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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 September, 2004, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Profile: Jiang Zemin
Jiang Zemin (left) listens to Hu Jintao
Jiang Zemin handed over the reins to Hu Jintao
After 15 years at the forefront of Chinese politics, Jiang Zemin has finally given up his last official post.

As president from 1989 to 2003, Mr Jiang took the helm of the world's largest country in the wake of the Tiananmen Square killings.

When he came to power, China was a virtual pariah state. By the time he had handed the presidency over to Hu Jintao, it had become the fastest-growing economy in the world.

Mr Jiang's rise to power stemmed from a politburo purge of liberal leaders in 1989, after the ruthless suppression of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.

Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, who held all the real power, needed to find a new protégé to lead the Communist Party.

Mr Jiang, who as Shanghai party chief had weathered the student protests without resorting to violence, fitted the bill.

By the time Deng finally died in February 1997, Jiang Zemin had been given enough time to establish himself.

He is a good consensus builder, he's a good manipulator
Ex-US ambassador James Lilley
Not regarded as an innovative statesman, Mr Jiang is a facilitator whose main priority in power was to maintain social stability, continuing with gradual economic reforms and thus ensuring the Communist Party remained in power.

But he also attempted to make his mark as a political thinker, alongside Mao and Deng, by expounding the three representations theory - an attempt to modernise the Party.

The theory says the Party should further the development of "advanced social productive forces" [allow entrepreneurs and professionals membership of the party], develop culture, and represent the majority of the people.


Jiang Zemin was born to an intellectual family and graduated as an electrical engineer. He had previously worked in a Soviet car factory and as a diplomat in Romania in the 1950s.

He served as minister in charge of the electronics industry and as mayor and party chief in Shanghai.

He likes to recite poetry and plays the piano as well as an erhu, a two-stringed instrument similar to the violin.

Deng Xiaoping
Jiang Zemin came to power as the protégé of Deng Xiaoping
Famously, he also delivered a stirring rendition of the Elvis Presley song Love Me Tender, after a dinner with Philippine President Fidel Ramos at the 1996 Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Manila.

Former US ambassador to Beijing James Lilley recalls that Jiang was known as The Flowerpot by the people of Shanghai: ''Lots of decoration, no action."

"Well, it turns out he is a good consensus builder, he's a good manipulator," Mr Lilley said.

He has been credited with squeezing as much advantage as possible from events - such as the spy plane crisis or the Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade - but always allowing US ties to recover.

This was especially illustrated in the co-operation offered by China for Washington's "war on terror" following 11 September 2001.

Jiang's shadow

Mr Jiang began the leadership transition to Mr Hu in November 2002, when he gave the younger man the post of party chief.

Mr Hu succeeded him as president in March 2003.

But until September 2004, Mr Jiang remained chairman of the commission which oversees China's armed forces, and retained a huge influence over foreign policy and security issues.

Mr Jiang is likely to remain fairly influential, even without an official post, because the high echelons of Chinese politics are still filled with his allies.

And Mr Jiang's supporters will work hard to protect his legacy and his family interests.

His son, Jiang Mianheng, has been called the "Prince of Information Technology".

The US-educated entrepreneur is chairman of the state-run China Netcom and is also in partnership with Taiwanese tycoon Winston Wong to build a $1.6 billion semiconductor plant in Shanghai.

Country profile: China
13 Aug 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: China
03 Jun 04  |  Country profiles



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