Cultural Revolution Shaped Xi Jinping, From Schoolboy to Survivor

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When the pandemonium of the Cultural Revolution erupted, he was a slight, softly spoken 13-year-old who loved classical Chinese poetry. Two years later, adrift in a city torn apart by warring Red Guards, Xi Jinping had hardened into a combative street survivor.

His father, a senior Communist Party official who had been purged a few years earlier, was seized and repeatedly beaten. Student militants ransacked his family’s home, forcing them to flee, and one of his sisters died in the mayhem. Paraded before a crowd as an enemy of the revolution and denounced by his own mother, the future president of China was on the edge of being thrown into a prison for delinquent children of the party elite.

Visiting the United States this week, Mr. Xi, 62, has presented himself as a polished statesman, at ease hobnobbing with American capitalists in Seattle and attending a state dinner at the White House in his honor, set for Friday. Yet his first immersion in politics came on the streets of the Chinese capital during the most tumultuous era of Communist rule, when Mao Zedong exhorted students “to bombard the headquarters” of order.




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