Even close followers of Chinese politics can shed little light on Hu Jintao, the man who took over as Party leader in 2002 and is now president and military chief as well.
He has so far shown little of the charisma of his predecessors, or their idiosyncracies, and has sometimes appeared to follow rather than lead the party line.
Analysts agree that he has tried to give more consideration to the plight of ordinary people, and one of the key phrases associated with him has been "yi ren wei ben", or putting people first.
There has also been a little more openness, though Mr Hu has made clear he has no interest in going so far as countenancing Western-style political reform.
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.
One entry - excised after he took over as Party chief - mentioned his liking for table tennis and ballroom dancing.
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.
He served in key posts in some of China's poorest and most remote provinces, including Tibet and Guizhou.
When Mr Hu returned to Beijing, 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.