Being a member of the elite "Crown Prince Party" in China has helped propel Xi Jinping past his rivals in pursuit of becoming the next president of the world's second-largest economy.
But membership in this group--children of powerful Communist Party figures--has also had its lows. And a number of Chinese government officials are uncertain of just what sort of leader Xi will turn out to be after his expected appointment as president this year.
There are signs he will follow the course set by Chinese President Hu Jintao, at least for the time being.
He gave an indication of his policy in selecting high-ranking party officials in mid-December at a meeting of the Communist Party's Organization Department, which is in charge of personnel matters.
"The standard for selecting personnel that has been repeatedly emphasized by Comrade Hu Jintao is to place priority on 'virtue' rather than 'talent,'" said Xi, who heads the department.
A major generational change in the party leadership is expected at the party congress to be held this autumn.
Hu, 69, is expected to step down as general secretary and hand over the reins to Xi.
Although many people have accepted such a development, Xi has still been very cautious about his public statements. He refers to Hu in any speech about policy direction.
Although Xi has not produced outstanding achievements that everyone is familiar with, he has also made few enemies and policy blunders.
"Not only does he have high abilities, but his generous personality is also good," said a Communist Party source who knows Xi. "I have high hopes for him."
However, another source said, "I still do not have a good idea of what kind of leader he will be."
Xi did not start out as a shining star, in contrast to Hu who was considered a potential future leader when he was in his early 40s.
He only managed to become an alternate member of the Central Committee in 1997 when he was in his mid-40s but received the least amount of votes of any alternate member selected. At that time, his ranking in the party hierarchy was a lowly 344th.
Some members of the same generation were already one step ahead of Xi as a Central Committee member.
One party source recalls a time when Xi visited Beijing while he was still governor of Fujian province.
"He spoke in a calm manner about how he visited every corner of the province and listened to what the people had to say," the source said.
Xi apparently gained the trust of senior party officials in Beijing by offering them detailed reports about the steady efforts he made in the province.
After serving as secretary of the Zhejiang provincial committee, Xi was named secretary of the Shanghai committee. In 2007, he was named one of nine standing committee members of the Politburo.
Analysts said a major factor behind Xi's leapfrogging over his rivals in the promotion race was the strong support provided by Zeng Qinghong, 72, who headed the Organization Department before being named vice president.
Zeng is a close friend of Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, a former vice premier.
While Xi is a member of the Crown Prince Party, Hu made his way up the Communist Youth League of China.
The extent of membership in the Crown Prince Party can be observed by flipping through the alumni directory of what is now the 81 Junior High School in Beijing.
Xi's name appears on page 86 as part of a class of 45 students who graduated in 1968.
Students at the school are all children of important party officials, including the late Deng Xiaoping. Other names in the directory offer clues to Xi's network of friends and acquaintances.
Another member of that graduating year, Liu Weiping, is now a deputy chief of staff of the Headquarters of the military's General Logistics Department.
Two years ahead of Xi are the brothers of Bo Xilai, 62, who is secretary of the Chongqing municipal committee.
Liu's father was a former deputy commander in the Chinese Air Force, while Bo's father was a former vice premier.
Liu Yuan, 60, another long-time friend of Xi, graduated from the noted No. 4 Junior High School in Beijing. Liu in January 2011 was appointed political commissar of the General Logistics Department. Liu's father is Liu Shaoqi, a former Chinese president. That school has also produced a long list of important party officials, including Bo.
Graduates of those two schools are expected to make up much of the roster of potential candidates for the next leadership corps.
Others in the Crown Prince Party expected to be named to high leadership posts include Li Yuanchao, 61, the head of the Organization Department. Li also came up through the Communist Youth League, and his father served as deputy mayor of Shanghai.
"The next leadership corps will likely have a large number of members of the Crown Prince Party, who can be referred to as the 'red aristocracy,'" a senior party official said.
Despite his high status now, Xi also experienced the bitter taste of political struggle.
When he was a teenager in the 1960s and 1970s, China was embroiled in the Cultural Revolution. Xi's father was ousted in 1962 and was even exiled to a remote part of the nation. Xi was also the target of criticism for being a family member.
At the time of his graduation from junior high school, the 81 school was temporarily shut down. According to sources familiar with those times, Xi was unable to transfer to the No. 4 Junior High School, where many children of high-ranking party officials attended, and had to settle for transferring to the No. 25 Junior High School.
Xi also spent time in the Yanchuan district of Shaanxi province as part of a production unit.
Those experiences have instilled in Xi the need to study contemporary history.
As head of the Central Party School, Xi gave a speech last September in which he said: "High-ranking party officials have to study history. They should not only learn about the great achievements, but also must sufficiently understand how the party overcame past difficulties."
A school source said: "Xi witnessed how his father was persecuted. He probably has a strong feeling of not wanting to repeat that confusion ever again in China."
One focus of attention this year will be whether Hu also hands over the post of chairman of the Central Military Commission to Xi.
Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, 85, remained in that post even after he stepped down as general secretary. That enabled Jiang to maintain his political influence.
Even in his retirement, Jiang still wields influence over political matters.
A diplomatic source in Beijing said, "Hu will choose a similar course."
If that should occur, the Xi leadership corps will begin with two former general secretaries looking over its shoulder.
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