The Hong Kong dailies are full of comparisons between Chinese President Hu Jintao and the man who is likely to succeed him, Vice President Xi Jinping. The Wen Wei Po and Mingpao compared Hu's ascent to the position of chairman of the Central Military Commission in September 1999 and Xi's rise to that rank on Monday.
Xi's present positions are: vice president of the People's Republic of China, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, member of the Politburo Standing Committee, member of the Secretariat of the Central Committee and principal of the Central Party School. Those are the same positions Hu held when he was elected vice chairman of the Central Military Commission in September 1999.
Both were 57 when they became vice chairmen and graduated from Tsinghua University. Hu majored in water conservation engineering, while Xi majored in chemical engineering after entering university at the belated age of 22. But Xi went on to earn a PhD in law.
Mingpao reported that Hu rose through the ranks of the Communist Party faster than Xi. Hu became secretary of a province at the age of 40, was admitted into the Central Committee at the age of 43 and became a member of the Politburo Standing Committee at 50. In contrast, Xi became a candidate for the Central Committee when he was 44, secretary of a province at 47, Central Committee member at 49 and member of the Politburo Standing Committee at 54. Hu was about four to seven years faster than Xi in terms of promotion.
This has to do with upbringing. While Hu rose through the ranks from the 70-million-strong Communist Youth League. Xi is a "princeling," the son of a party veteran. Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, was jailed for 16 years in one of Mao Zedong's endless purges. For seven years since he was 15, Xi lived in a commune in rural Shaanxi Province. But his father was reinstated in the late 1970s and eventually rose through the ranks to become vice premier.
Their wives are also different. Xi's wife, Peng Liyuan (47), is a famous folk singer and is active in supporting her husband, whereas Hu's wife, Liu Yongqing (67), whom he met at university, is barely seen in public aside from state visits.