China's Vice President lived in a cave for 7 years, eating gruel

Xi Jinping, the man expected to take Hu Jintao's post as general secretary of China's Communist Party later this year, came from humble beginnings. According to a Los Angeles Times profile this weekend, he lived in a cave for 7 years, after being sent to a rural village to do hard labor during the Cultural Revolution.

"A thin quilt spread on bricks was his bed, a bucket was his toilet. Dinners were a porridge of millet and raw grain."

He visits the United States this week.


      1. Zhongguo de X X X nian, X zai i ge shan X li X X X ) (X X X). Now I wish I’d paid more attention in Chinese classes!

  1. I would not doubt this to be true.  My wife grew up under Mao and after finishing school went to work on a chicken farm for 3 years.  This was not paid labour.  In fact, her Father had to pay so that she could leave, room and board costing more than any wages she would have theoretically earned. 
    She was an educated Beijing City girl with both parents having government jobs, and went on to get a degree in Engineering.   My understanding it that this was very common for at least one child per family (no one child policy back then) to do their duty for the country.

    1. They were not people doing their duty to their country, they were slaves being held hostage during a titanic political struggle within the Communist Party. Think gulag prisoners, not community service.

      1. Slaves much in the way that Israeli citizens must be slaves for the 3 years they are forced into military duty? 

        How is 3 years of forced duty not slavery when used to oppress a population but slavery when used to farm chickens?

        1. Israeli (and other countries’) conscripts are paid rather than being forced into debt bondage for one thing…

          1. Israeli conscripts are paid 400-500 sheqels/month, roughly 100-130 USD. (Upped to maybe double that for actual fighting troops, who are a minority.) This is known colloquially as “pocket money” pay.

            Meanwhile we still had to pay rent and for breakfast and dinner – or rather our parents had to pay for us. The minimal legal wage for a full-time job, btw, is more than 4000 sheqels (1000 USD).

  2. Surely “humble beginnings” does not begin to describe the internal exile at hard labor that he endured for being on the right side of history, at least up to this point.

  3. A good article on what happened during that period:


  4. Actually, this is pretty much the standard fare for many in the Party. Deng Xiaoping was sent to work building tractors for four years in Jiangxi as part of his “re-education” until Mao’s death. I can only imagine the look on his face when the Party leadership showed up at the factory, asking him to lead the country. 

  5. Well, I’m sure we’ll all feel better knowing that someone in a place of leadership in the People’s ‘Pub has come from such humble beginnings – and shall certainly keep the proletariat’s best interests in mind. 

    Like Lincoln in a log cabin… Really, I’m tearing up. 

  6. And there he worked until one day he was granted three wishes by the magical weaving girl, whom he helped see her true love the cowherd on the other side of the starry night sky…

    1. That’s funny. There was an article a few months ago about government PR wonks spending days setting up a spontaneous TV interview with a farmer in rural China.

  7. How I wish that being unfairly imprisoned and cruelly treated would reliably make one into a politician who abhors such policies.  Sadly, as even John McCain showed us, the opposite is true all too often.

    I suspect there’s some kind of “I survived it and my life turned out ok” effect going on there.  Or maybe it’s just “People were dicks to me, so it’s only fair that I get to be a dick to other people”.

  8. Ah, big deal. We have hundreds of politicians here that are STILL living in caves. And they use the halls of congress to do their business instead of buckets.

      1. Sure, that’s not new. What’s new now is that a communist  (CINO?) authoritarian govt where freedoms are severely restricted has more social mobility at that level. Heh heh heh.

        Call me when an ex convict is a president in the US.

      2. Heh. Just about all of the developed world is more socially mobile than the US.

        Bullshit. I know a dozen people who have gone from owning million-dollar homes to renting trailers, all within the last five years.

    1.  This is no more an example of “social mobility” than Martha Stewart getting richer after leaving jail is.

    1. . . . A thin quilt spread on bricks was his bed, a bucket was his toilet. Dinners were a porridge of millet and raw grain.

      If the bed were any thicker, it would be a spa experience.  

  9. Is it me, or do I get the feeling that with factoids like this, the Chinese Politburo meetings often sound like the Chinese rendition of Monty Python’s ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ skit?

    “I slept on a thin quilt spread on bricks, and had a bucket for a toilet. Dinners were a porridge of millet and raw grain.”


  10. HE studied in the US. An all around nice fellow, according to his host family. NPR did a thing about the visit the other day. He is squeezing in a quick visit to the host family, 25+ yrs later, as part of the itinerary.

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