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To be an Ambitious Generation——An Interview with Xi Jinping, son of Xi Zhongxun


In this 1997 article published in an education-focused journal, Xi Jinping proudly recounts the adverse conditions and “grassroots” experiences of his early life—despite being the son of a high-ranking Party cadre—and argues that his peers should be self-reliant and avoid “a sense of superiority.”

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Editor’s note


Xi Jinping, the son of Xi Zhongxun, is currently a member of the Standing Committee of the CCP Fujian Provincial Committee and Secretary of the Fuzhou Municipal Committee. This article is an interview written by Meng Xiangfeng, a reporter from China Discipline Inspection and Supervision News, after interviewing Xi Jinping. It was published in the newspaper on April 19, 1996. This journal excerpts the content related to family education and talent, in order to inspire readers.


Xi Jinping is the sixth oldest in his family and has a daughter with his wife Peng Liyuan. When talking about the education and influence of the revolutionary seniors on him, he said that every step of his growth has been inseparable from the teachings and subtle influences of the revolutionary seniors. The biggest influence is that the revolutionary seniors have taught us to be a generation with ambition and a generation with achievements.


Xi Jinping said that the elder revolutionary predecessors have often reminded us to not act as the lost generation that only depends on their predecessors.


Our seniors have urged us to live a hard and simple life and to act as ordinary persons “with our tails tucked in.” In the imagination of ordinary people, a family like ours may dine on delicious foods all day long, but in fact, my family eats home-cooked meals. Our parents asked us not to have any leftover rice in our bowls and to pick up the rice that fell on the table and eat it. When I was a child, I often wore clothes with patches, old floral clothes, and shoes that my sister could no longer wear and dyed them black.


If we want to be effective, we must first be a person with knowledge and substance. My parents were very strict with my studies. In addition, our parents also forced us out of the “greenhouse” to accept social tempering. During the Cultural Revolution, I went to live and work in a production team in rural northern Shaanxi, and my life was very hard. Once I visited my father in prison and complained about the hardships. I thought I would gain his sympathy. Unexpectedly, my father said that it was a good thing to live and work in a production team. He told that even though he was locked up, he did not want me rushing to come to see him when he was released. Instead, he insisted that I join the masses at the grassroots level!


In fact, I suffered more than the average person. During the Cultural Revolution, I went to prison four times. I was a “reactionary student,” and I was publicly shamed more than a dozen times. I was starved, and I was made a “beggar.” When I was 15 years old, I went to northern Shaanxi with “black materials” on my back, and I worked for seven years. Then, I grew from a “black five-category,” “mongrel,” and “reactionary student” to a League member and Party member, becoming the first secretary of the Party branch among the more than 27,000 Beijing-educated youths. In the rural areas of northern Shaanxi, I was a farmer and learned a full set of farm skills. I was one of the best laborers in the village. This experience has cultivated my will and self-confidence and made me feel that there is nothing in the world that is truly unbearable and that I can survive in the face of adversity. Now the conditions are much better than in the past, how can we not do well?


During that period of adversity, I also had the greatest opportunity to get to know the people at the grassroots level, forged a deep friendship with them, understood the joys, sorrows, and triumphs of the common people, and understood what reality is. I am doing my work now to oppose pretentiousness because I know that the common people are most disgusted with formalism.


When it comes to being the child of a cadre, especially what should be paid attention to after entering politics, Xi Jinping said well:


First of all, I have to correct a concept. The children of cadres are not a class, but a model. Each has his or her own experiences, pursuits, and methods and moves through various trends. The current public opinion is biased toward the evaluation of the children of cadres. One saying is: “The dragon gives birth to the dragon, and the phoenix gives birth to the phoenix.” I think there is an old saying that goes well: “The dragon gives birth to nine sons, each of which is different.” It’s not like “a dragon gives birth to a dragon, a phoenix gives birth to a phoenix, and the son of a mouse burrows into the ground.” The key to who the children of cadres will become in the future depends on their acquired efforts and pursuits.


As a son of a senior cadre, I think the most important thing is not to take the old roots of the father’s generation, but to rely on one’s own ability and not to have a sense of superiority. The father’s generation may have achieved great things, but the child is still an ordinary person and cannot engage in privileges. He must compete with others in a fair environment, be self-reliant, and stand on his own. As for what the cadre’s child can do, he can take on any profession. As long as he is a person who is beneficial to society, it is not a disgrace.


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Cite This Page

习近平 (Xi Jinping). "To be an Ambitious Generation——An Interview with Xi Jinping, Son of Xi Zhongxun [做有志气有作为的一代——习仲勋之子习近平访谈录]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Parents [家长], April 15, 1997

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