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Jiang Zemin
Jiang Zemin
Li Peng
Li Peng
Zhu Rongji
Zhu Rongji
Li Ruihuan
Li Ruihuan
Hu Jintao
Hu Jintao
Wei Jianxing
Wei Jianxing
Li Lanqing
Li Lanqing

Jiang Zemin
Party chief

Although Jiang Zemin has stepped down as leader of the Communist Party, this master manipulator has kept his grip on power.

He has retained the chairmanship of a powerful committee overseeing the military, and overseen the promotion of several supporters and acolytes.

Mr Jiang owes his position to a purge of liberal leaders after the ruthless suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping needed a new face to lead the Party. Mr Jiang, who as Shanghai Party Secretary had weathered the student protests without resorting to violence, fitted the bill.

He has been seen as competent rather than innovative, his main priorities to maintain social stability, continue with gradual economic reforms and keep the Party in power.

Even so, he has attempted to make his mark as a political thinker, 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 to become Party members, develop culture, and represent the majority of the people.

Flowerpot who bloomed

Jiang Zemin was born to an intellectual family and graduated as an electrical engineer. He 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 party secretary in Shanghai. He likes to recite poetry and plays the piano as well as an erhu, a two-stringed instrument similar to the violin.

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 Mr 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.

Mr Jiang has been credited with squeezing as much advantage as possible from events - such as the 2001 spy plane crisis or the Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade - but always allowing US ties to recover.

This has culminated in a recent summit with US President George W Bush, and a marked improvement in US-China relations.

Long shadow

Even after he steps down, Mr Jiang is likely to remain influential. Some analysts suspect he will remain in charge of the armed forces. He will also seek to keep his finger on the pulse via his most prominent protege, Zeng Qinghong.

Another person to watch is Mr Jiang’s son, Jiang Mianheng.

The younger Jiang maintains a low profile, but he has been dubbed 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.

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