Jiang Zemin

(b. 1926)

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(b. 17 Aug. 1926).

President of the People's Republic of China 1993–2002

Early career

Born at Yangszhou (Jiangsu), he joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1946 and studied electrical engineering at Jiaotong University. He became a trainee at a motor vehicle plant in Moscow in 1955, and returned in 1956 to become director of a motor vehicle plant in China. He joined the Ministry of Machine-Building Industries (1962–70), but was purged in the Cultural Revolution. As a protégé of Deng Xiaoping, he began a steep rise after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. By 1985, he was Minister for Electronic Industries. In 1988, he became mayor and local CCP leader of China's biggest commercial centre, Shanghai. In this office he was relatively colourless. However, in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre his apparent lack of political ambition made him acceptable to the different factions of the party. He became a compromise candidate for the post of General Secretary of the CCP, to which he was elected on 24 June 1989.

In power

Jiang became concerned with concentrating as much power as possible in his own hands, in anticipation of the ageing Deng's inevitable decline. In November 1989, he became chairman of the Central Military Commission of the CCP. On 27 March 1993, he was elected President. Until his death, Deng remained the ultimate source of appeal and authority, but during the 1990s Jiang occupied the three most powerful positions in the country, and in this sense became China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong. His encouragement of economic competition and planned liberalization of the country's economy led to substantial growth rates throughout the 1990s. His policies led to a discrepancy between a bloated, inefficient publicly-owned economy and thriving private enterprises. This in turn increased frictions within urban society, and between town and countryside. Jiang presided over the repatriation of Hong Kong and Macao, and successfully guided China into membership of the WTO in 2001. In 2002, Jiang was succeeded as President and as leader of the CCP by Hu Jintao. Jiang passed on his last important office, the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission, to Hu in 2004.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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