As China’s old guard walks towards the sunset, the country is poised for a new era of ‘princelings’ with a new pack of rulers, mainly offsprings of erstwhile Communist leaders, gearing up to take on the mantle.

The new leaders hailing from influential families would be formally selected during the key Congress beginning on November 8. To be attended by 2,270 delegates, the conference is expected to last for a week.

The new President-to-be, Xi Jinping, currently the Vice-President and officially projected as Hu Jintao’s successor is the son of Xi Zhongxun, a liberal Communist Party revolutionary and former Vice-Premier who was persecuted by Party founder Mao Zedong during the dreaded Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

Though a privileged son, Xi Jinping got the wrong end of the stick of Mao and worked for seven years in Liangjiahe, an obscure village in his native Shaanxi province under the party’s grassroots programme before rising in the ranks after the death of the Party founder.

Journalists who recently visited the village found it to be the same as he left it in 1975 though people fondly recall his stay there.

The world opened for Xi after the death of Mao and advent of liberal and reformist leader Deng Xiaoping. Born in Beijing in 1953, Xi studied chemical engineering at Tsinghua University before joining the party in 1974.

He is married to China’s most famous folk singer Peng Liyuan and their daughter is reportedly studying at Harvard.

Not much is known about his personal life though a leaked US diplomatic cable disclosed his liking for Hollywood war movies that he acquired during a brief stay in Iowa under an exchange programme.

Yet another princeling, Li Keqiang, 57, currently the Vice-Premier is set to take over as the new Premier, succeeding suave, popular, Wen Jiabao.

With princelings at the helm, analysts say China formally join the ranks of several Asian countries including India and Pakistan where families of the ruling elite emerged as the frontrunners in power politics.

Born in 1955 into the family of a local official Dingyuan County, Li reportedly refused his father’s proposition to be groomed to be the local county leader of the Communist Party.

During the Cultural Revolution he was sent to the rural labour camp in Fengyang County, Anhui, where he eventually joined the Communist Party.

So far, the party has projected Xi and Li as the new frontline leaders and much about others is not yet known.

Another official, Wang Qishan, currently the second Vice-Premier and tipped to get a top post in the new Standing Committee is also a son of a top official, and is married to Yao Minshan, daughter of former Vice—Premier Yao Yilin.

Also, Li Yuanchao who heads the communist party’s organisation department and slated to get seat at the high table is also a princeling as his father was mayor of Shanghai.

Yet another front runner Zhang Dejiang, who succeeded disgraced leader Bo Xilai in Chongqing city, is the son of PLA General.

The only woman, Liu Yandong, who could be the first woman to make it to top if she is selected, is also the daughter of a former vice-Minister of agriculture.

Her husband too is well connected.

However, the youngest member of the pack Hu Chunhua, 49, comes from a humble background and worked for over three decades in Tibet, regarded as the most difficult province to work for Chinese officials.

Known as ‘Little Hu’ because of his close ties to President Hu Jintao he is regarded as the next generation leader to succeed Xi.

(This article was published on November 6, 2012)
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