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Who is Hu Jintao?

November 15
Of the many stories which circulate about Hu Jintao, the Chinese President, who is paying his first state visit to India and Pakistan from November 20, one is particularly delectable.

This relates to the period (1988 to 1992) when he was posted as Secretary of the Party Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region. In 1988-89, Tibet witnessed anti-Chinese and pro-Dalai Lama Riots. China's leader Deng Xiao-ping was greatly worried over the situation. Every day, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, which is their internal intelligence agency, used to record the prevailing situation and send it to Deng. He used to watch it after dinner. One night, he was watching the recording of a rioting mob being controlled by the police and the army under the leadership of a youngish looking man.

Deng asked one of his aides: "Who is he?"

"Hu," the aide replied.

"Hu is good," remarked Deng, got up and went to sleep.

With Tibet in the safe hands of Hu, Deng did not have to spend sleepless nights worrying about it.

"Hu is good" -- was one of the famous remarks of Deng, which found wide circulation in Beijing's party and government circles. Hu's career was made. There was no stopping him. He kept rising steadily in the ruling apparatus till he reached the top -- the Chinese presidency -- at the age of 61.

Hu was born in Jixi in the, Anhui Province in December 1942. His father was a tea seller. He was hardly seven years old, when the Communists under Mao Tse-Dong captured power and set up the People's Republic of China. He joined the Communist Party of China in April 1964 and began to work in July 1965 after graduating from the Water Conservancy Engineering Department of the Tsinghua University. Like his predecessor Jiang Zemin, he was an engineer (hydel power) by training and profession before he switched to politics.

Hu began his party work in west China's Gansu Province in 1968 and stayed there until 1982 when he became a member of the Secretariat of the Communist Youth League of China Central Committee and president of the All-China Youth Federation. It was in that capacity that he first visited India in 1984. His forthcoming visit as the Chinese President would be his second. In 1985, he was appointed Secretary of the CPC Guizhou Provincial Committee. From there, he went to Tibet in 1988. His success in the pacification of Tibet won him not only high recognition from Deng, but also an out of turn promotion in 1992 as a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee at the First Plenum of the 14th CPC Central Committee. From 1993 to the end of 2002, Hu was concurrently president of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, which trains senior party cadres and organises ideological research.

In September 1997, Hu was re-elected a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. He became the Vice-President of China in March 1998 and Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission in September 1999. In November 2002, Hu was elected General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and in March, 2003,he was elected President of China. He has since taken over also as the Chairman of the Central Military Commission in September 2004. Thus, he is the unchallenged leader of the state and party apparatus in China.

Image: Chinese President Hu Jintao addresses a press conference following talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the chancellery in Berlin 11 November 2005.

Text: B Raman | Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images
Also see: Hu Jintao in India

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