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Friday, January 27, 2023

Jiang Zemin: China’s Former President Passes away at 96

Jiang Zemin's demise comes as China faces some of the most severe demonstrations since Tiananmen

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Sadaf Hasan
Sadaf Hasan
Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

CHINA: Jiang Zemin, the former Chinese president who oversaw the nation throughout a decade of tremendous economic growth following the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, passed away at the age of 96. 

State news said that Zemin died from leukaemia and multiple organ failure in Shanghai on Wednesday, shortly after 12:00 local time (04:00 GMT).

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Zemin’s demise comes as China faces some of the most severe demonstrations since Tiananmen, with many people protesting against COVID restrictions.

The death was announced in a joint letter to the Chinese people by the government’s Communist Party, parliament, cabinet, and military, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

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The letter stated that the announcement was made with “profound grief,” adding that “Comrade Jiang Zemin’s death is an unfathomable loss to our Party, our military, and our people of all ethnic groups.”

It defined “our beloved Comrade Jiang Zemin” as an exceptional leader of great renown, a superb Marxist, statesman, military strategist, and diplomat, as well as a veteran communist combatant.

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State media reported that flags will be flown at half-mast at significant Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and government buildings in China and around the world.

As per state broadcaster CCTV, the directive from Jiang’s funeral planning committee applies from Wednesday until the day of his yet-to-be-announced funeral.

After the brutal Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989, Jiang was chosen to lead the CCP out of obscurity. He was successful in bringing China out of diplomatic isolation, healing relations with the US, and managing an extraordinary economic boom.

Jiang, who served as president of China from 1993 to 2003, oversaw a number of significant developments in the nation, including the resurrection of market-oriented reforms, the restoration of Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997, and its admission to the World Trade Organization in 2001.

He oversaw the fulfilment of another long-held goal: the country’s victory in the bid to host the Olympic Games following an earlier rejection.

A reporter from Beijing stated that after hearing of Jiang’s passing, government officials emphasised “his Communist Party credentials when they talk about him – yet he’s remembered among the people as so much more.”

“He was extremely different from China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, who is sometimes depicted as an emperor; he couldn’t have been more different from the somewhat serious or straight-faced officials that we sometimes see in China now,” added the reporter.

The reporter continued, “Jiang Zemin, on the other hand, is perceived as more of an everyman. He communicated with the press frequently and rather honestly. He spoke entirely in English throughout some of his speeches and frequently used English.”

“In front of foreign dignitaries, he enjoyed performing Italian songs, and it was well-known that he could play the piano. He also enjoyed cracking jokes when speaking in front of an audience,” the reporter added.

Jiang’s government put down dissent at home even as China opened to the outside world. It imprisoned advocates for human rights, labour, and democracy and outlawed the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which it saw as a danger to the CCP’s monopoly on power.

“Maintaining stability in China has always been the most crucial and overriding duty,” Victor Gao, deputy president of the Center for China and Globalization, told the media.

“I believe the previous leader also did an excellent job preserving stability, opening the door for China to reestablish contact with the outside world,” Gao said, praising Jiang’s work.

After Hu Jintao’s leadership generation took over in 2002, Jiang appeared to have only reached the height of his power. He was the “strong man” in the background, pulling the strings for a very long time. He was referred to by the populace as “the senior” (Zhangzhe).

Jiang relinquished his last official position in 2004 but continued to be a major player in the manoeuvring that helped Xi, the current president, come to power and take office in 2012.

At a 2019 military parade honouring the party’s 70th year in power, Jiang made his last public appearance alongside current and former leaders atop Beijing’s Tiananmen Gate.

Last month, when past party leaders were handed seats in appreciation for their contributions, he was not present for the important party congress.

Also Read: “Golden Era” of UK-China Relations is over, Says Sunak 

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