After years of persecution by a Communist Party he helped bring to power, Xi Zhongxun was hauled from solitary confinement and taken to see his family. The purged revolutionary could barely recognize his own offspring and recalled a melancholy Tang Dynasty poem: “My children do not know me. They smile and say: ‘Stranger, where do you come from?’ ”
More than three decades later, his son is set to become China’s next leader. Just months from his near-certain elevation to the country’s most powerful post — general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party — 58-year-old Xi Jinping arrived in Washington on Monday for a visit that U.S. officials hope will clarify the direction of the world’s fastest-rising economic and military power.
Probing where Xi might be going, however, involves answering a question that, back home in China, is largely taboo: Where exactly is the leader-in-waiting coming from?
A brief, official biography issued by Xinhua News Agency makes no mention of Xi’s illustrious father, who commanded communist guerrillas in northwest China, rose to the rank of deputy prime minister after the 1949 revolution, got ousted by Mao Zedong in 1962 and, after 16 years in disgrace, reemerged to pioneer some of China’s boldest economic reforms. In written replies to questions submitted by The Washington Post, Xi did not answer a query about how he has been influenced by his father’s troubles.