China is expected to unveil its new leader during the Communist Party's national congress later this week.
Vice-president Xi Jinping is widely believed to be the successor to Hu Jiantao. Born into China's ruling elite, Xi did not come here by choice, but was banished to a remote corner of the country, after his father fell out of favour with Mao Zedong.
At the simple cave home in the village of Liangjiahe, Xi spent seven years from the age of 15 working alongside farmers, a world away from the trappings of a capital city like Beijing.
Villagers in Liangjiahe still remember the teenager who came to live among them, and worked alongside them in the fields.
According to villager Wang Xiancong, signs of Xi's future leadership skills were already in evidence, 40 years ago.
With a widening wealth gap and allegations of corruption in rural communities, Xi's first-hand experience of grassroots China is about to be put to the test.
Al Jazeera's Rob McBride reports from Hong Kong.