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Jiang Zemin

Jiang Zemin

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 that 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 grows 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 that 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.

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. □

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Jiang Zemin

Jiang Zemin

Born: August 17, 1926
Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province, China

Chinese political leader

Hand picked by Deng Xiaoping (19041997) to be built up as China's future leader, Jiang Zemin became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 1989.

Early years

Jiang Zemin was born on August 17, 1926, in Yangzhou city, Jiangsu Province, a small town on the banks of the Chang River west of Shanghai, China. Jiang's father and uncle were educated men and his grandfather was a well-known painter who also practiced Chinese medicine. His father was a Communist (a person who supports a political system in which goods and services are owned and distributed by the government) and was most likely killed by Chinese Nationalists during the civil war that tore apart China for nearly twenty years. 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 power in China in 1949, Jiang assumed several positions in Shanghai including the CCP committee secretary. 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 under the First Ministry of the Machine-Building Industry. From 1971 to 1979 he was appointed deputy director, later director, of the Foreign Affairs Bureau under the same ministry.

In 1982 Jiang was elected a member of the CCP Central Committee at the twelfth party congress. After 1985, Jiang's career improved greatly as he returned to Shanghai as its deputy party secretary, later secretary and mayor. In 1987 he entered the Politburo (top part of the Communist party) at the thirteenth CCP congress.

Positions under Deng Xiaoping

In June 1989, in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, where hundreds of pro-democracy student protesters where killed by police forces, Jiang was appointed by Deng Xiaoping to the position of 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 supported economic reform (improvements), but did little where political reform was concerned.

After Jiang became party general secretary, he faithfully followed the new party line. For example, he blamed hostile outside forces for China's domestic political problems in the late 1980s. Likewise, he put a renewed emphasis on Communist loyalty over 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 [required experience] to insure that party and government leaders at every level are loyal to Marxism." (Marxism, based on the ideas of Karl Marx [18181893] is the basis for communism.)

After Deng Xiaoping

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. But through his work as chairman of the CCP's Central Military Commision, Jiang eventually gained support and was named president of China in 1993.

Business ventures in China widened the class gap and only worsened the Chinese economy. In the 1990s, urban areas began experiencing increased crime and revolutionary groups sprang 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 people. Moreover, China's relationship with the rest of the world grew 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 thousand arrests and more than one thousand executions. Though many were critical of these actions, 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 the British colony of Hong Kong and attempting to convince Taiwan to follow.

In the spring of 2001, China-U.S. relations reached a fevered pitch, when a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet. The U.S. plane was forced to land in China where the aircraft (loaded with highly secretive spy technology) and its crew were detained for eleven days. On July 18, 2001, Jiang met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin (1952) in a summit (meeting) aimed at improving Russo-Chinese relations and slowing the United States' global influence. The two sides signed a statement to reduce missile defense, and improve trade between the two countries.

For More Information

Chang, Parris H. "The Power Game in Beijing." The World & I (October 1989).

Feigon, Lee. China Rising: The Meaning of Tiananmen. 1990.

Gilley, Bruce. Tiger on the Brink: Jiang Zemin and China's New Elite. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Lam, Willy Wo-Lap. The Era of Jiang Zemin. New York: Prentice Hall, 1999.

Mu, Yi, and Mark V. Thompson. Crises at Tiananmen: Reform and Reality in Modern China. 1990.

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Jiang Zemin

Jiang Zemin (jyäng´ zŭ´mĬn´), 1926–, Chinese government official, general secretary of the Chinese Communist party (1989–2002) and president of China (1993–2003), b. Jiangsu prov. Trained as an electrical engineer, Jiang joined the party in 1946, was an industrial executive, and became minister of the Chinese electronics industry in 1983. Elected mayor of Shanghai in 1985, he also became first deputy secretary, then (1988) secretary of the Shanghai Communist party. A member of China's politburo from 1987, he was named to succeed Zhao Ziyang as Communist party general secretary after the army crushed prodemocracy demonstrations in Beijing and other cities in 1989. A protégé of Deng Xiaoping, he replaced Deng as head of the powerful government and party military commissions (1989–90) and was picked by Deng to succeed him. Regarded as a political pragmatist, Jiang consolidated power, extended Deng's economic reforms, and brought about the admission of private business owners into the party's membership. He also increased China's influence in international affairs, and brought China into the World Trade Organization. He retired as party leader in Nov., 2002, and president in Mar., 2003; Hu Jintao succeeded him in both positions. Jiang retained his positions on the military commissions until Sept., 2004, but he continued to retain influence in party affairs.

See B. Gilley, Tiger on the Brink (1999).

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Jiang Zemin

Jiang Zemin (1926) Chinese statesman, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (1989–2002). A cautious proponent of reform, he was elected to the central committee in 1982, and served as mayor of Shanghai (1985–88). Jiang replaced Zhao Ziyang as general secretary. In 1997, he succeeded Deng Xiaoping as China's paramount leader. In 2003, Jiang Zemin was succeeded by Hu Jintao.

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Zemin, Jiang

Zemin, Jiang (1926– ) See Jiang Zemin

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