China marks 100 years since birth of Xi's war-hero father

China marks 100 years since birth of Xi's war-hero father
A man poses for pictures as he holds postage stamps of Xi Zhongxun in Yantai, Shandong province, October 15, 2013.

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 favour 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 (CCTV) that reportedly took three years to make and features interviews with 300 people.

Along with hundreds of other people, Xi Jinping attended a seminar on his father at the Great Hall of the People Tuesday, CCTV showed in an extended report that led its main evening news.

The official Xinhua news agency quoted a speaker "calling on others to follow his noble characteristics, revolutionary spirit and fine style".

According to analysts the occasion affords the head of state, installed earlier this year, the opportunity to associate himself with the Communist victory, as well as to Mao Zedong, about whom many Chinese still harbour positive feelings.

But the lineage is also something of a liability, analysts say, as a reminder of Xi's 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."

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