China: On the death of ex-head of state Jiang Zemin – politics

China: On the death of ex-head of state Jiang Zemin – politics

At the beginning it was just mean things, later it was more respect when the Chinese talked about Jiang Zemin on the internet. People liked to call him “the senior”, online especially “frog” because he was supposed to bear a certain resemblance to the animal with his broad face, oversized glasses and pulled-up trousers.

It was mostly the younger ones who counted themselves as “toad worshipers” in the “frog movement”. It was less about Jiang’s actual style of government, which was harsh and ruthless. He only knew human rights as the right to exist. All factors that endangered stability should be “nipped in the bud”. In 1996, he reacted with outrage to a comparison with Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet. “I’m not a dictator,” Jiang said. But under his rule, many civil rights activists ended up in prison. He ruled out political reforms: “China’s political system must never be shaken.”

In this respect, it was above all the rejection of the current leadership team under the party leader Xi Jinpingwhich has allowed Jiang’s fan base to grow in recent years.

The demonstrators are considering using a devotional for protest

The longing for a different policy is captured in many pictures with slogans that the Chinese send to each other on social networks. There is the legendary scene from the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2000. A Hong Kong journalist calls out a question to Jiang, who counters: “You go everywhere in search of headlines. But the questions you ask are closed easy, too naive,” says Jiang.

Such an exchange of blows is almost impossible in today’s China. Xi does not meet with journalists, he reads speeches from the paper, questions are given in press conferences. In 1998, US President Bill Clinton and Jiang even discussed human rights live on television. It would also be unthinkable for Xi to speak positively about American ideas. Jiang liked to quote Abraham Lincoln, and he raved about Goethe and Shakespeare to state guests. He then spoke English, with a heavy Chinese accent.

On the death of Jiang Zemin: In 1997, Jiang Zemin and then US President Bill Clinton (right) toasted each other at a dinner in the White House.  A year later, they even debated live on TV.

In 1997, Jiang Zemin and then US President Bill Clinton (right) toasted each other at a dinner in the White House. A year later, they even debated live on TV.

(Photo: Greg Gibson/AP)

“Too young, too simple, too naive” has become the slogan of an online community demanding more freedom from Beijing. This weekend, for the first time, this resistance also became visible on the streets, as white-leafed people rallied in several cities. While all traces of the “A4 revolution” are being erased from social networks, on Wednesday some discussed whether a prayer service could not be an excuse for Jiang to meet. “If it is not even allowed to show one’s respect at the death of a key party leader, Xi’s prestige in the party will continue to decline,” it said.

Public mourning over the death of party leader Hu Yaobang in April 1989 is considered to be the trigger for the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.

At a big speech by his successor Xi, he sat in the audience – and yawned

Jiang was always considered a bit of a prankster, maybe even a bit rude. In 1996 he combed his hair in front of the Spanish king while he looked puzzled. At the 2017 Party Congress, Jiang watched Party leader Xi Jinping’s three-hour speech on the podium with a loriot-sized magnifying glass as he shared his theory of “socialism for a new era.” Jiang seemed so tired or bored that he kept opening his mouth wide, yawning and checking his watch. Toad worshipers sport photos of the yawning Jiang on T-shirts or on their phone cases.

On the death of Jiang Zemin: On the podium, Xi Jinping explains his theory of the "Socialism for a new era".  Jiang Zemin reads it - with a fairly large magnifying glass.

On the podium, Xi Jinping explains his theory of “socialism for a new era” in 2017. Jiang Zemin reads it – with a fairly large magnifying glass.

(Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

For 13 years he was China’s head of state and chairman of the Communist Party. His appointment was more of a coincidence. Born near Shanghai in 1926, Jiang grew up in an intellectual environment. His father was a writer and electrician, his mother a farmer. Since his uncle had no son and enjoyed a special position in society as a so-called martyr of the revolution, his family took over Jiang’s upbringing.

The young Chinese attended an American missionary school, studied electrical engineering at one of the country’s best universities, and joined the Communist Party in 1946 before the People’s Republic was founded. In 1955, the young man worked for a year at an automobile plant in Moscow, he worked in industry for almost 15 years.

His exceptional career began with Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping’s economic reform policy around 1978. He first became Secretary General of the Administrative Commission for Import and Export, and later Minister for the Electronics Industry. At the same time, Jiang rose in the party. In 1985, he was sent to Shanghai, China’s largest city at the time, as deputy party secretary. A month later he took over as mayor.

A “temporary solution”? Jiang quickly refuted this

A short time later, the first demonstrations by students and workers began there, demanding political reforms as well as economic reforms. Unlike the massacre in Beijing in June 1989, carried out by the hardliners in the Politburo, Jiang did not let the military but party militias and activists end the protests in Shanghai. However, Jiang never left any doubts about the need for a hard line in Beijing.

For Jiang, his loyalty paid off. After the overthrow of party leader Zhao Ziyang shortly before the violent crackdown on the democracy movement on June 4, 1989, Deng Xiaoping had to quickly find a new candidate who would be supported by the various currents in the party. The choice fell on Jiang.

Although he was described by many as “pale” and “temporary,” he managed to expand his power quickly. During his tenure, market economy reforms and entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 laid the foundation for China’s economic rise. However, Jiang did not reach the peak of his power until after he stepped down in 2002. Instead of retiring, the outgoing leader continued to pull the strings in the background, continued his inspection visits to the country and helped decide who would fill important posts – much to the chagrin of his successor Hu Jintao .

Only after Xi took office in 2012 did Jiang’s clique gradually lose influence. With the help of an anti-corruption campaign, the new party leader put pressure on Jiang’s network, which extends right up to the top of the military. 2015 criticized the state people’s newspaper unspecified “retired leaders” who clung to power and continued to interfere – a warning to Jiang and his cronies.

There have been rumors of his death over the past few years. China’s former head of state and party leader Jiang Zemin has died at the age of 96.

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