographies, Hu was born in the eastern part of Anhui province, although there is some uncertainty about his actual birthplace. Some commentators believe that Hu was born in Taizhou, Jiangsu - not in Jixi, Anhui as reported. His forefathers lived in Jixi before they moved to Jiangsu. Hu joined the Communist Party prior to the Cultural Revolution in 1964 while still a student at Beijing's Tsinghua University. He graduated with a degree in hydraulics engineering in 1965. During the Cultural Revolution, Hu's father was tortured and died in Taizhou. In the early 1980's, Hu attempted to press local officials to rehabilitate his father, which they refused to do. There is a local story that Hu hosted a banquet for local Communist Party officials, who refused to show up and he was forced to eat the food with the kitchen staff. The story goes that he then left Taizhou swearing never to return, which he has not.

Hu's career is remarkable for his rapid ascent to power, attributed to his moderate views and careful attention not to offend or alienate his older backers. In contrast to the members of the "Shanghai clique", Hu has spent most of his career in China's poorer hinterland rather than in the economically prosperous coastal regions. Partly because of this, he was little known by Western analysts before his ascent to power.

He is the first party chief to have joined the Communist Party after the Revolution. As Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, he was responsible for a political crackdown in early 1989 that lead to the deaths of several Tibetan activists. He also worked towards some liberalization of cultural activities. In his 50's, Hu was by far the youngest member of the then seven-member Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China. According to his official biography, he possesses a photographic memory.

Leadership

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Jiang Zemin with Hu Jintao

Since taking over as Party General Secretary at the Sixteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Hu Jintao has appeared to have a more egalitarian style than his predecessor, and there are no obvious signs that Jiang Zemin is still exercising power. Hu has focused on sectors of the Chinese population that have been left behind by the economic reform, and has taken a number of high profile trips to the poorer areas of China with the stated goal of understanding these areas better. The major early crisis of Hu's leadership was the outbreak of SARS. Following strong criticism of China by the World Health Organization and others for covering up and responding slowly to the crisis, he sacked several party and government officials, including the health minister and the mayor of Beijing, and took steps to increase the transparency of China's reporting to international health organizations.

Although reform minded, Hu has also sometimes taken a harder line than his predecessor. Many who thought he may have been a closet liberal prior to his ascession have been sorely disappointed by his crackdowns against journalists and political dissidents.

Another test of Hu's leadership was Beijing's low key response to protests against the implementation of Article 23 of the Basic Law in Hong Kong in 2003. In an unprecedented move, the legislation to implement the Article was withdrawn by the Hong Kong government, after a large popular protest on July 1, 2003. At the same time, Hu gave a public show of support to Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa after gauging public mood in Hong Kong. Many observers see the Central Government's handling of the situation as characteristic of Hu's quiet style, and unlike Tung Chee-Hwa, Hu remains a popular figure in Hong Kong.

 (background) and Hu Jintao (foreground)
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Zeng Qinghong (background) and Hu Jintao (foreground)

Although Jiang Zemin, then 76, stepped down from the powerful Politburo Standing Committee to make way for a younger "fourth generation" of leadership led by Hu, there was speculation that Jiang Zemin would retain significant power because Hu is not associated with Jiang's "Shanghai clique", to which six out of the nine new members of the all-powerful Standing Committee are linked. The 22-member Politburo is elected by the Party's central committee. Real power in Communist China lies with this committee, which works like an inner cabinet and groups together the country's most influential leaders. At the 2002 16th Party Congress, the Standing Committee was expanded to include nine members. In addition, Jiang was reelected to the post of Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China, a post from which Deng Xiaoping was able to wield power from behind the scenes as "paramount leader."

China has a history of fallen heirs-apparent, which many observers believe explains the caution with which outside observers have long associated Hu Jintao. The PRC has been plagued with succession problems, with elder cadres, such as Deng Xiaoping, wielding behind the scenes power through younger protgs. Deng was able to anoint three party secretaries, and was instrumental in the ousting of two of them, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. His third and final selection, Jiang Zemin, won Deng's continued backing and was the only party secretary in Communist Chinese history to voluntarily leave his post when his term ended. Even Deng himself fell from grace as party general secretary (not the top communist post during that time) in the 1950s due to his indifferent support for Maoist economic policies.

At the same time, attempts to draw historical parallels need to be carefully considered. Since the early-1980s, the People's Republic of China has been marked by increasing institutionalization and rule has been de-personalized. In reaction to the anarchy of the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party of China has had as one of its major goals, the creation of an orderly system of succession and mechanism to prevent informal rule and a cult of personality.

 President  meeting with Hu Jintao in 's  on , 2004
Brazilian President Lula da Silva meeting with Hu Jintao in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on May 24, 2004

However, speculations around the political rivalry between Jiang and Hu largely subsided when Jiang resigned as Chairman of the Central Military Commission in September 2004, his last official post. Hu succeeded Jiang as the Chairman of CMC and thus gaining effective control over the state, the party, as well as the army.

Hu and Wen Jiabao have also attempted to move China away from a policy of favouring economic growth at all costs and toward a more balanced view of growth that includes factors in social inequality and environmental damage, including the use of the green gross domestic product in personnel decisions.

Viewpoints

Observers indicate that Hu distinguishes himself from his predecessor in both domestic and foreign policy. In domestic policy, he seems to want more openness to the public on governmental functions and meetings. Recently, China's news agency published many Politburo Standing Committee meeting details. He also cancelled many spendthrift events that are traditionally seen as communist extravagances, such as the lavish send-off and welcoming-back ceremonies of Chinese leaders when visiting foreign lands. Furthermore the Chinese leadership under Hu has also focused on such problems as the gap between rich and poor and uneven development between the interior and coastal regions. Both party and state seem to have moved away from a definition of development that focuses solely on GDP growth and toward a more balanced definition which includes social equality and environment effects.

Hu Jintao with  President  in April 2004
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Hu Jintao with North Korean President Kim Jong-il in April 2004

In 2004, Hu ordered all cadres from the five major power functions to stop going to the Beidaihe retreat for their annual summer meeting which, before, was commonly seen as a gathering of ruling elites from both current and elder cadres to decide China's destiny. In foreign policy, he has differed from his predecessor by actively engaging in the current North Korean crisis. He has also assured neighbors in the region with the concept of China's peaceful rise.

At the same time, Hu has contradicted some initial expectations that he was a closet liberal. Observers have noted that under Hu, censorship of the news media and harassment of dissidents has increased. Furthermore, while Hu has attempted to make decision making more transparent and to increase rule of law he has also explicitly stated that his goal is to strengthen and make the party more efficient rather than weaken the party or move toward a pluralistic political system. In December 2004, the Hong Kong magazine Open quoted an alleged instruction by Hu to propaganda officials from September in which he wrote that, when managing ideology, China had to learn from Cuba and North Korea. Although North Korea had encountered temporary economic problems, its political policies were consistently correct. Open also quoted Hu as calling Mikhail Gorbachev a "betrayer of socialism".

While Hu Jintao has given some signs of being more flexible with regard to political relationships with Taiwan as in his four points speech, he appears to be unwilling to reconsider Chinese reunification as an ultimate goal or to renounce the use of force if Taiwan were to declare independence. The combination of both soft and hard approaches were apparent in the Anti-Secession Law which was passed in March 2005 and in the unprecented meeting between Hu and Kuomintang leader Lien Chan in April 2005.

Offices held


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External links

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