Jiang Zemin will be credited with repairing China's international ties following condemnation over Tiananmen Square, and for overseeing a decade of rapid economic growth.
Mr Jiang became Party chief in 1989 after a purge of more liberal leaders following the Tiananmen Square protests. Party elders like paramount leader Deng Xiaoping needed to find a new face to head the Party.
Mr Jiang, who as Shanghai party chief had weathered the student protests without resorting to violence, fitted the bill.
He has been described as an unimaginative leader whose priority was to maintain social stability, continue gradual economic reforms and keep the Party's grip on power secure.
He stepped down as Party chief in 2002 having succeeded in these aims. He resigned from his last formal post, as head of the military, in 2004.
He did attempt to make his mark as a political thinker, alongside Mao and Deng, by expounding a Three Representations theory, an attempt to modernise the Party.
The theory said that the Party should further the development of "advanced social productive forces", in other words allow entrepreneurs and professionals to become Party members, in a bid to widen its reach and legitimacy.