Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin dies at 96, prompting wave of nostalgia


BEIJING, Nov 30 (Reuters) Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who led the country for a decade of rapid economic growth after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, died on Wednesday at the age of 96, prompting a wave of nostalgia for the more liberal times he oversaw.

Jiang died in his home city of Shanghai just after noon on Wednesday of leukaemia and multiple organ failure, Xinhua news agency said, publishing a letter to the Chinese people by the ruling Communist Party, parliament, Cabinet and the military.

“Comrade Jiang Zemin’s death is an incalculable loss to our Party and our military and our people of all ethnic groups,” the letter read, saying its announcement was with “profound grief”. Jiang’s death comes as authorities grapple with rare widespread street protests among residents tired of stubborn COVID-19 controls in China, nearly three years after the pandemic began. It happened during a tumultuous time.

Jiang was pulled from obscurity to lead the Chinese Communist Party after the Tiananmen Square crackdown but then broke the country out of its diplomatic isolation, repaired its fence with the United States and oversaw an unprecedented economic boom. .

He served as president from 1993 to 2003, when he held the top position in China as chairman of the ruling Communist Party since 1989, ceding the position to President Hu in 2002.

When Jiang retires, sources close to the then-leadership say Hu will find supporters of his predecessor everywhere. Jiang had his own protégés, many from the so-called “Shanghai gang”, on the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s most powerful governing body.

But years after Jiang stepped down from his last post as chairman of the Military Commission in 2004, Hu stepped up to power, neutralized the Shanghai gang, and named Xi as his successor.