Jiang Zemin Biography

Born: August 17, 1926
Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province, China

Chinese political leader

Hand picked by Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997) to be built up as China's future leader, Jiang Zemin became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 1989.

Early years

Jiang Zemin was born on August 17, 1926, in Yangzhou city, Jiangsu Province, a small town on the banks of the Chang River west of Shanghai, China. Jiang's father and uncle were educated men and his grandfather was a well-known painter who also practiced Chinese medicine. His father was a Communist (a person who supports a political system in which goods and services are owned and distributed by the government) and was most likely killed by Chinese Nationalists during the civil war that tore apart China for nearly twenty years. Jiang joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1946 and graduated from the electrical machinery department of Jiaotong University in Shanghai the following year.

After the Communists took power in China in 1949, Jiang assumed several positions in Shanghai including the CCP committee secretary. In 1955 Jiang was sent to work as a trainee at the Stalin Automobile Factory in Moscow. After returning to China the following year, his career advanced steadily as an engineer and under the First Ministry of the Machine-Building Industry. From 1971 to 1979 he was appointed deputy director, later director, of the Foreign Affairs Bureau under the same ministry.

In 1982 Jiang was elected a member of the CCP Central Committee at the twelfth party congress. After 1985, Jiang's career improved greatly as he returned to Shanghai as its deputy party secretary, later secretary and mayor. In 1987 he entered the Politburo (top part of the Communist party) at the thirteenth CCP congress.

Positions under Deng Xiaoping

In June 1989, in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, where hundreds of pro-democracy student protesters where killed by police forces, Jiang was appointed by Deng Xiaoping to the position of general secretary of the CCP. In November 1989 Jiang also took over the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission when Deng stepped down. Like Deng Xiaoping, Jiang supported economic reform (improvements), but did little where political reform was concerned.

After Jiang became party general secretary, he faithfully followed the new party line. For example, he blamed hostile outside forces for China's domestic political problems in the late 1980s. Likewise, he put a renewed emphasis on Communist loyalty over selecting and promoting party officials. He was prominently quoted in a People's Daily front-page commentary on June 24, 1990, as saying, "In choosing people, in assigning people, in educating people, we must take a revolutionary outlook as the prerequisite [required experience] to insure that party and government leaders at every level are loyal to Marxism." (Marxism, based on the ideas of Karl Marx [1818–1893] is the basis for communism.)

After Deng Xiaoping

Xiaoping officially retired in 1989, the same year of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Jiang did not have a base of support within the party or the army, and in 1990 still lacked leadership stature. But through his work as chairman of the CCP's Central Military Commision, Jiang eventually gained support and was named president of China in 1993.

Business ventures in China widened the class gap and only worsened the Chinese economy. In the 1990s, urban areas began experiencing increased crime and revolutionary groups sprang up. In the autumn of 1994, a militant group placed explosives on train tracks, derailing a train carrying troops from China's 13th Army. The explosion killed 170 and injured 190 people. Moreover, China's relationship with the rest of the world grew increasingly strained with widespread reports of human rights abuses, including prison labor and political imprisoning.

In April 1996, in an attempt to reestablish law and order, Jiang launched an anticrime drive, known as "Strike Hard" (Yanda in Chinese). Within six months Strike Hard had resulted in more than 160 thousand arrests and more than one thousand executions. Though many were critical of these actions, the government claimed it was well received by the Chinese citizens who were alarmed by the rising crime statistics. Jiang is also known for reclaiming the British colony of Hong Kong and attempting to convince Taiwan to follow.

In the spring of 2001, China-U.S. relations reached a fevered pitch, when a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet. The U.S. plane was forced to land in China where the aircraft (loaded with highly secretive spy technology) and its crew were detained for eleven days. On July 18, 2001, Jiang met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin (1952–) in a summit (meeting) aimed at improving Russo-Chinese relations and slowing the United States' global influence. The two sides signed a statement to reduce missile defense, and improve trade between the two countries.

For More Information

Chang, Parris H. "The Power Game in Beijing." The World & I (October 1989).

Feigon, Lee. China Rising: The Meaning of Tiananmen. 1990.

Gilley, Bruce. Tiger on the Brink: Jiang Zemin and China's New Elite. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Lam, Willy Wo-Lap. The Era of Jiang Zemin. New York: Prentice Hall, 1999.

Mu, Yi, and Mark V. Thompson. Crises at Tiananmen: Reform and Reality in Modern China. 1990.

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