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Xi Jinping: China's Next Leader Likes Basketball, Has Popstar Wife And 'No Enemies'

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He loves basketball, he's married to a women almost as famous as him, and he is just about to become one of the most powerful people on the planet - but his name is not Barack Obama.

Xi Jinping, known in China as "the princeling" is the man set to take over from President Hu Jintao after the Communist Party Congress, which began Thursday.

Married to popstar Peng Liyuan, once much more of a celebrity than him, and reportedly a huge fan of basketball, taking in Lakers Games in Los Angeles en route to a February 2012 meeting with Obama - little else is known about Xi's personality and personal life.

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Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, left, meets with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington

He has led an impressive career, studying at the elite Tsinghua University in Beijing, working local governing jobs across different corners of the country, becoming governor of Fujian province, party secretary of Shanghai and then elevated to the politburo, China's ruling elite.

Dr Kerry Brown, a British expert on Chinese politics and professor at the University of Sydney, told The Huffington Post UK Xi's impeccable CV had been well crafted and well publicised.

"There's been a narrative created around Xi Jinping, which never happened with Hu Jintao, creating this story around him.

"The story is that he had a good Cultural Revolution, that he has had a highly networked career, working everywhere at local level, in central office. That's highly deliberate.

"What we can ascertain is that he is not deeply loved by the party - but no-one hates him. No-one bitterly detests him, he doesn't have enemies."

His "good Cultural Revolution" involved living in a cave, after his father Xi Zhingxun fell out of favour with Mao, and working as a peasant labourer.

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Peng Liyuan, Xi's pop star second wife

Xi's time at the bottom is a crucial part of his appeal. In 2007, his glamourous wife made rare public comments about her husband, particularly stressing his humility and his unswerving dedication to his work, apparently telling her on their second date that he wouldn't have much time for her, so she better get on with it.

Reuters reported she told a state-run magazine: "When he comes home, I've never thought of it as though there's some leader in the house. In my eyes, he's just my husband."

But he is known, despite his pro-business views, to have mixed feelings about the West, and said in an oft-quoted speech in Mexico in 2009 that Westerners had no right to criticise China.

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Chinese next leader, Xi Jingping, walks with incumbent Hu Jintao

He said: "Some foreigners with full bellies and nothing better to do engage in finger-pointing at us.

"First, China does not export revolution; second, it does not export famine and poverty; and third, it does not mess around with you. So what else is there to say?"

Dr Brown told HuffPost UK: "When I met him, his style was very conventional, but he is much more communicative than Hu Jintao - which wouldn't be difficult.

"He is very avuncular, with a booming deep voice. We know he has let rip occasionally about the West, like that very famous speech in Mexico.

"Hu Jintao would never, ever, have done that. So Xi seems to be of a more impetuous nature.

"He has been married twice, he certainly some parts of his hinterland that are mysterious. How did he manage to get a PhD in law in the late 1990s at the same time as be governor of Fujian?

"He has seemingly never been involved in any scandal, like the billion pound smuggling scandal in the 1990s. He has managed to keep himself clear of any corruption.

"But ultimately, what he is, is an aristocrat of the party, who has not pissed people off."

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Xi Jinping kicks a football during visit to Croke Park Stadium, Dublin, Ireland

The only time Xi has been involved in anything that could be considered to be a scandal was when he "disappeared" for two weeks earlier this year, with party officials refusing to answer questions about where he was for weeks.

They later explained he had injured his back swimming.

Dr Kerry Brown told HuffPost UK: "It's going to be a long while before we see his true leadership character - which will only come out in a crisis.

"We saw the character of Hu Jintao during SARS in 2003, we learnt how very, very controlling he is. In a similar, small kind of crisis, will Xi be given political space?"

"'The real test will be if and when there is a time when Xi has to connect with the ordinary people.

"The speeches at the congress feel very remote to people on the street, it might as well be happening on the moon.

"For Hu Jintao, his time in office was all about the economy and GDP growth.

"But for Xi Jinping, his challenges will be social issues, poverty, mobility, as the economy carries on doing well. These are issues he will need to communicate with the public on."

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