Jiāng Zémín (born August 17, 1926) was 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. His theory of the Three Represents has been written into the party and state constitutions. Under his tutelage, China experienced meteoric economic growth with reforms and improved its relations with the outside world while the Communist Party maintained its tight control over the government.
Jiang was a member of the Communist student underground after participation in the nationwide university movement in 1947, achieving party membership in 1946. After graduation from Yangzhou Middle School in 1943 he entered the Nanjing Central University. In 1946 he transferred to Shanghai Jiaotong University and graduated there in 1947. A mechanical engineer, Jiang received his training at the Stalin Automobile Works in Moscow in the 1950s. Jiang, fluent in Romanian and Russian, and capable of engaging foreign dignitaries with his grounding in Japanese, French, and English language and literature, served as Ambassador to Romania and Mayor of Shanghai.
Jiang was a compromise candidate chosen by Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, Chen Yun, and the retired elders on March 27, 1993 to replace the more liberal Zhao Ziyang, who was considered too conciliatory to student protestors. Although not directly involved with the crackdown, he was elevated to central party positions after the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 for his role in averting similar protests in Shanghai.
16th Party Congress and retirement
Jiang Zemin speaking 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 younger "fourth generation" of leadership led by Hu Jintao. Hu assumed Jiang's title as party chief, becoming the new General Secretary of the Communist Party. Hu succeeded Jiang as President of the People's Republic of China on March 15, 2003. Jiang remained chairman of the Central Military Commission, and six out of the nine new members of Standing Committee, Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Zeng Qinghong, Huang Ju, Wu Guanzheng, and Li Changchun are linked to Jiang's so-called "Shanghai Clique." The 22-member Politburo is elected by the Party's central committee.
After the Sixteenth Party Congress, Jiang has maintained a low profile and refrained from making public statements. He was conspicuously silent during the SARS crisis especially when compared to the very public profile of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. Although many expected Jiang to maintain continuing influence, his influence on Chinese policy has not been apparent. It has been argued that the institutional arrangements left by the Sixteenth Congress have actually 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. Furthermore, his position as Chairman of the Central Military Commission was limited by the fact that most of the members of the CMC were professional military, and there was an extraordinary article in the Liberation Daily which argued against forming "two centers" and was taken as a sign that the military did not want Jiang to exercise policies independent from those of his successors. Finally, while Deng Xiaoping was only one of several leaders of his generation who attempted to influence political affairs after their retirement, others within the third generation of Chinese leadership, most notably Zhu Rongji pointedly refused to become involved in current political issues.
On September 19, 2004, after a four-day meeting of the 198-member Central Committee, Jiang resigned as Chairman of the Central Military Commission—his last official post. This followed weeks of speculation that Hu Jintao's supporters in the Communist Party leadership were pressuring Jiang to step aside. Signs of a widening split between Jiang and Hu had appeared weeks before, including a published photograph of President Hu with the late leader Deng Xiaoping, with the image of Jiang Zemin washed out. The term was supposed to have lasted until 2007. As expected, Jiang was also succeeded by Hu Jintao 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, and is the first time that a power transfer was completed in peace since the formation of the People's Republic in 1949.
Once derided as a "flower vase" compromise candidate anointed by the elders, Jiang has emerged as the leading Chinese Communist cadre and Deng's replacement. Under his leadership, Mainland China has sustained an average of 8% GDP growth annually, achieving one of the world's highest rate of per capita economic growth, if not the highest. This was mostly achieved by continuing the process of a transition to a market economy with strong Party control remaining. Jiang's legacy is also cemented by the PRC's successful bids to join the World Trade Organization and host the 2008 Summer Olympics. Jiang's Three Represents was also written into the Party's constitution, along with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and Deng Xiaoping Theory at the 2002 16th Party Congress, although many analysts thought that it was significant that Jiang himself was not mentioned in the party constitution.
Jiang Zemin with Hu Jintao
At the same time he has been criticized by human rights groups for not continuing political reform. Jiang acted to maintain the Communist Party's strong control over the vast country, which the party has cited as necessary to maintain order and stability in the vast, rapidly changing country. Since 1999, the state has campaigned against the Falun Gong movement, arresting leaders and breaking up demonstrations, despite protests by human rights groups.
In addition, he has also 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 who economic reform has left behind. Many of the policies of this 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.
Jiang is also known for his Theory of Three Represents, which justifies the incorporation of the new capitalist business class into the party. Conservative critics within the party have quietly denounced this as betrayal of the communist ideology, while reformers have praised Jiang as a visionary. 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.
- Life Story of Jiang Zemin http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/leaders/jzm/jzmhome.htm (from the People's Daily)
Last updated: 02-07-2005 08:49:18
Last updated: 05-06-2005 01:27:49