When Hu Jintao steps down as leader of China's Communist Party this month, not everyone will view his record over the last 10 years favorably.
All told, it's a record of rapid social and economic changes punctuated by political turmoil, disaster and crackdowns.
Working in tandem with Premier Wen Jiabao, the 69-year-old Hu is credited for solidifying China's position as a rising global power.
But Hu also has his share of critics. "Although the reform and opening has given the party huge fortune, the distribution of wealth has been extremely uneven," said Zhang Ming, from the Department of Political at Renmin University's in China.
Many ordinary Chinese agree.
"China as a nation has become richer and stronger," said Li Yong, a white-collar worker in Beijing. "But many people are not feeling rich and strong. It seems prosperity has not trickled down much."
"Guofu, minqiong"-- the nation has become richer, the people poorer -- this is one popular assessment of Hu's time in office.
Read: New leaders face China's wealth divide
That rings ironic, observers say, given Hu's image as a populist politician.
An engineer with extensive experience in China's poor, underdeveloped interior provinces, Hu worked his way up the ranks of the party through the Communist Youth League (CYL), a training ground of party cadres that now boasts about 70 million members.
From the CYL, Hu was appointed as party chief in China's impoverished western provinces of Guizhou and Tibet.
In 1992, he was singled out by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping for promotion as the "core" of the younger generation, strategically given a place in the elite Politburo.
Five years later, he became the youngest member of the Politburo's Standing Committee -- the country's elite decision-making body -- lining him up as the presumptive leader of the "fourth generation."
He took charge at the 16th Party Congress in 2002 when he succeeded President Jiang Zemin as Communist Party chief, before taking over as state president the following year.
Hu has tried to carve out his legacy by championing the country's "scientific development," a catchphrase for his policies, which sought more balanced, equitable and sustainable development, rather than breakneck economic growth as pursued by his predecessor, Jiang.
Hu's program called for increased social spending to help poor or unemployed farmers and urban workers to ensure social stability, or "weiwen."
In the last party congress five years ago, Hu managed to amend the party's constitution to include his scientific development mantra. It was widely viewed as a sign that he had consolidated his power five years after succeeding Jiang.
Under Hu's watch, China has become the world's second largest economy. The World Bank estimates its GDP to be $7.318 billion, as factors such as low labor costs and an undervalued currency combined to boost economic growth between 2003 and 2007.
He is also credited with improving the country's military and boosting national pride.
In 2008, China hosted the Olympic games, putting the spotlight on China's emergence as a world power.
In June this year, China completed its first manned space docking -- a significant milestone in its bid to construct a space station -- and sent its first female astronaut into orbit, only the third country ever to do so.
In October, China sent its first aircraft carrier to sea, emblematic of China's growing ability to project its military power beyond its borders.
But Hu has always advocated China's "peaceful rise," which observers take to mean building a prosperous and "harmonious society."
Critics say he has failed to achieve this goal.
"In these 10 years, China is nothing close to harmonious," said Zhang. "Conflicts and contradictions have become worse. In fact it is reaching a crisis point."