March 16, 2018 / 9:02 AM / 8 months ago

Timeline: The rise of Chinese leader Xi Jinping

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - President Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, will be re-elected to a second five-year term as president on Saturday by the rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress.

FILE PHOTO: A man poses for pictures as he holds postage stamps of Xi Zhongxun, China's former vice premier and father of China's President Xi Jinping, in Yantai, Shandong province, October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The son of Communist Party revolutionary and one-time deputy prime minister Xi Zhongxun, the younger Xi spent decades working his way up party and government ranks, but his consolidation of power since becoming head of the party in 2012 has been unprecedented.

Xi’s ascent culminated last week in parliament’s passing of a constitutional amendment that eliminated term limits for the presidency, discarding a rule that had helped keep leaders in check and underpinned collective decision-making for 35 years.

Following are some key dates in Xi’s life and rise to power:

June 15, 1953 - XI IS BORN

Xi Jinping is born in Beijing a “princeling” child of an official. His father, Xi Zhongxun, fought in the Communist revolution and later served as an official, rising to become a liberal-minded vice premier. The young Xi grew up among the party elite but saw his father purged and later jailed during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, only to be rehabilitated and allowed back into government after Mao’s death.

FILE PHOTO: Paramilitary policemen stand guard at sunrise in front of a giant portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at the Tiananmen gate ahead of the visit by U.S. President Donald Trump to Beijing

1974 - PARTY MAN

After being sent to work in the poverty-stricken countryside, in Shaanxi province, as a teenager during the Cultural Revolution, Xi joins the Communist Youth League and then, in 1974, the party, at the age of about 21.

FILE PHOTO: Souvenir plates featuring portraits of current and late Chinese leaders Xi Jinping, Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong are displayed for sale at a shop in Beijing

Sept. 9, 1976 - MAO DIES

Mao Zedong, the “Great Helmsman”, dies at the age of 82. Xi is 23 and a chemical engineering student at Tsinghua University. China goes into mourning and Hua Guofeng, Mao’s handpicked successor, takes over. For a time, Hua is treated like Mao, but he is eventually sidelined by Deng Xiaoping who sets China on a more practical, less dogmatic, path.

FILE PHOTO: A man looks out from a window next to a portrait of late Chinese leader Deng in a gallery at Dafen Oil Painting Village, in Shenzhen

Dec. 4, 1982 - TERM LIMITS INTRODUCED

The National People’s Congress adopts a new constitution that includes provisions that limit presidents and vice presidents to two five-year terms. The introduction of term limits was an attempt to prevent China from sliding back into strongman rule after Mao’s tumultuous 27-year reign.

FILE PHOTO: Xi Jinping, Shanghai's Communist Party Secretary, walks towards Great Hall of the People to attend preparatory meeting in Beijing

Oct. 21, 2007 - ELITE COMMITTEE

Xi is promoted into the Politburo Standing Committee, the most elite political body, directly from the Central Committee, after stints in the government and party in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai. He and Li Keqiang, the current premier, are considered to be likely successors to then-president and party chief Hu Jintao. Xi also becomes a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission.

FILE PHOTO: Delegates fill in their ballots during an election in Beijing

March 15, 2008 - VICE PRESIDENT

The National People’s Congress elects Xi vice president.

FILE PHOTO: China's new Politburo Standing Committee members Communist Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Zhang Dejiang, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Zhang Gaoli and Wang Qishan, line up as they meet with press at the Great Hall of the People in Beijin

Nov. 15, 2012 - TOP POSITIONS

Xi is named general secretary of the Communist Party, and also becomes chairman of the Central Military Commission. Holding the top positions in the party and military, Xi starts to manoeuvre to consolidate his power.

FILE PHOTO: China's newly appointed leader Xi prepares to greet foreign experts prior to meeting at Great Hall of the People in Beijing

Dec. 2012 - ANTI-CORRUPTION SALVOS FIRED

Xi pledges to crack down on “tigers and flies” in the party and launches what is to become China’s most sweeping anti-corruption drive. The campaign becomes popular with the public but critics accuse Xi of using it to neutralise political opponents. Thousands of officials are punished for corruption or “discipline violations”, including former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang. Xi uses the campaign to clean out the senior ranks of the military.

FILE PHOTO: People look at a giant television screen as China's newly elected President Xi attends the fourth plenary meeting of NPC at the Great Hall of the People, in People Square in Shanghai

March 14, 2013 - PRESIDENT

The National People’s Congress elects Xi president. While the presidency is the least powerful of Xi’s key roles, it is symbolically critical and provides Xi a platform on which he can promote China’s interests on the global stage.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping and fellow delegates raise their hands as they take a vote at the closing session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, in Beijing

Oct. 24, 2017 - ENSHRINED

The 19th Party Congress enshrines Xi’s political thinking - “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” - into the party’s constitution. Because Xi is still serving in office, this move is widely interpreted as placing him in the same company as the founder of modern China, Mao, and cementing his power. Xi’s signature “Belt and Road” initiative to invest trillions of yuan in trade links with central Asia and Europe was also included in the party constitution, lending it weight.

FILE PHOTO: China's President Xi Jinping claps after his speech in Beijing

Oct. 25, 2017 - PARTY CHIEF AGAIN

Xi is handed a second term as general secretary of the party during the 19th Party Congress.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping drops his ballot at the third plenary session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing

March 11, 2018 - END OF TERM LIMITS

The National People’s Congress votes nearly unanimously to abolish term limits for the presidency. There are two votes against, three abstentions and one invalid vote. The elimination of limits catches many by surprise and while delegates to parliament and official media say it reflects the “will of the people”, many privately express concern.

Chinese President Xi Jinping leaves after the opening session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing

March 17, 2018 - SECOND TERM AS PRESIDENT

The National People’s Congress is due to elect Xi president for a second five-year term. Second terms have been the norm: Xi’s most recent predecessors, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, both served two terms.

At the October Party Congress, however, the party broke with tradition and installed no obvious successor to Xi in the Politburo Standing Committee. Analysts had speculated that Xi might anoint a successor during his second term as party chief and president. The elimination of term limits throws that into question.

Take a look at the Reuters Graphics timeline - The rise of Xi Jinping

Reporting and writing by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel

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