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June 28, 2017

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China marks 100 years since birth of Xi's dad

BEIJING -- China marks the 100th anniversary Tuesday of the birth of President Xi Jinping's father, a Communist war hero, but analysts say the connection is a mixed blessing for the head of state.

Xi Zhongxun, who died in 2002, was a military leader in northwest China during the civil war which culminated in the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, and eventually rose to vice premier.

He was purged in 1962 and spent 16 years in detention and under surveillance, but later returned to favor and became party secretary of the southern province of Guangdong, where he spearheaded economic reforms that have become a defining part of his legacy.

To commemorate his centenary China has issued a set of stamps, published a series of works by and about him, and is showing a six-part documentary on state broadcaster China Central Television that reportedly took three years to make and features interviews with 300 people.

According to analysts the occasion affords his son the opportunity to associate himself with the Communist victory, as well as to Mao Zedong, about whom many Chinese still harbor positive feelings.

But Xi Jinping's lineage is also something of a liability, analysts say, as a reminder of his privileged status as a so-called "princeling" who has benefited from his family ties to the first generation of Communist leaders.

"The tricky thing now is with so much criticism of princelings and connections to that generation, you have to handle it delicately," said Jeffrey Wasserstrom, professor of history at the University of California Irvine and a specialist in Chinese history.

"Xi Jinping wants you to remember that his father was a revolutionary, but it's a little bit (dangerous) reminding people how privileged and special your place is," he added.

"This is probably a way to do it that seems respectful of another generation and not too charged."

A series of high-profile cases involving corruption and misdeeds among members of the "princeling" generation have stoked anger among many ordinary Chinese, who have taken to the Internet to make their criticism heard.

Officials in the northwestern province of Gansu last week celebrated the anniversary with an event attended by Xi Yuanping, Xi Jinping's younger brother, who also recently penned a memorial of his father in the China Youth Daily newspaper.

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