Until this week, however, the Chinese had yet to know: “For whom does Uncle Xi shed his tears?”
This is the question that is posed and answered in an article widely circulated across Chinese social media that recounts all four times that Xi has claimed to have cried. The most recent event took place in 1985, which raises the possibility that Xi has not exercised his tear ducts in a couple decades.
Those rare moments, the article suggests, give an important glimpse into the man that Xi has become.
According to the piece, shared by state television broadcaster CCTV, Xi told a reporter in 2004 about two occasions that he cried. At the time of the interview, he was a party secretary in Zhejiang Province.
The first was his sister’s passing, which the article barely addresses. She died during the Cultural Revolution, when Red Guards reportedly “persecuted her to death.” (This is the official account, but a historian told the New York Times last September that her death was likely a suicide.)
The second was a drawn-out farewell to the rural Shaanxi Province, where he lived between 1969 and 1975, when he left for Tsinghua University in Beijing. The 16-year-old Xi had arrived in the region to learn from the farmers, forming profound friendships along the way.
“My body departed then, but I left my heart there,” the article quotes Xi saying of his time in Shaanxi.
The next tearjerker concerned Xi’s relationship with the writer Jia Dashan, for whom Xi had written a 3,200-word tribute after his passing in 1997.
But the crying took place more than a decade before that. Xi and Jia became close friends while Xi was an official in Hebei Province, meeting for long talks after dark. In order to not disturb the guards late at night, one man would stand on the other’s shoulders to open and close the government property’s tall gates.
When Xi left in 1985 to take up a position in Fujian Province, they both wept.
The final cited cry was revealed during a public event in 2014, when Xi conveyed a middle school memory.
In 1996, he recalled, his teacher read a People’s Daily article describing the exemplary Party cadre Jiao Yulu. The teacher began to cry as he read the story, prompting Xi and his classmates to follow suit.
Just as the article promised, “Xi Jinping has cried for family, for friends, for heroes.”
The story was first published by a public WeChat account dedicated to coverage of the president, the New York Times reported. Versions of it have since been carried by several Chinese state outlets, including Xinhua.
Gushing comments on the article indicate that the propaganda effort has worked on some.
“President Xi has given us a new climate,” one commenter said. “Even though the country still has many problems, everyone should offer a little more time, more understanding and more support, believing in a greater tomorrow.”
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