China faces to watch: Xi Jinping

China is gearing up to change its top leaders, a process that begins at the end of the year. This week, the annual parliamentary session will give those in the running the chance to show off their credentials. The BBC's Michael Bristow profiles key figures.

It would be a major surprise if Xi Jinping does not become China's next senior leader.

His current positions all suggest that he is in place to assume the country's top jobs in a process that will begin at the end of this year.

He is already the country's vice-president, a role that got him a recent invitation to the United States, where he met President Barack Obama.

The 58-year-old is also - most importantly - already on the standing committee of the Chinese Communist Party.

It is the party that rules China and Mr Xi is expected to become its general secretary at the 18th party congress later this year.

A military role complements these state and party jobs.

Image caption Xi Jinping is the son of a famous revolutionary

China's growing army is controlled by the party's Central Military Commission. Mr Xi is one of its vice-chairmen.

Former Chinese leader Mao Zedong once said that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, so this is not an insignificant post.

Like most Chinese leaders Mr Xi has been cautious about expressing a personal opinion despite many years in high-profile jobs, most of them in China's booming coastal regions.

In one of the few colourful comments he has made, he once chastised the West for criticising China.

There is little public information about his personal life, apart from bland details such as his liking for basketball.

But there is one interesting detail from his past. He is a "princeling", the child of a famous revolutionary. This group looks set to form a powerful clique in the next group of leaders.