Hu Jintao just returned to China after his first official visit to the United States—and it is almost certain to be his last. China's current veep, Xi Jinping, is widely expected to succeed Hu as party secretary next year, and then as president by 2013. Xi, who has stronger military ties than Hu, is noted as a stanch pragmatist who eschews ideological struggles. Xi is the direct descendent of the revolutionary party elite, some of whom were purged during Mao's Cultural Revolution. Xi spent part of his youth toiling for seven years among peasants in rural China, and part at a military academy. His own rise mirrors China's: a master politician faithful to the Chinese Communist Party who nonetheless presided over the development of China's east coast under a blend of stern authoritarianism, state capitalism, and ideological dexterity.
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