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Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping is China's current vice president, and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. He is set to become the president of the world's second biggest economy in March next year once the leadership transition is complete.

The 59-year-old is considered a "princeling," born into a powerful political family. His father was China's former deputy premier Xi Zhongxun. Xi, however, has worked his way up in the Communist party. As a young man he was sent to work in the poor northeast Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), where he became a rural community official. He went on to study chemical engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing, an elite school, which current President Hu Jintao also attended.

He spent the early part of his career in Fujian Province — where he spent 18 years rising to the rank of governor — before a transfer to Zhejiang Province just south of Shanghai, where he spent five years, until 2007, first as governor and then as party chief, the top post in the province. In October 2007, Xi became a member of the Politburo's Standing Committee — the ruling inner circle — putting him place for a role in the new leadership that will be announced this month.

In September, the leader-in-waiting was in the spotlight when he disappeared from public appearances for two weeks sparking rumors of illness and a troubled succession. But those fears were put to rest when Xi appeared at a university function in Beijing looking fine. When Xi assumes power next year, he inherits a slowing Chinese economy, along with calls for reform to tackle social issues like corruption, political freedom and a widening wealth gap.

Photo: How Hwee Young | AFP | Getty Images