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File photo taken on March 9, 1984 shows Zhang Gaoli (C) poses for photos as he inspects the hydrocracking process of Maoming Petroleum Industrial Company of China Petroleum Chemicals Corporation.[Photo/Xinhua]
BEIJING -- When Zhang Gaoli was born into an impoverished peasant's family 66 years ago, no one might have imagined that he would become one of China's most powerful people.
The self-dubbed "poor boy," however, made it when he was elected last month to the top slate of leadership of China's ruling party.
Zhang became member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Nov 15, along with Xi Jinping, elected general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan and Wang Qishan.
The story of Zhang, who has ascended step by step to top ranks, is a typical example of personal struggle in the Chinese political sphere.
Zhang's ancestors were all poor peasants in coastal Panjing Village, located in Jinjiang in southeast China's Fujian Province.
His father died when Zhang was three years old. His mother managed to sustain his schooling despite family poverty. The diligent Zhang entered the prestigious Xiamen University in 1965, studying statistics in its Economics Department.
After his graduation in 1970, four years into the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Zhang worked at the Maoming Oil Company in Guangdong. He spent more than a year working as a crane operator and loader, backpacking cement almost every day.
He later became an office clerk, deputy secretary of the oil company's committee of the Communist Youth League of China, and deputy secretary of the Party committee of the company's refinery.
In 1984, he made his way to general manager of the company and concurrently served as deputy secretary of the CPC Maoming city committee.
An economist by training, Zhang began to lead the Guangdong provincial economic commission in 1985, and three years later became vice governor of Guangdong.