Chinese President: Profile of Mr.Hu Jintao03.09. 2005 Politics
Unlike heads of state in the West, not much is known about Mr Hu. He was born in the province of Anhui and studied hydraulic engineering at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, graduating in 1964, the same year that he joined the Communist Party. According to his official biography, he has a photographic memory. The early years of Mr Hu’s ascent to power were largely played out in three of China’s poorest provinces: Gansu, Guizhou and Tibet. After running the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China—one of the more liberal bits of the Communist Party—he served as secretary of the Party Committee in Guizhou. He went on to do the same job in Tibet, where he used martial law to suppress pro-independence demonstrations. His ability to protect the interests of the central government did not go unnoticed, and in 1992 he was elevated to the powerful, secretive Politburo Standing Committee, whose members are the leading lights of the Communist Party. In the late 1990s, Mr Hu began to promote large numbers of protégés to senior positions in both Beijing and the provinces, creating a formidable power-network. Since becoming China’s leader, Mr Hu has shown a populist streak, concerning himself with the growing gap between urban rich and rural poor resulting from China’s uneven economic boom. In the past couple of years there has been an upsurge in the number of protests triggered by these disparities, as well as by rampant corruption. Mr Hu is trying to strengthen the Communist Party’s legitimacy by stressing its sympathy for the disadvantaged. Personally taking a number of high-profile trips to the poorer areas of China, he has also increased investment in the impoverished western regions while slowing development in the richer coastal regions. Mr Hu has also placed increased emphasis on strengthening and enforcing the rule of law and protecting rights enshrined in China’s constitution. At the National People’s Congress in September 2004, he said: “Unfalteringly enforcing the rule of law is a vital guarantee of the country’s stability and prosperity,” though he added that this “ensures the governing role of the Chinese Communist Party.” Many intellectuals expressed hopes that Mr Hu would push political reform at a faster pace than his predecessor, Jiang Zemin. However, he is increasingly revealing himself to be a conservative authoritarian, holding up Cuba and North Korea as examples of how the party should keep its ideological grip. As well as ordering millions of officials to take part in many hours of ideological training designed to tighten party discipline, he has cracked down on liberal intellectuals, political dissidents and the media. Mr Hu wants to bring China into the economic mainstream, but its rapid rise has proven threatening. Trade is a particular flashpoint, with calls growing for protectionist measures against Chinese goods. Both America and the European Union have slapped quotas on Chinese textile imports of late. China’s military expansion is also causing concern in the West. Under Mr Hu, China has continued to increase its spending on defence, and tensions remain high with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province. America is particularly worried that China may get its hands on technology that allows its military to match American forces in controlling the battlefield. Historically a passive member of the UN Security Council, China has often abstained from important votes and has seldom taken the lead on big diplomatic issues. However, Mr Hu seems to want his country to be more assertive: for instance, China is hosting the six-nation talks aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear-weapons programme. America has welcomed this apparent willingness to take a bigger role in regional issues.