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Jiang Zemin was China's leader from 1990 to 2003. He rose to power in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square killings, oversaw the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 and led his country until 2002, by which time it was one of the world's most powerful economies. He guided China into the World Trade Organization and allowed entrepreneurs into the party for the first time. Jiang handed over his leadership roles to Hu Jintao in 2002 and 2003.He remained an influential political figure almost a decade after stepping down.

Zemin was plucked from obscurity in 1989 to head the Communist Party after the bloody crackdown on democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Jiang replaced Zhao Ziyang, who was toppled by hardliners for supporting the student movement at Tiananmen Square. According to the Washington Post" "Deng hoped a clearer succession plan would add stability to the system; he appointed Jiang as his immediate successor and elevated Hu Jintao (President of China from 2002 to 2012) so that he could later take Jiang’s place. Jiang built his camp of allies — called the “Shanghai gang” — drawing from his old base as the city’s party chief. He was known for a showman’s flair that remains rare among the party’s mostly wooden personalities. Jiang was so successful at consolidating power during his last days in office that at least five of the nine members of the Standing Committee were thought to be his strong allies. Jiang refused to give up his chairmanship of China’s military until Hu and others forced him out two years into Hu’s presidency. “The best way to describe Jiang’s style is like a gangster,” said one party intellectual with close ties to senior officials from Jiang’s era. “He believed in an eye for an eye, but also in the flip side as well, returning favor for favor. That’s how he accumulated so much influence.” [Source: Washington Post, November 5, 2012]

The political leaders after Deng — Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongi — have been referred to as "third generation" leaders. The leaders that came after them — Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao — have been called the “forth generation” with Mao Zedong being the “first generation” leader and Deng Xiaoping being the ‘second generation.”Nearly all the Chinese who participated in the Long March and the Communist Revolution are gone. "Unlike Deng and the Elders who cut their political teeth on the battlefields fighting the Japanese or the Nationalists," wrote Steven Mufson in the Washington Post, "the next generation spent its formative years laboring within the apparatus of the Communist state as enterprise managers, central planners or party bureaucrats."

Good Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; New York Times articles about Jiang Zemin ; Photos of Jiang Zemin

Jiang Becomes the Leader of China

In 1989, Jiang replaced Zhao Ziyang—who had been purged for being too sympathetic to the students at Tiananmen Square—as Deng’s successor. Largely regarded as a compromise candidate, Jiang was named head of the party in 1990. In 1993, he was named president and chairman of the Cental Military Commission, a position that formally belonged to Deng. When he was offered the job, Jiang's wife reportedly burst into tears and told him not to take the job.

Jiang ran the day to day operations of the government during the years when Deng Xiaoping's health was declining. In the early 1990s he "wooed military leaders and moved his allies into key party and government positions" and surprised everyone by outmaneuvering rivals and securing his position in 1994. Jiang may have lacked charisma and revolutionary pedigree background but so did his rivals. To increase his standing in the Party, Jiang Zemin reportedly "muscled his way" to Bill Clinton's side in a "class photo" at the United Nation's 50th anniversary. Jiang outmaneuvered one rival—Chen Xitong, the mayor of Beijing—by expelling him from the party for corruption in 1995.

left According to “Countries of the World and Their Leaders”: Deng's health deteriorated in the years prior to his death in 1997. During that time, President Jiang Zemin and other members of his generation gradually assumed control of the day-to-day functions of government. This “third generation” leadership governed collectively with President Jiang at the center. After Deng's death in February 1997, Jiang dismissed scores of civilian, military and security officials, including his main Politburo rival Qiao Shi, and filled the positions people who were loyal to him, many of them from his Shanghai Gang. The Shanghaiese were so well represented in the upper echelons of power people joked that Politburo meetings were conducted in the Shanghai dialect.

People were surprised by the way Jiang seized the moment and took the bull by the horns. Still regarded as a transitional figure mocked with names like "weather vane" and a "flower pot” and "Comrade Caretaker," he displayed great skill outmaneuvering his rivals, networking, cultivated ties in the military and avoided making mistakes. He was often so cautious that he only read prepared speeches in public so he wouldn’t say anything wrong. One Hong Kong political analyst told Time, "We just didn’t believe Jiang was capable of commanding the necessary respect after Deng is gone." One official "I was predicting he would last one year or so" after Deng died.

In September 1997, the Chinese Communist Party's 15th National Congress elected a Central Committee, with 22 member Politburo. Jiang Zemin became the General Secretary of the party in addition to his title of president. Li Peng was appointed prime minister, and Zhu Rongji, deputy prime minister. During this Congress, political power was consolidated among these three with Jiang Zemin officially taking the deceased Deng Xiaoping's position. In March 1998, Jiang was re-elected President during the 9th National People's Congress. Premier Li Peng was constitutionally required to step down from that post. He was elected to the chairmanship of the National People's Congress. Zhu Rongji was selected to replace Li as Premier. [Source: “Countries of the World and Their Leaders” Yearbook 2009, Gale, 2008; Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Jiang Zemin as the Leader of China

Jiang was known for steering a middle course without deviating too far to the left or right. Liberals criticized him for being too conservative and conservatives criticized him for being too liberal. His sharpest critics abroad called him directionless, lacking in vision and confused, saying he symbolized the directionless and confused nature of the Communist party.

Harvard professor Andrew Nathan called Jiang as a ‘slippery and devious politician whose priority” was “holding onto power.” At the height of his power around 2001, Jiang issued edicts without seeking a consensus among the party elders. Books like “A Great Program for Comprehensively Strengthening Party Building”, which contained of several of his speeches, became bestsellers.

Today, many look back on Jiang as being too much of an old style Communist, obsessed with ideological campaigns and sloganeering and requiring officials to engage in mandatory study sessions, which interfered with them doing their official duties. Some scholars claim that his ideological campaigns, such as the “Three Represents” was an efforts to justify social and economic changes in ideological terms.

Jiang Zemin Domestic Policy

Jiang was given credit for opening up China’s economy without causing any unrest, according to some, using Singapore as aodel for China. He had success avoiding turmoil and instability and claimed to be a corruption fighter even though some of his closest allies were knee deep in sleazy deals. Jiang launched a major crackdown on corruption, organized crime, smuggling, and other and descent called "Strike Hard.” Scores of suspected thieves, murderers and corrupt officials were arrested. Some 3,500 people were executed, including criminals arrested for non-violent crimes such gambling and drug smuggling, as part of the operation in 1996.

Strike Hard not only targeted criminals it also cracked down on "splittists" in Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. The Tibetan Daily warned "a long-term, bitter, complex, 'you die. I live' political battle with no possibility of compromise." Jiang also launched a "Spiritual Civilization" Campaign See Society, Life

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia: Although it released some dissidents, the regime continued to clamp down on dissent; examples of its hard line were the long sentences given out to human-rights activist Wei Jingsheng in 1995 and political activists Xu Wenli and Qin Yongmin in 1998. In July, 1999, the Chinese government outlawed the Falun Gong (Buddhist Law) spiritual movement after a group of several thousand rallied to urge the sect's official recognition. Official corruption, economic, social, and ethnic inequality, and oppressive rural taxes sparked an increasing number of public protests beginning in the late 1990s. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]

Floods inundated the Yangtze River valley in August 1998, killing over 2,000 people and leaving millions homeless. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]

Three Represents

Sometimes it seems that Jiang did little more than try to articulate what was happening economically in China in Communist terms. One of his primary contributions in his later years was the “Three Represents,” a theory that held that “advanced forces” of entrepreneurship could coexist and thrive with the traditional Communist commitment to the working class.

The “Three Represents” was an attempt to modernize the Communist Party by being more inclusive and saying that it now represented: 1) “advanced productive forces,” 2) “advanced culture,” and 3) the traditional “masses.” Many saw “advanced productive forces” as another word for capitalists. Embrace of capitalists was a sign that traditionally socialist ideology was dead. Or as one Chinese Marxist scholar put it: “ a goal none of us will reach. It’s dozens of generations away.”

The “Three Represents” was introduced in the old fashioned Communist way with play called “The Vanguard of an Era”, featuring the stories of six heroes that personify the virtues of the theory. The theory itself was praised daily in the People Daily and other official newspapers. There was even some discussion that the “Three Represents” would be made part of the constitution along with Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory. A member of a ‘selected audience” told the People Daily “an audience of hundreds felt their souls fiercely shaken, and our eyes flowed with tears.”

Some have said the “Three Represents” is nothing more than a veiled justification for the creation on an elitist alliance of party officials, bureaucrats, intellectuals and businessmen that run China today.

In 2002, Jiang said the Communist Party was open to entrepreneurs, referred to in code as ‘social strata.” In a speech before the Party Congress, he said “We should admit into the part advanced elements of other social strata who accept the party’s program and constitution.”

Jiang Zemin Economic Policies


According to the Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations: “Following 4 June 1989, economic reforms were curtailed and some private enterprises closed down as the leadership launched an anticorruption drive. Ideological expression, higher education, and the news media were more tightly controlled in the ensuing years. The move toward a market oriented economy began again, with increased speed, after Deng Xiaoping made a publicized visit in the spring of 1992 to the most developed areas in southern China. China's economy became one of the most rapidly growing in the world but continued to be plagued by inflation, corruption, and a growing disparity among the provinces. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007 ^^^]

Jiang played a major role in switching the focal point of China’s economic growth from southern China to the Shanghai area and the Yangtze River Valley. In a speech that was intended to show his independence Jiang blamed Deng's market reforms for a "crisis of morality" that "engendered social chaos and economic imbalance." Jiang said that what China needed was a dose of "good medicine"—Confucianism. Some of these ideas were not readily welcomed. A popular joke that circulated around the time of Deng's death went: "Under Mao we go to the countryside/ Under Deng we go into business/ Under Jiang we go out of business.”

A 1993 revision of China's constitution called for the development of a "socialist market economy" in which the Communist party would retain political power while encouraging a free market economy. Deng died in 1997, and Zhu Rongji replaced Li Peng as prime minister in 1998.Describing China during the early Jiang years, Journalist and China expert James McGregor wrote in the Washington Post, “China is simultaneously experiencing the raw capitalism of the robber baron era of the late 1800s; the speculative financial mania of the 1920s; the rural-to-urban migrations of the 1930s; the emergence of the first-car, first-home, first fashionable-clothes, first college-education, first-family-vacation, middle class consumer boom of the 1950s; and even aspects of the social upheaval similar to the 1960s.”

In the mid-1990s the Chinese economy became overheated. Local official were jailed for approving large projects without central government approval. Price controls were introduced. And thousands of workers were mobilized for emergency projects. According to the Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations: “With a high rate of tax evasion, state revenues were shrinking and one-third went to subsidize state enterprises. China's uneven economic development also led to the growth of a migrant worker class. By 2005, it was estimated that some 100–150 million peasants left their homes in northern and western provinces in search of menial work along the coast. The unemployment in urban areas was 9.8% for 2004 with an overall unemployment rate of 20%; the unemployment rate does not include underemployment which also is a serious problem. ^^^

“On 11 December 2001, China formally became a member of the World Trade Organization, representing international recognition of China's growing economic power. Several nongovernmental organizations and individuals worldwide protested China's accession to the body, due to its record on human rights violations. Another formidable problem for China, in regards to acceptance of WTO regulations, is the lack of adherence to intellectual property rights which involves industries as different as films to computer software. Most concerning is the availability of counterfeit medicine; thousands of Chinese are reported to have died from the ill effects of fake medicine. WTO regulations forbid counterfeiting although this has not yet affected China's membership in the organization. ^^^

See Economic History

China in the 1990s

Scott Savitt, a journalist in China in the 1980s and 90s, told the LA Review of Books Blog: “I feel like my story is a microcosm of Beijing in the 1980s and 90s. Starting a business — xiahai in Chinese [literally “jumping into the sea,” common vernacular for entrepreneurial activity in the 1980s and 1990s] — after June 4, and that’s what everyone was doing. The Chinese are an entrepreneurial people. But there was a different reason behind that post-1989. The unstated contract with the Communist Party was: We’ll give you economic liberty, but not political liberty. That’s what everyone acted on. That’s where so much of the corruption comes from. If you don’t free up the political system, but free up the economic system, well guess what: Markets, political as well as economic, are going to create themselves. And that’s where things remain. Everything in China got a lot more cynical. The money culture didn’t come naturally to people. It was simply all that was allowed. Of course making money is what smart people are going to do, in that case. If it were an open society, you would have had a lot more of those people doing other things, being socially engaged, but when you only give them one channel… [Source: Matthew Robertson LA Review of Books Blog, May 31, 2017, Interview with Scott Savitt]

Tim Daiss wrote in Forbes: “In place of the desire for greater democratic freedom, Beijing spun a new narrative, one that has been extremely successful at keeping most, not all, of its masses happy – economic progress. Economic progress backed by a heightened sense of nationalism will keep the party in power in Beijing mostly unchallenged.[Source: Tim Daiss, Forbes, May 15, 2016]

In his biography of Deng Xiaoping, Harvard’s Ezra Vogel, wrote: “What we do know is that in the two decades after Tiananmen, China enjoyed relative stability and rapid—even spectacular—economic growth. Today hundreds of millions of Chinese are living far more comfortable lives than they were living in 1989, and they enjoy far greater access to information and ideas around the world than at any time in Chinese history. Both educational level and longevity have continued to rise rapidly. For these reasons and others, Chinese people take far greater pride in their nation’s achievements than they did in the previous century.”

Fang Lizhi wrote in the New York Review of Books, “With these words Vogel indicates that he basically accepts an argument that the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department has been making for the past twenty years: that ‘stability’ and economic growth show that the repression at Tiananmen was justified in the long run. When foreign dignitaries or journalists have asked about the massacre, the response of Party leaders has been consistent: if Deng Xiaoping had not taken “resolute” (i.e., murderous) measures, China could not have had the stable society or flourishing economy that it enjoyed in the ensuing years. [Source: Fang Lizhi, New York Review of Books, November 10, 2011, in a review of “Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China” by Ezra F. Vogel]

Protests and Troubles in Tibet and Xinjiang in the 1990s

According to the Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Having been at the forefront of change in the early 1980s, peasants in the early 1990s were being left behind. In 1993 and 1994, there were peasant protests and riots over receiving IOUs for their produce and over local corruption. There were workers' disputes and strikes (250,000 between 1988 and 1993) in response to low pay and poor working conditions. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“Labor unrest continued into 1997 as thousands of workers in several impoverished inland provinces rioted when promises of back pay went unfulfilled. A March 1997 labor protest involving 20,000 workers in Nanchong was the largest since the Communist revolution.

“Parallel to but separate from the student and labor movements were ongoing demonstrations by ethnic minorities; there are 56 officially recognized minority groups in China. The most visible were those of the Tibetans (Buddhists), due to their international connections, but there have also been protests by other minorities, such as the Uyghurs (Muslims) in Xinjiang province. Violent Tibetan demonstrations in the fall of 1987 and spring of 1988 were forcibly suppressed, and from March 1989 to April 1990, martial law was imposed in Lhasa, Tibet. A Uyghur uprising in Xinjiang was met with force by the Chinese military in February 1997, leaving an estimated 100 ethnic Uyghur and 25 Chinese dead. But the situation in Tibet posed the most difficulty for Beijing. China's efforts to control Tibet and dilute its culture led in 1995 to the indefinite detention of the six-year-old boy chosen by the exiled Dalai Lama as his reincarnation, or Panchen Lama. Beijing selected another six-year-old and forced Tibetan leaders to accept him. According to the CCP the Panchen Lama and his family are living in 'protective custody,' however, no international organization has been able to visit the family to verify their whereabouts since he was taken in 1995.

Jiang Zemin’s Foreign Policy


Jiang was generally given high marks for the way he handled international relations. He raised China’s status in the world and cultivated generally positive relations around the world, particularly with the United States. He oversaw the absorption of Hong Kong and Macau with relatively few problems but took a confrontational stance against Taiwan and Japan. Some say the military activity he launched against Taiwan was to appease hard liners and leaders in the People's Liberation Army who accused him of being weak.

The People's Republic of China celebrated the 50th anniversary of its proclamation in October 1999. Around this time, Hong Kong was returned on July 1, 1997 and Macau was given back on December 20, 1999). Both former colonies were designated Special Administrative Regions (SAR) and Jiang stated that each SAR would continue to operate with a considerable degree of independent and economic autonomy. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia: “In the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre, China sought to avoid sharp political conflict with the West, as by supporting the United Nations coalition in the Persian Gulf War, but tensions continued over such issues as Taiwan. In 1995, in reaction to a U.S. visit by Taiwan's president, Lee Teng-hui, Beijing conducted missile tests in the Taiwan Strait, and in early 1996 China conducted military exercises and missile tests close to the shores of Taiwan, in an attempt to inhibit those voting in the Taiwanese presidential election. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]

There was a boundary dispute with India, as well as boundary, maritime, and ownership disputes with Russia, Vietnam, North Korea, and several other nations. Yeltsin and Jiang did a big bear hug after signing a agreement to demilitarize the 4,300 mile border in November 1997.

According to the Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations: ““In November 2002, China and the ten members of ASEAN signed an accord to resolve any conflicts over the Spratly Islands without armed force. The Spratlys are claimed by China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and are home to some of the world's busiest shipping lanes; they are also believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. Signatories to the accord agreed to cease further occupation of the islands, to help anyone in distress in the area, to exchange views with one another on defense issues, and to give advance warning of military exercises. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Jiang Zemin and the United States

In Beijing in June 1998, Clinton debated with Jiang on live television at the Great Hall of the People on human rights issues and Tibet. Clinton said the use of military force at Tiananmen Square was wrong. Jiang defended the crackdown as well as China's policy in Tibet, which Jiang said helped eliminate feudalism and was comparable to Lincoln's abolition of slavery during the American Civil War. At a state dinner with Clinton Jiang took a turn leading the Military Band of the People's Liberation Army.

Appearing on a “60 Minutes” segment taped in China in 2000, Jiang recited part of the Gettysburg Address in English. One of the last things Jiang did as president, in 2002, was visit the United States and met with U.S. President George Bush at his Texas ranch. On his visit to the United States in October, 1997 Jiang was photographed wearing a tri-corner colonial hat, rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, and debated Clinton on human rights. Clinton set up his podium so he wouldn't tower over Jiang. Jiang was heckled by Tibetan rights protesters during a speech at Harvard.

Shannon Tiezzi and Jeffrey Wasserstrom wrote in Slate: Jiang Zemin “took up this act during his 1997 visit that sought, in part, to get Americans to stop associating his government with soldiers killing civilians near Tiananmen Square in 1989. Jiang sported a three-cornered hat at Colonial Williamsburg, and made a point of speaking what the New York Times called “broken but charming English.”“ [Source: Shannon Tiezzi and Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Slate, September 24, 2015]

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia:““In May, 1999, during the Kosovo crisis, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was mistakenly bombed by NATO, unleashing large anti-American demonstrations in Beijing. In the same month, China was accused by the United States of stealing nuclear design secrets that enabled it to substantially accelerate its weapons program. Nonetheless, a trade agreement was signed in November with the United States that led to Chinese membership (2001) in the World Trade Organization.

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”: “On 1 April 2001, a US Navy EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft survived a midair collision with a Chinese F-8 fighter jet over the South China Sea. The Chinese fighter pilot was lost. The EP-3 conducted an emergency landing on Hainan Island, and the 24-member crew was detained there for 11 days in a standoff between the two countries. The United States and China blamed each other's aircraft for the crash. The EP-3 was later disassembled for transport back to the United States. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“China expressed deep sympathy toward the United States following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. It has backed the Americanled war on terrorism, and cited its own problems with what it considers to be terrorist activities led by ethnic Uyghurs fighting for an independent homeland in the northwest Xinjiang province. China has detained thousands of Uyghurs since 11 September 2001. China voted in favor of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 on 8 November 2002, which required Iraq to immediately disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons), to allow UN and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arms inspectors into the country, and to comply with previous UN resolutions regarding Iraq.

Handover of Hong Kong and Macau

Eleanor Stanford wrote in “Countries and Their Cultures”: “In 1997, following a 1984 agreement, the British returned Hong Kong and the New Territories to Chinese control. The handover occurred at midnight on 1 July. Although it had been agreed that Hong Kong would retain the financial and judicial systems installed by the British at least until 2047, an estimated half-million people left the city between 1984 and 1997 in anticipation of the takeover, immigrating to the United States, Canada, and Singapore. “Macao, a Portuguese colony, was given back to China in December 1999 under conditions similar to those in the Hong Kong deal, in which the territory would be permitted to retain much of its economic and governmental sovereignty.[Source: Eleanor Stanford, “Countries and Their Cultures”, Gale Group Inc., 2001]

According to the “Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations”: “At the end of the Opium War in 1842, the Chinese island of Hong Kong was granted to the United Kingdom. Additional adjacent territories were leased to the British for ninety-nine years in the Anglo-Chinese Convention of Beijing in 1898. The British developed Hong Kong as a warehousing and distribution center for British trade with southern China. However, it declined in size and importance relative to Shanghai. Not until after 1949 did Hong Kong develop into a leading manufacturing, commercial, and tourist center. The people of Hong Kong created a standard of living matched by few developing areas. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“In October 1982, talks began between Chinese and British representatives concerning Hong Kong’s future after 30 June 1997, the expiration date of the ninety-nine-year lease. After two years of negotiations, both sides agreed to a plan that would return Hong Kong to Chinese control on 1 July 1997. In the agreement, China, a Communist state, agreed to allow Hong Kong

“To maintain its political, economic, and judicial systems. As the time for the handover drew near, however, tensions rose on the British and Chinese sides as the Chinese began to dismantle the few democratic institutions the British had put in place in the years just before the handover. After the ceremony returning the colony to the Chinese, international media watched and waited for an antidemocratic crackdown, but little happened. China established its own legislature and appointed a chief executive to oversee the city. Macau returned to Chinese authority in 1999.

Tensions Over Taiwan

Taiwan broke away from the mainland government in 1949 after the relocation there of Chiang Kaishek and his nationalist allies, who have governed since that time. The Nationalists still maintain their mandate to govern the nation as a whole, and many are opposed to reunification, while the communists claim that Taiwan is a province of China.

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”: “In February and March 1996, China testfired missiles near Taiwan's two main ports, which caused the United States to send two aircraft carrier groups to the Taiwan Strait. It was the largest US naval movement in the Asia-Pacific region since the Vietnam War. The missile firings and accompanying military exercises were considered to be responses to Taiwan's presidential elections of March 1996, which President Lee Tenghui, whom China accused of supporting Taiwanese independence, won. [Source: Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

“In the runup to Taiwanese presidential elections in March 2000, Chen Shuibian of the Democratic Progressive Party, the eventual winner, issued proindependence campaign speeches advocating "one country on each side," contradicting China's "one-country, two systems" policy. In March 2000, Zhu Rongji, the deputy prime minister, warned Taiwan and the United States that Taiwanese independence could lead to armed conflict. A Chinese newspaper also quoted a government white paper stating that war with the United States is inevitable in the future and that if the United States intervened on behalf of Taiwan, the Chinese may use nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, China began construction of military bases on the mainland across the Taiwan Strait. In 1996, China had fewer than 50 shortrange missiles within striking distance of Taiwan. In April 2002, it was estimated that China's military forces had more than 350 missiles in the region and by 2005 the number had escalated to 700.

Jiang Zemin's Last Years in Office

Jiang resigned as the head of the Communist party in 2002 when he was 76 and stepped down as president in 2003 as he was required by the constitution to do. The general feeling about Jiang was that he had done a good job but it was time for him to go. There were some snipes at him in the press. Jiang initially insisted that all members of the Politburo over 70, including himself, retire but was able to endure by keeping allies in key positions.

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia: “Beginning in 2001 the Chinese Communist party began yet another transition, both in its membership and leadership. That year, Jiang Zemin urged the party to recruit business people as members, declaring in the doctrine of the "three represents" that the party must represent capitalists in addition to workers and peasants. The following year, Jiang resigned as party leader and was replaced by Hu Jintao. Hu replaced Jiang as president in 2003, and Wen Jiabao became prime minister. Jiang remained extremely influential, however, in both the party and the government, and retained his chairmanship of the powerful national and party military commissions until Sept., 2004. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]

Jiang continued to handle foreign affairs after he retired as President. It was widely believed that he wanted to rule behind the scenes as Deng had done but he didn’t have the same stature, respect and affection as Deng to pull it off. Jiang remained in the position of military chief (And the Central Commission of the People’s Republic of China, a largely ceremonial position). However in a rare show of disapproval .7.5 percent of the legislators in the rubber-stamp National People’s Congress vote against him or abstained. Jiang formally resigned the position of military chief in September 2004, citing poor health. There were reports he had serious health problems, throat cancer of heart trouble.

Image Sources: 1) Landsberger Posters, AP, BBC, Nolls China website

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2021

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