Ben Blanchard over at Reuters has an extensive profile of Inner Mongolia Party Secretary Hu Chunhua, who might just be president one day (and, in the nearer future, might soon be running Shanghai).
Ahead of China’s once-in-a-decade leadership change in November, Hu Chunhua is expected to get a new and more senior role, possibly as party chief of Chongqing, the former power base of disgraced politician Bo Xilai.
This new generation has shown a keener sense of the inequalities facing China, from environmental devastation to the rich-poor divide, factors that will shape the future of China and which Hu has experienced firsthand.
Hu has overseen rapid growth in Inner Mongolia while dealing with ethnic Mongol unrest without resorting to the heavy-handed violence often turned on protesters in China. He spent two decades in Tibet, where he came under the wing of Hu Jintao.
Sources close to the leadership have told Reuters that Hu, 49, is frontrunner to be appointed party chief in the sprawling southwestern city of Chongqing. There has also been speculation he could be sent instead to Shanghai.
Hu has been praised for his handling of protests in Inner Mongolia, opening a dialogue with protesters and moving quickly to arrest drivers of a coal truck which killed a Mongol herder, sparking the protests. Hu’s style differs greatly from the instinctive jack-booted oppression of other ethnic regions.
Hu has been well prepared for the problems confronting Chinese away from the prosperous coast, having grown up in poverty as a child in the mountains of Hubei province in central China.
According to an account published in the official Hubei Daily in 2006, Hu had to walk kilometers to school every day in straw sandals, very different from the princelings who mostly went to top schools in Beijing and other big cities.
Hu is basically a Chinese Abraham Lincoln.
Hu graduated in 1983 and joined the Communist Youth League, a training ground for young and promising officials where Hu Jintao also served.
Hu Chunhua was immediately sent to restless Tibet, where he stayed for some two decades, learning to speak Tibetan, rare for a Han Chinese official. While there, he met and apparently impressed Hu Jintao, Tibet’s party chief from 1988-1992.
The most important difference between Hu and the current leadership is that “Little Hu” doesn’t dye his hair.