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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September 2004, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Profile: Hu Jintao
Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping
Mr Hu (left) was Deng Xiaoping's protégé, not Jiang's
Even close followers of Chinese politics can say little for sure about Hu Jintao, the man who took over as China's Communist Party leader in 2002 and is now the country's president.

It is 11 years since Deng Xiaoping promoted Mr Hu to the party's ruling Politburo, thereby earmarking him to succeed Jiang Zemin as the "core" of the Communist Party's fourth generation of leaders.

But in all that time he gave little clue as to what sort of leader he would be, and after two years in highest office, the picture is not much clearer.

Analysts agree that he has tried to give more consideration to the plight of ordinary people, and one of the key phrases used has been "yi ren wei ben", or putting people first.

There has also been a little more openness, notably at the time of the Sars outbreak, though Mr Hu has made clear he has no interest in going so far as countenancing Western-style political reform.

He has been described as a builder of consensus, bridging competing factions at the top of the party.

It may be that his public persona remains a mystery because he has been careful to move slowly and not antagonise his predecessor, Mr Jiang, who remains a powerful and influential figure.

Hu Jintao was born in 1942, and he is the first leader whose party career began after the Communist takeover in 1949.

Official biographies say he was born in eastern Anhui province, and joined the party at the height of the Cultural Revolution in 1964 when he was studying hydroelectric engineering at Beijing's prestigious Qinghua University.

Hu Jintao
Hu Jintao plays his cards close to his chest

One entry - excised after he took over as Party chief - mentioned his liking for table tennis and ballroom dancing.

He is also said to have a photographic memory.

After graduating, he worked his way up through the ranks in the Ministry of Water Conservancy and Power.

Mr Hu's party career began to take off after Deng's rise to power in the late 1970s. He was one of several young administrators promoted rapidly because of their performance or patrons.

Secret reformer?

Hu Jintao has served in key posts in some of China's poorest and most remote provinces. He headed the Communist Youth League in Gansu and became party chief in Tibet and Guizhou.

In Tibet, he demonstrated his toughness when he responded to separatist protests by declaring martial law.

It paved the way for similarly harsh measures to be used to end the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing.

Many Tibetans even believe Mr Hu had a hand in the unexpected death of the Panchen Lama, their second highest spiritual leader.

They also criticised him for spending little time in Tibet - the apparent reason being that he suffered from altitude sickness.

When Mr Hu returned to Beijing as a member of the Politburo's seven-man Standing Committee in 1992, he took over key tasks such as handling personnel matters and supervising the ideological training of top officials.

The courses he introduced on market economics and good governance have led some to speculate that he is at heart a reformer.

Whatever his instincts, he has always been a faithful follower of the party line. One of Mr Hu's few recorded sayings is that success in life "requires resolve, attention to concrete matters and courage in making decisions".

Profile: Jiang Zemin
21 Oct 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: China
30 Sep 02 |  Country profiles


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