World

Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin dies aged 96

November 30, 2022
Jiang Zemin
Jiang Zemin

BEIJING — China's former leader Jiang Zemin, who came to power after the Tiananmen Square protests, has died at 96.

State media said he died just after noon in Shanghai on Wednesday.

One of the major figures in Chinese history in recent decades, he presided over a time when China opened up on a vast scale and saw high-speed growth.

His death comes as China sees some of its most serious protests since Tiananmen, with many demonstrating against Covid restrictions.

A Chinese Communist Party statement said he died of leukemia and multiple organ failure.

It added that he was recognized "as an outstanding leader with high prestige" and "a long-tested Communist fighter".

Jiang rose to power after the bloody 1989 crackdown on protestors in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square, which led to China being ostracised internationally.

The event sparked a bitter power struggle at the top of the Communist Party between hard-line reactionaries and reformers.

It led to Jiang, who had originally been seen as a plodding bureaucrat, being elevated to high office. He was chosen as a compromise leader, in the hope he would unify hardliners and more liberal elements.

Under his stewardship, a formidable economy was forged, the Communists tightened their grip on power, and China took its place at the top table of world powers.

He oversaw the peaceful handover of Hong Kong in 1997, and China's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 which intertwined the country with the global economy.

But political reforms were also put to one side and he crushed internal dissent while pursuing a hardline stance on Taiwan. He was criticized for the heavy-handed crackdown on the religious sect Falun Gong in 1999, which was seen as a threat to the Communist Party.

He was also keen to ensure that his position within the Communist Party was secure, and came up with his own political ideology — the Three Represents theory — in an attempt to modernize the party.

During his time in power, Jiang sought to strengthen ties with the US, visiting the country several times and offering then-president George W. Bush cooperation in Washington's "war on terror" following the 9/11 attacks.

In a country not known for its flamboyant leaders, he was seen as having a more colorful personality than his successors. He memorably crooned Elvis Presley at a global summit, and went for a swim off the Hawaiian coast.

In his later years, he withdrew from government and was rarely seen in public. But even as he became less conspicuous, online he became an unlikely subject of viral internet memes.

Many Chinese affectionately caricatured his signature large spectacles, and likened his appearance to a toad. Young fans called themselves "toad worshippers". — BBC


November 30, 2022
60 views
HIGHLIGHTS
World
hour ago

No classified documents found at Biden's beach house, lawyer says

World
hour ago

Four guilty of helping IS militant in Vienna terror attack

World
2 hours ago

California police face scrutiny after killing double amputee