Jiang Zemin

/jyahng" zue" min"/, n.
born 1926, Chinese Communist leader: general secretary of the Communist Party since 1989, president of China since 1993.

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born Aug. 17, 1926, Yangzhou, Jiangsu, China

General secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP; 1989–2002) and president of China (1993–2003).

He started his career in Shanghai as an engineer, received training abroad, and gradually rose through the ranks of the CCP. He was named mayor of Shanghai in 1985 and chairman of China's Central Military Commission in 1989. It is thought that Jiang was a compromise candidate to replace Zhao Ziyang as general secretary in June 1989 following the Tiananmen Square incident. He combined a commitment to continued free-market reform with a determination to preserve the CCP's monopoly on political power. After serving the maximum two five-year terms as president, Jiang was succeeded by Hu Jintao. He remained in charge of the Central Military Commission until stepping down in favour of Hu in 2004.

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▪ 1999

      On June 27, 1998, Chinese Pres. Jiang Zemin met with U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton for formal talks in Beijing. The summit, a follow-up to Jiang's state visit to the U.S. in October 1997, yielded few major accords but broke new ground for public discussion of China's human rights practices. In an unprecedented move, Jiang allowed his press conference with Clinton to be broadcast live on state television and thereby gave Chinese viewers a chance to hear an argument for American-style democracy. Although Jiang defended Beijing's crackdown on the 1989 student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, his willingness to debate human rights and other sensitive subjects in an open forum signaled the Chinese leader's growing comfort with talk of political change.

      Jiang was born Aug. 17, 1926, in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. He joined the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1946 and earned a degree in electrical engineering from Jiaotong University, Shanghai, in 1947. He received further technical training in Moscow in the mid-1950s and subsequently held various mid-level posts in a number of ministries. He was elected to the 12th Central Committee of the CPC in 1982, and he served (1983-85) as minister of the electronics industry. He was named mayor of Shanghai in 1985 and became a member of the powerful Political Bureau in 1987.

      Jiang endeared himself to China's paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, by supporting Beijing's forcible suppression of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. When the Chinese leadership was reshuffled following the crackdown, Jiang was made general secretary of the CPC. By combining a commitment to continue Deng's free-market reforms with a determination to preserve the CPC's political monopoly, he was able to consolidate his power. He succeeded Deng as chairman of the CPC's Central Military Commission in 1989 and became state president in 1993.

      Under Jiang's leadership the state began to reduce ownership and control of some of its 300,000 industries. China aggressively promoted exports and actively sought foreign investment, and as a result, the Chinese economy began to grow at spectacular rates. Observers noted, however, that the overwhelming majority of industries continued to be owned and operated by the state and were notoriously inefficient. A thoroughgoing reform of the Chinese economy, many argued, would require massive restructuring, and it was not clear how the Chinese leadership would handle the political changes that would accompany a free-enterprise economy.

      In this context the visits of Jiang to the U.S. and of Clinton to China were important to both countries as they worked to forge a new relationship. Although many of the accords reached during the Clinton visit were of a general nature, China promised to resume the dialogue on human rights, and the two nations pledged not to target strategic nuclear weapons at each other. In addition, Jiang and Clinton agreed on plans for exchanges of scholars, students, and publications.

ROBERT RAUCH

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▪ Chinese politician
Wade-Giles romanization  Chiang Tse-min 
born August 17, 1926, Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, China
 
 Chinese official who was general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP; 1989–2002) and president of China (1993–2003).

      Jiang joined the CCP in 1946 and graduated from Shanghai Jiao Tong University the following year with a degree in electrical engineering. He worked in several factories as an engineer before receiving further technical training in the Soviet Union about 1955. He subsequently headed technological research institutes in various parts of China. In 1980 Jiang became vice minister of the state commission on imports and exports. Two years later he became vice minister of the electronics industry and from 1983 to 1985 was its minister. He had meanwhile become a member of the Central Committee of the CCP in 1982. Named mayor of Shanghai in 1985, he joined the Political Bureau (Politburo) in 1987.

      The Chinese leadership was reshuffled following the forceful suppression of demonstrations in Beijing and elsewhere in 1989, with Jiang succeeding Zhao Ziyang as general secretary of the CCP. He was a compromise choice who combined a commitment to continued free-market economic reforms with a determination to preserve the CCP's monopoly on political power. Also in 1989 he succeeded Deng Xiaoping as chairman of the party's Central Military Commission. In 1993 he became president of China, elected by the National People's Congress.

      With Deng's death in 1997, Jiang became paramount leader and consolidated his power. He began to reduce the state's ownership and control of some of China's 300,000 industries, beginning with a privatization plan in 1997. During the late 1990s Jiang attempted to improve the country's uneasy relationship with the United States. In 1997 he participated in the first U.S.-China summit in almost a decade, and at a follow-up meeting in 1998 he openly discussed his human rights record, which had been criticized by the West. In 2002 Jiang resigned as general secretary of the CCP and the following year stepped down as president after serving the maximum two five-year terms; Hu Jintao succeeded him in both positions. Jiang remained in charge of the Central Military Commission until stepping down in favour of Hu in September 2004.

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Universalium. 2010.

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