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Jiang Zemin

Name: Jiang Zemin
Bith Date: July, 1927
Death Date:
Place of Birth: Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province, China
Nationality: Chinese
Gender: Male
Occupations: political leader

Hand-picked by Deng Xiaoping to be built up as China's future leader, Jiang Zemin (born 1927) became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee in 1989.

Jiang Zemin was born in July 1926 in Yangzhou city, Jiangsu Province, a small town on the banks of the Chang River west of Shanghai. After one of his uncles joined the then-outlawed Communist party and was killed in combat, his biological father offered him for adoption to the surviving family members so that they would have an heir to continue the Shinquing's bloodline. Jiang joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1946 and graduated from the electrical machinery department of Jiaotong University in Shanghai the following year.

After the Communists took over power in China in 1949, Jiang assumed several positions in Shanghai: CCP committee secretary and first deputy director of the Yimin No. 1 Foodstuffs Factory; first deputy director of the Shanghai Soap Factory; and chief of the electrical machinery section of the Shanghai No. 2 Designing Division of the First Ministry of Machine-Building Industry.

In 1955 Jiang was sent to work as a trainee at the Stalin Automobile Factory in Moscow. After returning to China the following year, his career advanced steadily as an engineer and a technocrat under the First Ministry of Machine-Building Industry. From 1971 to 1979 he was appointed deputy director, later director, of the Foreign Affairs Bureau under the same ministry.

He moved into a new field of work (import and export) in August 1980 and became vice-minister of the State Foreign Investment Commission in March 1981. His job changed in May 1982 as he was appointed vice-minister of electronics industry. Later that year he was elected a member of the CCP Central Committee at the 12th Party Congress. In June 1983 he was promoted to minister of electronics industry and in September 1984 he was concurrently appointed the deputy head of the Leading Group for Electronics Industry under the state council. After 1985 Jiang's career was boosted as he returned to Shanghai as its deputy party secretary, later secretary and mayor. In 1987 he entered the Politburo at the 13th CCP Congress.

Positions under Deng Xiaoping

In June 1989, in the aftermath of the Beijing massacre, Jiang was chosen elder statesman by Deng Xiaoping to succeed the disgraced Zhao Ziyang as the general secretary of the CCP. In November 1989 Jiang also took over the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission when Deng stepped down. Like Deng Xiaoping, Jiang advocated economic reform, but he was also a conservative insofar as political reform was concerned. As mayor of Shanghai, Jiang initiated and implemented a series of economic reforms. For example, Shanghai was the first city in China to auction land-use rights, even though such a measure clearly violates the Communist dogma. Jiang was quite responsive to foreign investors' concerns, and hence won praise from them. Nevertheless, during the 1989 pro-democracy movement, he brusquely dismissed Qin Benli from the post of the editor-in-chief of The World Herald, a Shanghai publication well known for its outspoken and candid criticism of the regime's policies as well as economic and political conditions in China; the pretext was that the paper published a long article deviating from the CCP's line. Jiang's action and his skillful handling of student protests in Shanghai, where few students were killed, enhanced his political career.

After Jiang became party general secretary, he faithfully followed the new party line. For example, he blamed hostile external forces for China's domestic political turmoil in the late 1980s. In the 1989 National Day address, which was a required reading for all Chinese, Jiang asserted that the international reactionary forces "adopt political, economic, and cultural means to infiltrate and influence socialist countries, exploiting their temporary difficulties and reforms. They support and buy over so-called 'dissidents' through whom they foster blind worship of the Western world and propagate the political and economic patterns, sense of values, decadent ideas and lifestyle of the Western capitalist world.... They fabricate rumors, provoke incidents, plot turmoil, and engage in subversive activities against socialist countries." Likewise, he put a renewed emphasis on "redness" over expertise in selecting and promoting party officials. He was prominently quoted in a People's Daily front-page commentary on June 24, 1990, as saying, "In choosing people, in assigning people, in educating people, we must take a revolutionary outlook as the prerequisite to insure that party and government leaders at every level are loyal to Marxism."

After Deng Xiaoping

In spite of Deng Xiaoping's efforts to build him up as China's future leader, Jiang may end up as another transitional leadership figure like Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang before him. Xiaoping officially retired in 1989, the same year of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Jiang did not have a base of support within the party or the army, and in 1990 still lacked leadership stature. Capitalistic ventures undertaken since the 1980s have emphasized economic class disparity. The widening class gap is only agitated by the constant inflation. Tokyo Business Today reported that the Chinese Central Committee's commission on general measures for maintenance of social order notes 1.67 million disturbances in rural farming villages. These disturbances resulted in more than 8,000 deaths and rising ill will between farmers and government. Concurrently, urban areas are experiencing increased crime and revolutionary groups have sprung up. In the autumn of 1994, a militant group placed explosives on train tracks, derailing a train carrying troops from China's 13th Army. The explosion killed 170 and injured 190. Moreover, China's relationship with the rest of the world was becoming increasingly strained with widespread reports of human rights abuses, including prison labor and political imprisoning.

In April 1996, in an attempt to reestablish law and order, Jiang launched an anticrime drive, known as "Strike Hard" (Yanda in Chinese). Within six months Strike Hard had resulted in more than 160,000 arrests and more than 1,000 executions. Though many were critical of the initiative, the government claimed it was well received by the Chinese citizens who were alarmed by the rising crime statistics. Jiang is also known for reclaiming Hong Kong and attempting to convince Taiwan to follow.

On July 18, 2000, Jiang met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a summit aimed at advancing strategic ties and blunting United States global influence. The two sides signed a bilateral declaration, a joint statement on the anti-ballistic missile plan, a banking pact and inter-government agreements on joint energy development and the construction of a fast neutron experimental reactor.

In November 2002, the 76-year-old Jiang retired as chief of China's Communist Party. However, he still retained his chairmanship of the Central Military Commission, a position that potentially gave him tremendous power over such issues as foreign policy and social stability. Just how retired Jiang actually intended to be was not expected to be known until March 2003, when Jiang was expected to hand over his third title, president, to his successor as head of the party. There has been some speculation that Jiang will also resign his chairmanship of the military commission at that time.

When Jiang assumed leadership of the Communist party in 1989, his immediate task was to return the country to political and economic stability. But thirteen years later, upon his retirement as head of the party, his accomplishments were far greater than what he had set out to do. China had become a major player on the world stage, a member of the World Trade Organization and an economic giant that had sustained a 10 percent growth rate for many years.

Under Jiang, the Chinese has achieved a better standard of living, and enjoyed more personal freedom. But at the same time Jiang was leaving behind social problems that had resulted from his economic reforms, and a wealth of unfulfilled expectations in a population that had become increasingly sophisticated. Jiang's pursuit of stability had failed to solve such domestic problems as unemployment and social security; and many people were concerned about corruption, the country's poorly functioning legal system and their lack of voice in government--there was even a desire on the part of some to expand local elections to higher levels of government. Unemployment stood higher than it had ever been, and there was no adequate social security system. The income gap between rich and poor rivaled what is found in some Western countries.

Jiang's record in foreign relations, which had remained under control of hard-liners during Jiang's time in power, was also disappointing. In 2001, when a Chinese fighter plane collided with a US spy plane off China's southern coast, China's strident response sidelined a number of important exchanges with the US, not to mention scrapping any military-to-military cooperation between the two countries. Still, in his last year and a half as head of the Communist Party, Jiang managed to show particular sensitivity to the Taiwanese issue, and he allied China with the U.S. in the latter's war on terrorism.

Associated Organizations

Further Reading

  • Additional information on Jiang Zemin can be found in Parris H. Chang, "The Power Game in Beijing" in The World & I (October, 1989). Lee Feigon, China Rising: The Meaning of Tiananmen (1990) is an eyewitness report as well as a scholarly analysis of the 1989 military assault on Chinese students. Yi Mu and Mark V. Thompson (both are pseudonyms), Crisis at Tiananmen: Reform and Reality in Modern China (1990), report what the CCP leaders were thinking and doing during the 1989 events.
  • For more recent events, see The New York Times, November 16, 2002; November 17, 2002.

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