Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping has been named vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, China's equivalent to the Pentagon, a move many observers see as evidence that he is being groomed to succeed Hu Jintao as the country's leader. Hu, who is 67, took the chairman's office in 2002. Here's what we know about Xi, what's happening with succession, and what it would mean for China if he takes over.

  • Xi Will Take Over 2012-2013  The New York Times' Michael Wines declares, "Barring a major upset, Mr. Xi, 57, is now on track to become Communist Party secretary when Mr. Hu’s term ends in 2012, and president in 2013. ... The internal promotion process is considered highly secret, though analysts say the leadership goes to great lengths to avoid uncertainty and seeks to anoint successors long in advance to minimize political infighting in the one-party state. ... The rise of Mr. Xi has been smoothed by his connections; he is the son of Xi Zhongxun, a onetime revolutionary guerrilla and deputy prime minister who helped Mr. Hu rise through the ranks and shepherded the spectacular success of Shenzhen, China’s first free-market economic zone, 30 years ago."

  • Good New for the U.S.  Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell writes, "Xi's ascent is probably a good thing as far as the West is concerned. Here's how China analyst Cheng Li described him few years back: 'Xi has leadership experience in economic administration and favors pro-market reforms. In the provinces that he ran, Xi was particularly noted for his promotion of the private sector. His likely policy priorities lie in enhancing economic efficiency and promoting market liberalization, continuing China's high rates of GDP growth, and expanding China's integration into the world economy.' ... In 2008, he oversaw the successful Olympic Games, and last year he headed China's 60-year celebrations. He has a law degree and a master's in chemical engineering, and has styled himself as tough on corruption. His wife is a famous folk singer."
  • Will He Continue Opening Markets?  Financial Times' Geoff Dyer appraises, "One result of Xi’s promotion could be to encourage him to say a little more about what he plans to do when he assumes power. ... He spent much of his career in some of the export strongholds of the Chinese economy - first as governor of Fujian province, then as party secretary in Zhejiang in eastern China and briefly in Shanghai. ... Many see him as a natural supporter of continued economic reform. (Hank Paulson, the former US treasury secretary, famously once called him 'the kind of guy who knows how to get things over the goal line'.) But so far, he has given little away in public about his favoured agenda.
  • Chosen for Stability, Not Hu's Preference  The Associated Press' Christopher Bodeen writes, "While Xi, (pronounced "she"), is not believed to be Hu's first choice of successor, his rise illustrates the party's overwhelming desire for balance and cohesion, said Joseph Cheng, head of the Contemporary China Research Center at the City University of Hong Kong. 'Hu may have other preferences, but rocking the boat and changing the plan is too risky and the cost too high,' said Cheng, pointing to Hu's desire to retain influence over the leadership transition and beyond."
  • Looming Question: How China Would Handle Privacy, Civil Rights  The Economist evaluates, "Like Mr Hu before him, Mr Xi has given few clues as to his political views. While all top-level leaders share a dedication to ensuring economic growth, social stability and the party’s firm grip on power, there are differences of opinion among them on a variety of policy issues. Chief among these are questions concerning the appropriate degree of government involvement in the economy; the degree to which even small amounts of political liberalisation should be tolerated; and the appropriate balance between the interests of China’s upper and lower classes, and its urban and rural citizens. Mr Xi has largely clung to the centre ground in these debates, so far as public pronouncements reveal them." The New York Times' Michael Wines adds, "How he might govern remains a question mark. Mr. Xi has a reputation as an economic progressive, but his political leanings are less clear. In 2009, he was placed in charge of an internal Communist Party office that has promoted a clampdown on liberal intellectuals, the Internet and nongovernmental organizations, among others."