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Jiang Zemin

In office
24 June 1989 – 15 November 2002
Deputy Other members of Politburo Standing Committee
Preceded by Zhao Ziyang
Succeeded by Hu Jintao

In office
27 March 1993 – 15 March 2003
Premier Li Peng
Zhu Rongji
Vice President Rong Yiren
Hu Jintao
Preceded by Yang Shangkun
Succeeded by Hu Jintao

In office
9 November 1989 – 19 September 2004
Preceded by Deng Xiaoping
Succeeded by Hu Jintao

In office
19 March 1990 – 8 March 2005
Preceded by Deng Xiaoping
Succeeded by Hu Jintao

Born August 17, 1926 (1926-08-17) (age 83)
Yangzhou, Jiangsu, Republic of China
Nationality Chinese
Political party Communist Party of China
Spouse(s) Wang Yeping
Alma mater Jiaotong University
Profession Electrical engineer
Jiang Zemin
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Jiang Zemin (simplified Chinese: 江泽民traditional Chinese: 江澤民pinyin: Jiāng ZémínWade-Giles: Chiang Tse-min; born 17 August 1926) is the "core of the third generation" of Communist Party of China leaders, serving as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1989 to 2002, as President of the People's Republic of China from 1993 to 2003, and as Chairman of the Central Military Commission from 1989 to 2004.

Jiang, an engineer, came to power in the wake of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, replacing Zhao Ziyang, who was purged for being too conciliatory towards the protestors, as General Secretary. With the waning influence of Deng Xiaoping due to old age, Jiang effectively became "paramount leader" in the 1990s. Under his leadership, China experienced substantial developmental growth with reforms, saw the peaceful return of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom and Macau from Portugal, and improved its relations with the outside world while the Communist Party maintained its tight control over the government. Jiang has been criticized for being too concerned about his personal image at home, and too conciliatory towards Russia and the United States abroad.[1] Critics also point to Jiang's inability to maintain control on various social imbalances and problems that surfaced during his term. Traditionalist communists in China charge Jiang of being a revisionist leader who legitimized outright capitalism. His contribution to the Marxist doctrine, a list of guiding ideologies by which the CCP rules China, is called the theory of the Three Represents, which has been written into the party and state constitutions.


Background and ascendancy

Jiang was born in the city of Yangzhou, Jiangsu. His ancestral home, a notion important in traditional Chinese society, was the Jiangwan Village (江湾村), Wuyuan County (婺源县) of the old Huizhou (徽州) in southern Anhui Province, which was also the hometown of a number of prominent figures in Chinese academic and intellectual establishments. Jiang grew up during the years of Japanese occupation. His uncle, Jiang Shangqing, died fighting the Japanese, and was considered a martyr. Jiang attended the National Central University (Department of Radio Engineering at Southeast University) in the Japanese-occupied Nanjing before being transferred to Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He graduated there in 1947 with a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He claimed that he joined the Communist Party of China when he was in college (this has never been verified by any individuals or documents). After the establishment of the People's Republic of China, Jiang received his training at the Stalin Automobile Works in Moscow in the 1950s. He worked for Changchun's First Automobile Works. He eventually got transferred to government services, where he began rising in rank, becoming a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, Minister of Electronic Industries in 1983. In 1985 he became Mayor of Shanghai, and subsequently the Party Chief of Shanghai.

Jiang received mixed reviews as mayor. Many of his critics dismissed him as a "flower vase", a Chinese term used to describe a decorative but useless person.[2] Many credited Shanghai's growth during the period to Zhu Rongji. Jiang was an ardent believer, during this period, in Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms. In an attempt of curbing student discontent in 1986, Jiang recited the Gettysburg Address in English in front of a group of student protesters.[3][4]

Jiang was described as having a passable command of several foreign languages, including Romanian, Russian, and English. One of his favorite activities was to engage foreign visitors in small talks on art and literature in their native language, in addition to singing foreign songs in the original language. He became friends with Allen Broussard, the African American judge who visited Shanghai in 1987 and Brazilian actress Lucelia Santos.

Jiang was elevated to national politics in 1987, automatically becoming a member of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee because it is customarily dictated that the Party Chief of Shanghai would also have a seat in the Politburo. In 1989, China was in crisis over the Tiananmen Square protest, and the Central Government was in conflict on how to handle the protesters. (The opening policy, brought out by Deng Xiaoping, has been proved as a crucial and brilliant turning point in China's modern history, causing the economy to grow at an astonishing rate during the past decades.) In June, Deng Xiaoping dismissed liberal Zhao Ziyang, who was considered too conciliatory to student protestors. Jiang, at the time, was the Shanghai Party Chief, the top figure in China's new economic center. In an incident with the World Economic Herald, Jiang closed down the newspaper, deeming it harmful. The handling of the crisis in Shanghai was noticed by Beijing, and then paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping. As the protests escalated and then Party-chief Zhao Ziyang was removed from office, Jiang was selected by the Party leaders as a compromise candidate over Tianjin's Li Ruihuan, Premier Li Peng, Chen Yun, and the retired elders to become the new General Secretary. At the time he was considered to be an unlikely candidate. Within three years Deng had transferred most power in the state, party and military to Jiang.

Early leadership

Jiang was elevated to the country's top job in 1989 with a fairly small power base inside the party, and thus, very little actual power. He was believed as simply a transitional figure until a more stable successor government to Deng could be put in place. Other prominent Party and military figures like Yang Shangkun and brother Yang Baibing were believed to be planning a coup. Jiang used Deng Xiaoping as a back-up to his leadership in the first few years. Jiang, who was believed to have a neo-conservative slant, warned against "bourgeois liberalization". Deng's belief, however, stipulated that the only solution to keeping the legitimacy of Communist rule over China was to continue the drive for modernization and economic reform, and therefore placed himself at odds with Jiang.

At the first meeting of the new Standing Committee of the Politburo, after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, Jiang criticized the previous period as "hard on the economy, soft on politics" and advocated increasing political thought work.[5] Anne-Marie Brady writes that "Jiang Zemin was a long time political cadre with a nose for ideological work and its importance. This meeting marked the beginning of a new era in propaganda and political thought work in China." Soon after, the Central Propaganda Department was given more resources and power, "including the power to go in to the propaganda-related work units and cleanse the ranks of those who had been supportive of the democracy movement."[5]

Deng grew critical of Jiang's leadership in 1992. During Deng's southern tours, he subtly suggested that the pace of reform was not fast enough, and the "central leadership" (i.e. Jiang) had most responsibility. Jiang grew ever more cautious, and rallied behind Deng's reforms completely. In 1993, Jiang coined the new term "Socialist Market Economy" to move China's centrally-planned socialist economy into essentially a government-regulated capitalist market economy. It was a huge step to take in the advancement of Deng's "Socialism with Chinese characteristics". At the same time, Jiang elevated many of his supporters from Shanghai to high government positions, after regaining Deng's confidence. He abolished the outdated Central Advisory Committee, an advisory body composed of revolutionary party elders. He became Chairman of the Central Military Commission in 1989, followed by his election to the Presidency in March 1993.


Deng Xiaoping died in early 1997, and China, emerging gradually out of the Deng-era reforms and the relative stability of the early 1990s, faced a myriad of economic and social problems. At Deng's funeral, Jiang delivered his eulogy. He had inherited a China rampant with government corruption, and regional economies growing too rapidly for the stability of the entire country. Deng's idea that "some areas can get rich before others" gave rise to an opening wealth gap between coastal regions and the hinterlands. The unprecedented economic growth had inevitably led to the closing of many state-owned enterprises (SOE's), and a staggering unemployment rate that hit 40% in some urban areas. Stock markets fluctuated greatly. The scale of rural migration into urban areas was unprecedented anywhere in the world, and little was being done to address an ever-increasing urban-rural wealth gap. Official reports put the figure on the percentage of China's GDP being moved and abused by corrupt officials at 10%. A chaotic environment of illegal bonds issued from civil and military officials resulted in much of the corrupted wealth to end up in foreign countries. Corruption levels had returned, if not exceeded that of the Republican era in the 1940s. A surge in crime rates and the reemergence of organized crime began to plague cities. A careless stance on the destruction of the environment furthered concerns voiced by intellectuals. Jiang's biggest aim in the economy was stability, and he believed that a stable government with highly centralised power would be a prerequisite, choosing to postpone political reform, which in many facets of governance exacerbated the on-going problems.[2] Jiang continued pouring funds to develop the Special Economic Zones and coastal regions.

Jiang is believed to be the first Chinese leader to truly manipulate the medium of television to enhance his own image, gaining a reputation for charisma. Beginning in 1996, Jiang began a series of reforms in the state-controlled media aimed at promoting the "core of leadership" under himself, and at the same time crushing some of his political opponents. The personality enhancements in the media were largely frowned upon during the Deng era, and had not been seen since Mao and Hua Guofeng's time in office in the late 1970s. The People's Daily and CCTV-1's 7PM National News each had Jiang-related events as the front-page or top stories, a fact that remained until Hu Jintao's media administrative changes in 2006. He appeared casual in front of Western media, and gave an unprecedented interview with Mike Wallace of CBS in 2000 at Beidaihe. He would often use foreign languages in front of the camera, albeit not always comprehensible. In an encounter with a Hong Kong reporter in 2000 regarding the central government's apparent "imperial order" of supporting Tung Chee-hwa to seek a second term as Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Jiang branded the Hong Kong journalists infamously as "too simple, sometimes naive" in English.[6] The event was shown on Hong Kong television that night, an event regarded to be in poor taste outside China.

Since 1999, the media has also played an integral role in the crackdown of Falun Gong, which Falun Gong groups believe to be an act under the direction of Jiang himself, and has been heavily criticized by the West. Jiang reputedly came under conflict with the more moderate premier Zhu Rongji over how to contain the fast-growing spiritual movement.


Foreign Policy

Jiang Zemin with Vladimir Putin in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in 2000.

Jiang went on a groundbreaking State Visit to the United States in 1997, drawing various crowds in protest from the Tibet Independence Movement to the supporters of Chinese Democracy Movement. He made a speech at Harvard University, part of it in passable English, but could not escape questions on democracy and freedom. In the official summit meeting with US President Bill Clinton, the tone was relaxed as Jiang and Clinton sought common ground while largely ignoring areas of disagreement. Clinton would visit China in June 1998, and vowed that China and the United States were partners in the world, and not adversaries. When American-led NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999, Jiang seemed to have put up a harsh stance for show at home, but in reality only performed symbolic gestures of protest, and no solid action. Much of Jiang's foreign policy was focused on international trade and economic integration. A personal friend of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien[7], Jiang strengthened China's economic stature abroad, attempting to establish cordial relations with countries whose trade is largely confined to the American economic sphere.

Economic development

Jiang did not specialize in economics, and in 1997 handed a big chunk of the economic governance of the country to Zhu Rongji, who became Premier, and remained in office through the Asian Financial Crisis. Under their joint leadership, Mainland China has sustained an average of 8% GDP growth annually, achieving the highest rate of per capita economic growth in major world economies, raising eyebrows around the world with its astonishing speed. This was mostly achieved by continuing the process of a transition to a market economy. Economists, however, charge Jiang with creating a bubble economy that could fall apart at any time. Strong Party control over were cemented by the PRC's successful bid to join the World Trade Organization and Beijing winning the bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Entrenching Three Represents

Before he transferred power to a younger generation of leaders, Jiang had his theory of Three Represents written into the Party's constitution, alongside Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and Deng Xiaoping Theory at the 16th CPC Congress in 2002. Although contradictory to Marxism and Maoism in many facets, it was also written into China's Constitution. Critics believe this is just another piece added to Jiang's cult of personality, others have seen practical applications of the theory as a guiding ideology in the future direction of the CPC. Largely speculated to step down from all positions by international media, rival Li Ruihuan's resignation in 2002 prompted analysts to rethink the man. The theory of Three Represents was believed by many political analysts to be Jiang's effort at extending his vision to Marxist-Leninist Principles, and therefore elevating himself alongside previous Chinese Marxist philosophers Mao and Deng.

Gradual retirement

Jiang Zemin with Hu Jintao at the 16th Party Congress.

In 2002, Jiang stepped down from the powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China to make way for a "fourth generation" of leadership headed by Hu Jintao, marking the beginning of a transition of power that would last several years. Hu assumed Jiang's title as party chief, becoming the new general secretary of the Communist Party. Six out of the nine new members of Standing Committee at the time were considered part of Jiang's so-called "Shanghai Clique", the most prominent being Vice President Zeng Qinghong and Executive Vice Premier Huang Ju.

Although Jiang retained the chairmanship of the powerful Central Military Commission, most members of the commission are professional military men. Liberation Army Daily, a publication thought to represent the views of the CMC majority, printed an article on 11 March 2003 which quotes two army delegates as saying, "Having one center is called 'loyalty', while having two centers will result in 'problems.'" [1] This was widely interpreted as a criticism of Jiang's attempt to exercise dual leadership with Hu on the model of Deng Xiaoping.

Hu succeeded Jiang as president of the People's Republic of China on 15 March 2003. To the surprise of many observers, evidence of Jiang's continuing influence on public policy abruptly disappeared from the official media. Jiang was conspicuously silent during the SARS crisis, especially when compared to the very public profile of Hu and Wen Jiabao. It has been argued that the institutional arrangements created by the 16th Congress have left Jiang in a position where he cannot exercise much influence. Although many of the members of the Politburo Standing Committee are associated with him, the Standing Committee does not have command authority over the civilian bureaucracy.

Jiang Zemin with wife Wang Yeping and George W. Bush with wife Laura Bush in Crawford, Texas in 2002.

On 19 September 2004, after a four-day meeting of the 198-member Central Committee, Jiang resigned as chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission, his last party post. Six months later he resigned his last significant post, chairman of the State CMC. This followed weeks of speculation that Hu Jintao's supporters in the Communist Party leadership were pressing Jiang to step aside. Jiang's term was supposed to have lasted until 2007. Hu also succeeded Jiang as the CMC chairman, but, in an apparent political defeat for Jiang, Xu Caihou, and not Zeng Qinghong was appointed to succeed Hu as vice chairman. This power transition officially marks the end of Jiang's era in China, which roughly lasted from 1993 to 2004.

Although Jiang has been seldom seen in public since giving up his last official title in 2004, he was with Hu Jintao on stage at a ceremony celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army,[8] and toured the Military Museum of the Chinese Peoples Revolution with Li Peng, Zhu Rongji, and other former senior officials.[9] On 8 August 2008, Jiang appeared at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics Games.

Argentine Federal Judge Octavio de Lamadrid has issued an arrest warrant for Jiang Zemin and Luo Gan on charges of crimes against humanity in 17 December,2009. [10]


Historians and biographers have disputed what can be accounted into "Jiang Zemin's legacy". Jiang himself had wanted his Three Represents theory, called an "important thought" on the Mainland, to become his ideological legacy. Although the theory has been codified into both the State and Party constitutions alongside Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory, its actual effect has yet to be assessed, and it seems to be losing ground to Hu Jintao's Scientific Development Concept and Harmonious Society ideologies within the party. Jiang has come under quiet criticism from within the Communist Party of China for focusing on economic growth at all costs while ignoring the resulting environmental damage of the growth, the widening gap between rich and poor in China and the social costs absorbed by those whom economic reform has left behind. By contrast, the policies of his successors, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have widely been seen as efforts to address these imbalances and move away from a sole focus on economic growth toward a broader view of development which incorporates non-economic factors such as health and the environment.[11]

Domestically, Jiang's legacy and reputation is mixed. While some people attribute the period of relative stability and growth in the 1990s to Jiang's term, others argue that Jiang did little to correct mistakes resulting from Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, leaving the next administration facing innumerable problems, some of which are too late to adjust. The fact that he arose to power as the direct beneficiary of the turmoils of June 4 has not been forgotten by many in China. Indeed, he is in many circles regarded as a political opportunist; the very model of a new breed of party members directly associated with the widespread corruption and cronyism that flourished during his tenure. His interference with high profile corruption investigations since stepping down from power, such as those involving Shanghai tycoon Zhou Zhengyi has only helped to reinforce this perception.

Jiang's obsession with image has also spurred a trend of face projects around the country, with local governments lending enormous funds to large and mostly unnecessary construction projects. While his showy nature has often been considered charming and even charismatic by the west[12], in the relatively more conservative Chinese society it is often perceived as frivolous, pompous and lacking in character and substance. Jiang's Theory of Three Represents justified the incorporation of the new capitalist business class into the party, and changed the founding ideology of the CPC from protection of the peasantry and workers to that of the "overwhelming majority of the people", a euphemism aimed at including the growing entrepreneurial class. Conservative critics within the party have quietly denounced this as betrayal of the communist ideology, while reformers have praised Jiang as a visionary. Such a move, however, increasingly justified a newly found correlation between the business and ruling elites, thus significantly linking bureaucracy and financial gain, which critics argue fosters more corruption. Some have suggested that this is the part of Jiang's legacy that will last, at least in name, as long as the communists remain in power.

Many biographers of Jiang have noted that his government resembled an oligarchy as opposed to an autocratic dictatorship.[13] Many of his policies have been attributed to others in government, notably Premier Zhu Rongji, whose tense relationship with Jiang was of widespread speculation, especially following Jiang's decision to suppress the Falun Gong movement. Jiang is often credited with the gains in foreign affairs during his term,[14] but at the same many Chinese criticize him for being too conciliatory towards the United States and Russia. The issue of Chinese reunification between the mainland and Taiwan gained ground during Jiang's term, as Cross-Strait talks led to the eventual Three Links after Jiang stepped down as President. The Qinghai-Tibet railway began construction under Jiang. The state-owned press claimed the railway was welcomed by many Tibetans,[15] although opposed by pro-independence Tibetans as a purely political move. Jiang was also accused of appeasement towards the Japanese and Americans in diplomacy.

Jiang has been criticized by Falun Gong, a vocal spiritual group who allege that Jiang and the CCP under his leadership to have persecuted their members. The newspaper Epoch Times, a Falun Gong affiliated media source considered by many to be fringe media has published a book deeply critical of Jiang titled Anything for Power: The Real Story of China’s Jiang Zemin, documenting various scandals and human rights violations attributed by Jiang and during his presidency, including his family background, his crackdown of Falun Gong, and his alleged relationship with singer Song Zuying.[16]

See also

References and further reading

  1. ^ Tomoyuki Kojima. China's Omnidirectional Diplomacy: Cooperation with all, Emphasis on Major Powers. Asia-Pacific Review, 1469-2937, Volume 8, Issue 2, 2001
  2. ^ a b BBC: Profile: Jiang Zemin
  3. ^ Kuhn, Robert Lawrence: The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin
  4. ^ Book: Real Story of Jiang Zemin: Introduction(4)
  5. ^ a b Anne-Marie Brady, Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  6. ^ Hong Kong Journalists Association: FOE Annual Report, 2001
  7. ^ Xinhua:China's Jiang Zemin, Canada's Jean Chrétien discuss relations 21 October 2001.
  8. ^ China's leadership makes show of unity ahead of key Communist Party congress International Herald Tribune
  9. ^ Former Chinese President tours Military Museum CCTV International
  10. ^ Argentine judge asks China arrests over Falun GongReuters, Reporting by Luis Andres Henao; editing by Fiona Ortiz and Mohammad Zargham, Dec 22, 2009
  11. ^ Lam, Willy. Chinese Politics in the Hu Jintao era. pp. 44-46
  12. ^ Washington Post: Jiang Zemin's Puzzlement
  13. ^ Kuhn, 2004; Lam, 1997
  14. ^ Facts and Details: China under Jiang Zemin
  15. ^ "Qinghai-Tibet Railway Kicks off". People's Daily. June 2001. Retrieved 2007-02-03.  
  16. ^ Anything for Power: The Real Story of China’s Jiang Zemin Published Epoch Times
  • Gilley, Bruce. "Tiger on the Brink: Jiang Zemin and China's New Elite." Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. 395pp. This was the first biography of Jiang to appear in the West. A comprehensive and highly readable journalistic account of Jiang's early years, his ascendancy within the Party bureaucracy, and his ultimate rise to power as Deng Xiaoping's successor in the wake of Tiananmen.
  • Kuhn, Robert Lawrence = The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin, Random House (English edition) 2005. Century Publishing Group, Shanghai (Chinese edition) 2005. The book is a general biography of Jiang with a more favorable stance towards him.
    • China Daily = English language review of biography by Dr. Kuhn.
  • Lam, Willy Wo-Lap. "The Era of Jiang Zemin"; Prentice Hall, Singapore: 1999. General Jiang-era background information and analysis, not comprehensive biography.

External links

Additional source

Political offices
Preceded by
Wang Daohan
Mayor of Shanghai
1984 – 1987
Succeeded by
Zhu Rongji
Preceded by
Rui Xingwen
Secretary of the CPC Shanghai Committee
1987 – 1989
Preceded by
Zhao Ziyang
General Secretary of the Communist Party of China
1989 – 2002
Succeeded by
Hu Jintao
Preceded by
Yang Shangkun
President of the People's Republic of China
1993 – 2003
Preceded by
Deng Xiaoping
Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission
1989 – 2004
Chairman of the PRC Central Military Commission
1990 – 2005


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Jiang Zemin (1928 - ) was the President of the People's Republic of China (1993-2003).

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