See B. Gilley, Tiger on the Brink (1999).
Jiang Zemin (born 17 August 1926) was the "core of the third generation" of Communist Party of China leaders, serving as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1989 to 2002, as President of the People's Republic of China from 1993 to 2003, and as Chairman of the Central Military Commission from 1989 to 2004.
Jiang came to power in the wake of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, replacing Zhao Ziyang, who was purged for being too conciliatory towards the protestors, as General Secretary. With the waning influence of Deng Xiaoping due to old age, Jiang effectively became "paramount leader" in the 1990s. Under his leadership, China experienced substantial developmental growth with reforms, saw the peaceful return of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom and Macau from Portugal, and improved its relations with the outside world while the Communist Party maintained its tight control over the government. Known to be one of China's more charismatic political figures, Jiang has been criticized for being too concerned about his personal image at home, and too conciliatory towards Russia and the United States abroad. Critics also point to Jiang's inability to maintain control on various social imbalances and problems that surfaced during his term. Traditionalist communists in China charge Jiang of being a revisionist leader who legitimized outright capitalism. His contribution to the Marxist doctrine, a list of guiding ideologies by which the CCP rules China, is called the theory of the Three Represents, which has been written into the party and state constitutions.
Jiang received mixed reviews as mayor. Many of his critics dismissed him as a "flower vase", a Chinese term used to describe a decorative but useless person. Many credited Shanghai's growth during the period to Zhu Rongji . Jiang was an ardent believer, during this period, in Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms. In an attempt of curbing student discontent in 1986, Jiang recited the Gettysburg Address in English in front of a group of student protesters.
Jiang was described as having a passable command of several foreign languages, including Romanian, Russian, and English. One of his favorite activities was to engage foreign visitors in small talks on art and literature in their native language, in addition to singing foreign songs in the original language. He became friends with Allen Broussard, the African American judge who visited Shanghai in 1987 and Brazilian actress Lucelia Santos.
Jiang was elevated to national politics in 1987, automatically becoming a member of the Politburo of the CPC Central Committee because it is customarily dictated that the Party Chief of Shanghai would also have a seat in the Politburo. In 1989, China was in crisis over the Tiananmen Square protest, and the Central Government was in conflict on how to handle the protesters. (The opening policy, brought out by Deng Xiaoping, has been proved as a crucial and brilliant turning point in China's modern history, causing the economy to grow at an astonishing rate during the past decades.) In June, Deng Xiaoping dismissed liberal Zhao Ziyang, who was considered too conciliatory to student protestors. Jiang, at the time, was the Shanghai Party Chief, the top figure in China's new economic center. In an incident with the World Economic Herald, Jiang closed down the newspaper, deeming it harmful. The handling of the crisis in Shanghai was noticed by Beijing, and then paramount Leader Deng Xiaoping. As the protests escalated and then Party-chief Zhao Ziyang was removed from office, Jiang was selected by the Party leaders as a compromise candidate over Tianjin's Li Ruihuan, Premier Li Peng, Chen Yun, and the retired elders to become the new General Secretary. At the time he was considered to be an unlikely candidate. Within three years Deng had transferred most power in the state, party and military to Jiang.
Deng grew critical of Jiang's leadership in 1992. During Deng's southern tours, he subtly suggested that the pace of reform was not fast enough, and the "central leadership" (i.e. Jiang) had most responsibility. Jiang grew ever more cautious, and rallied behind Deng's reforms completely. In 1993, Jiang coined the new term "Socialist Market Economy" to move China's centrally-planned socialist economy into essentially a government-regulated capitalist market economy. It was a huge step to take in the advancement of Deng's "Socialism with Chinese characteristics". At the same time, Jiang elevated many of his supporters from Shanghai to high government positions, after regaining Deng's confidence. He abolished the outdated Central Advisory Committee, an advisory body composed of revolutionary party elders. He became Chairman of the Central Military Commission in 1989, followed by his election to the Presidency in March 1993.
Deng Xiaoping died in early 1997, and China, emerging gradually out of the Deng-era reforms and the relative stability of the early 1990s, faced a myriad of economic and social problems. At Deng's funeral, Jiang gave the official eulogy. Jiang had inherited a China rampant with government corruption, and regional economies growing too rapidly for the stability of the entire country. Deng's idea that "some areas can get rich before others" gave rise to an opening wealth gap between coastal regions and the hinterlands. The unprecedented economic growth had inevitably led to the closing of many State-owned Entreprises (SOE's), and a staggering unemployment rate that hit 40% in some urban areas. Stock markets fluctuated greatly. The scale of rural migration into urban areas was unprecedented anywhere in the world, and little was being done to address an ever-increasing urban-rural wealth gap. Official reports put the figure on the percentage of China's GDP being moved and abused by corrupt officials at 10%. A chaotic environment of illegal bonds issued from civil and military officials resulted in much of the corrupted wealth to end up in foreign countries. Corruption levels had returned, if not exceeded that of the Republican era in the 1940s. A surge in crime rates and the reemergence of organized crime began to plague cities. A careless stance on the destruction of the environment furthered concerns voiced by intellectuals. Jiang's biggest aim in the economy was stability, and he believed that a stable government with highly centralised power would be a prerequisite, choosing to postpone political reform, which in many facets of governance exacerbated the on-going problems. Jiang continued pouring funds to develop the Special Economic Zones and coastal regions.
Jiang is believed to be the first Chinese leader to truly manipulate the medium of television to enhance his own image, gaining a reputation for charisma. Beginning in 1996, Jiang began a series of reforms in the state-controlled media aimed at promoting the "core of leadership" under himself, and at the same time crushing some of his political opponents. The personality enhancements in the media were largely frowned upon during the Deng era, and had not been seen since Mao and Hua Guofeng's time in office in the late 1970s. The People's Daily and CCTV-1's 7PM National News each had Jiang-related events as the front-page or top stories, a fact that remained until Hu Jintao's media administrative changes in 2006. He appeared casual in front of Western media, and gave an unprecedented interview with Mike Wallace of CBS in 2000 at Beidaihe. He would often use foreign languages in front of the camera, albeit not always comprehensible. In an encounter with a Hong Kong reporter in 2000 regarding the central government's apparent "imperial order" of supporting Tung Chee-hwa to seek a second term as Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Jiang branded the Hong Kong journalists infamously as "too simple, sometimes naive" in English. The event was shown on Hong Kong television that night, an event regarded to be in poor taste outside China.
Since 1999, the media has also played an integral role in the crackdown of Falun Gong, which is believed to be an act under the direction of Jiang himself, and has been heavily criticized by the West. Jiang reputedly came under conflict with then premier Zhu Rongji over how to contain the fast-growing spiritual movement. Following the ban of the group, the police had also began arresting its coordinators and breaking up demonstrations, despite protests by various human rights groups.
Jiang did not specialize in economics, and in 1997 handed a big chunk of the economic governance of the country to Zhu Rongji, who became Premier, and remained in office through the Asian Financial Crisis. Under their joint leadership, Mainland China has sustained an average of 8% GDP growth annually, achieving the highest rate of per capita economic growth in major world economies, raising eyebrows around the world with its astonishing speed. This was mostly achieved by continuing the process of a transition to a market economy. Economists, however, charge Jiang with creating a bubble economy that could fall apart at any time. Strong Party control over economic affairs, however, remained, as Jiang was unrelenting in the centralization of power. The achievements during Jiang's presidency were cemented by the PRC's successful bid to join the World Trade Organization and Beijing winning the bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.
In 2002, Jiang stepped down from the powerful Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China to make way for a "fourth generation" of leadership headed by Hu Jintao, marking the beginning of a transition of power that would last several years. Hu assumed Jiang's title as party chief, becoming the new general secretary of the Communist Party. Six out of the nine new members of Standing Committee at the time were believed considered part of Jiang's so-called "Shanghai Clique", the most prominent being Vice President Zeng Qinghong and Executive Vice Premier Huang Ju.
Although Jiang retained the chairmanship of the powerful Central Military Commission, most members of the commission are professional military men. Liberation Army Daily, a publication thought to represent the views of the CMC majority, printed an article on 11 March 2003 which quotes two army delegates as saying, "Having one center is called 'loyalty', while having two centers will result in 'problems.'" This was widely interpreted as a criticism of Jiang's attempt to exercise dual leadership with Hu on the model of Deng Xiaoping.
Hu succeeded Jiang as president of the People's Republic of China on 15 March 2003. To the surprise of many observers, evidence of Jiang's continuing influence on public policy abruptly disappeared from the official media. Jiang was conspicuously silent during the SARS crisis, especially when compared to the very public profile of Hu and Wen Jiabao. It has been argued that the institutional arrangements created by the 16th Congress have left Jiang in a position where he cannot exercise much influence. Although many of the members of the Politburo Standing Committee are associated with him, the Standing Committee does not have command authority over the civilian bureaucracy.
On 19 September 2004, after a four-day meeting of the 198-member Central Committee, Jiang resigned as chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission, his last party post. Six months later he resigned his last significant post, chairman of the State CMC. This followed weeks of speculation that Hu Jintao's supporters in the Communist Party leadership were pressing Jiang to step aside. Jiang's term was supposed to have lasted until 2007. Hu also succeeded Jiang as the CMC chairman, but, in an apparent political defeat for Jiang, Xu Caihou, and not Zeng Qinghong was appointed to succeed Hu as vice chairman. This power transition officially marks the end of Jiang's era in China, which roughly lasted from 1993 to 2004.
Although Jiang has been seldom seen in public since giving up his last official title in 2004, he was with Hu Jintao on stage at a ceremony celebrating the 80th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army, and toured the Military Museum of the Chinese Peoples Revolution with Li Peng, Zhu Rongji, and other former senior officials. In 8 August 2008, Jiang appeared at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics Games.
Domestically, Jiang's legacy and reputation is mixed. While some people attribute the period of relative stability and growth in the 1990s to Jiang's term, others argue that Jiang did little to correct mistakes resulting from Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms, leaving the next administration facing innumerable problems, some of which are too late to adjust. Jiang's obsession with image has also spurred a trend of face projects around the country, with local governments lending enormous funds to large and mostly unnecessary construction projects. Jiang's Theory of Three Represents justified the incorporation of the new capitalist business class into the party, and changed the founding ideology of the CPC from protection of the peasantry and workers to that of the "overwhelming majority of the people", a euphemism aimed at including the growing entrepreneurial class. Conservative critics within the party have quietly denounced this as betrayal of the communist ideology, while reformers have praised Jiang as a visionary. Such a move, however, increasingly justified a newly found correlation between the business and ruling elites, thus significantly linking bureaucracy and financial gain, which critics argue fosters more corruption. Some have suggested that this is the part of Jiang's legacy that will last, at least in name, as long as the communists remain in power.
Many biographers of Jiang have noted that his government resembled an oligarchy as opposed to an autocratic dictatorship. Many of his policies have been attributed to others in government, notably Premier Zhu Rongji, whose tense relationship with Jiang was of widespread speculation, especially following Jiang's decision to suppress the Falun Gong movement. Jiang is often credited with the gains in foreign affairs during his term, but at the same many Chinese criticize him for being too conciliatory towards the United States and Russia. The issue of Chinese reunification between the mainland and Taiwan gained ground during Jiang's term, as Cross-Strait talks led to the eventual Three Links after Jiang stepped down as President. The Qinghai-Tibet railway began construction under Jiang, and was welcomed by many Tibetans, although seen by a few of them to be a purely political move. Jiang was also accused of appeasement towards the Japanese and Americans in diplomacy.
Jiang has been criticized by Falun Gong, a vocal spiritual group who allege that Jiang and the CPC under his leadership to have persecuted their members. The newspaper Epoch Times has published a book deeply critical of Jiang titled Anything for Power: The Real Story of China’s Jiang Zemin, claiming various scandals and human rights violations attributed by Jiang and during his presidency, including his family background, his crackdown of Falun Gong, and his alleged relationship with singer Song Zuying.