Jiang Zemin

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Jiang Zemin 2002 in St. Petersburg
Jiang Zemin with Bill Clinton , 1999
Jiang Zemin with his wife Wang Yeping and George W. Bush with his wife Laura Bush in Crawford, Texas, 2002.
Jiang Zemin and Heydar Aliyev on a postage stamp from Azerbaijan on his 90th birthday

Jiang Zemin ( Chinese  江澤民  /  江泽民 , Pinyin Jiāng Zémín , W.-G. Chiang Tsê-min ; born August 17, 1926 in Yangzhou , Jiangsu ) is a Chinese politician.

Jiang was General Secretary of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of China (CCP) (1989–2002), President of the People's Republic of China (PRC) (March 27, 1993– March 15, 2003), and Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) (1990-2004). As the holder of these three offices, he succeeded Deng Xiaoping in the role of " Outstanding Leader " of the PRCh (1989-2002). Starting in 2002, he gradually gave up his offices and thus this role to Hu Jintao .

His idea of ​​" triple representation " was at the XVI. CPC Congress raised to state doctrine.


Jiang Zemin was born on August 17, 1926 in Yangzhou, the son of the farmer Wang Zhelan and the writer and electrician Jiang Shijun (1895–1973). He had four siblings but, according to Chinese tradition, was adopted by his uncle's widow as the new male head of the family after his uncle's death in the anti-Japanese war . This family background as the “son of a martyr” is often given great importance for his later political career.

Jiang went to school in Yangzhou until 1943 and then attended Central University in Nanjing . In 1945 he moved to Shanghai Jiaotong University to study engineering . He became a member of the CCP a year later, but without immediately pursuing a political career or showing particular political zeal. In 1949, Jiang Zemin married his school friend Wang Yeping, from whom he lived for longer periods of time in the coming decades.

In the 1950s, Jiang Zemin worked at the Changchun car factory, and after a lengthy internship at the Moscow Stalin car factory, he was appointed vice director in 1956. Even in the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution he did not take a special political position, he was neither a fanatical supporter nor did he speak out against the party line. Towards the end of the 1960s, only his services as a driving force behind the industrialization of the country and his personal, modest lifestyle could save him from persecution by the Red Guards. On the other hand, he was only able to break the deadlock in his career when he attended the management school of the First Ministry of Mechanical Engineering in the 1970s. Here he rose very quickly to the foreign affairs office and was responsible for the reforms of a Romanian machine factory. After the success of these reforms, he returned to China and became vice director in 1974 and director of the foreign affairs bureau of his ministry two years later.

The beginning of the economic reforms under Wang Daohan and Deng Xiaoping excited Jiang Zemin and gave his career a new, now politically motivated, impetus. Because of his successful advocacy for the establishment of economic free trade zones in China, his notoriety and reputation rose. When Wang Daohan resigned from Shanghai Mayor in 1985, Jiang Zemin succeeded him. In this office, Jiang Zemin was able to use conservative, non-radical policies to please everyone involved. During student protests in 1986, for example, he failed to introduce major punitive measures against the protesters in order to take the focus of the press off the protests. His strategy worked, but from now on he accepted the influence of the press, which he estimated to be very high. During his tenure as mayor, the Shanghai newspaper landscape was reorganized and intimidated to such an extent that there was hardly any negative or even critical reports about the government.

In 1987, Jiang Zemin was accepted into the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee and also became party leader in Shanghai. Together with Zhu Rongji , his stricter and more economically oriented successor in the office of Mayor of Shanghai, he benefited from the reforms that were now taking hold, which attracted foreign investments to China and especially to Shanghai.

When the student unrest broke out in early 1989, Jiang Zemin decided against the use of force in Shanghai - according to historians, not least out of concerns about assessments from abroad and the history books - but publicly advocated the introduction of martial law on May 20, 1989.

After Zhao Ziyang was overthrown , Jiang Zemin became general secretary of the party's Central Committee through Deng Xiaoping and thanks to his diverse relationships in party circles. His contribution to cracking down on student unrest was to convince Wan Li - the chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) - to oppose a petition directed against the declaration of martial law. Jiang Zemin assisted Zhu Rongji in the nonviolent control of the unrest in Shanghai.

In the years that followed, Jiang Zemin initiated the reform process and reconciliation with the students, while at the same time limiting the press landscape. He also launched a strict anti-corruption campaign designed to increase the credibility of the Chinese regime.

Martial law was repealed in January 1990. In the years that followed, Jiang Zemin succeeded in both pushing ahead with economic reforms and increasing and consolidating his own influence. In 1992, after some political wrangling, he changed the VBA by retiring or transferring hundreds of officers and commanders. In this way, in addition to gaining control over the army, he also gained power over almost all important political bodies. Only foreign policy was controlled by his former great rival, Prime Minister Li Peng . After the decision not to hand over the office of prime minister and the office of president, Jiang Zemin remained as president and Li Peng as prime minister.

In the years from 1994 onwards, observers began to speak more and more of a dictatorship by Jiang Zemin. In terms of domestic politics, this set in motion an ideological and political reform in addition to the economic one. He not only promoted state-owned companies and investments, but also tried with many means to upgrade the "traditional Chinese values" and further restricted the freedom of the press. Following the assassination of a vice-chairman of the National People's Committee by the People's Armed Police (PAP), which was supposed to compensate for the PLA, Jiang Zemin launched a major campaign against the crime, during which over 350,000 people were arrested and over 4,000 in one year People were executed. In 1999, Falun Gong was banned under his orders.

In 1998, Jiang was elected president and chairman of the military commission with 98 percent of the national parliament's vote. He resigned from his post as general secretary of the CCP Central Committee in 2002 and as president of the PRC in 2003 to give way to a new generation, namely his successor, Hu Jintao. In September 2004, Jiang Zemin also resigned from his military post. He gave up his last official post as chairman of the Central Military Commission in March 2005.

Jiang Zemin staged a surprising comeback at the 18th party conference of the CCP in December 2012. He sat on the podium at the side of the regularly resigning party leader Hu Jintao. Largely unnoticed by the German public, the renowned British news magazine "The Economist" analyzed that Jiang was able to place more followers on the powerful Politburo Standing Committee than Hu.

This assessment is confirmed by the fact that the new party leader Xi Jinping was elected head of the CCP Central Committee's military commission and thus informal commander-in-chief of the armed forces at the same time by the Central Committee, i.e. before Hu Jintao's official duties were handed over in March 2013 . In the past, former heads of state held this office for several years after they had been replaced from party leadership.

After the Tianjin blast in August 2015, Xi Jinping had an investigation into whether there was a connection to Jiang, as he suspected a political motive behind the explosion. Xi is said to have focused in particular on relations with Generals Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong , who were dismissed from office in 2014 for corruption and were on trial. There is said to be a group of high-ranking officers who are dissatisfied with this step. The military circles concerned are also believed to have a relationship with Jiang Zemin, as Jiang was a mentor to the two generals. Because of its size, the explosion, according to Xi's thesis, should be seen in connection with ammunition from the Chinese army, which would have been stored at the site of the accident with or without the knowledge of the logistics company concerned. The explosion should then have been a show of force by dissatisfied officers. The investigations could not confirm the suspicion in any way. However, they prevented high-ranking politicians from showing up at the site of the disaster immediately after the accident and demonstrating leadership.

In the previous period, the Chinese media clearly criticized unnamed retired party officials who “fought with unimaginable force” against the changes that Xi Jinping was undertaking. This is said to target Jiang Zemin and the so-called Shanghai faction of the party associated with him , whereby the formation of factions within the party was also criticized. At the same time, Jiang Zeming's photos and calligraphy were removed from public facilities such as the Party Central School.

Officially, with reference to his old age, Jiang rarely appears in public, so that rumors were already circulating in 2017 that he had passed away. However, in October of the same year, he surprisingly appeared at the 19th Party Conference of the CCP, during which Xi Jingping's ideas , similar to Jiang's "Triple Representation" 15 years earlier, were enshrined in the constitution. In 2019 he also appeared in public at Li Peng's funeral and during the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Economic reforms under Jiang Zemin

At the 14th Party Congress in 1992, Jiang Zemin proclaimed his reform of the socialist market economy . Deng's economic model no longer seemed to work as the state-owned companies generated significant losses. This happened because the company strategies did not follow profit maximization , but only aimed for growth in size. The sole purpose of the state entrepreneurs was to sell as much as possible and to enlarge their businesses. As a result, more goods of one kind were produced than people needed and other goods were not produced at all. To make matters worse, there was no state control over the company management. This led to high levels of indebtedness among state-owned companies.

Jiang Zemin wanted to solve the problem of overproduction and debt with his socialist market economy . His new reform was capitalist in nature. However, there were still hardly any private companies and the focus was still on state companies. Many of the state-owned companies received from the Government as a profitable measure in joint stock companies converted. Some of the shares were sold without being fully privatized. The state remained the majority shareholder, and therefore owner.

Jiang Zemin also introduced changes to the banks. Previously, the state, indebted companies were granted more and more new loans. As a result, around 25% of the loans could not be repaid. From now on, the banks should have more responsibility for lending and only grant loans to companies that were able to repay them.

However, between 1994 and 1996, half of all state-owned companies were still making losses. Jiang Zemin wanted to introduce further reforms, but there was resistance from within the party. It was not until the Asian crisis that began in 1997 that it was possible to assert oneself against the reform opponents. Jiang Zemin used the concern about the effects of the Asian crisis effectively and presented the expansion of the socialist market economy at the 1997 15th Congress. In this he put the emphasis on privatization and even justified this with Marx 's theses.

Up to this point in time, 305,000 companies were in state hands. Most were in heavy industry and telecommunications . Of these 305,000 firms, only 1,000 were to remain state-owned. Medium-sized and smaller companies were either sold to private actors or they were dissolved.


Jiang Zemin, like Mao Zedong , was interested in poetry.


  • Report on the XV. Chinese Communist Party Congress. (in: Beijing Rundschau , issue 40/1997)
  • "Harmony is the top priority." China's President Jiang Zemin on the social crisis and the need for further economic reforms, on the persecution of dissidents and believers and his country's participation in the anti-terror coalition. (in: Der Spiegel , edition 15/2002, pp. 158–161)
  • Selected Works of Jiang Zemin. [“Selected Works by Jiang Zemin (English Edition)”] (2 volumes) Foreign Languages ​​Press, Beijing 2009/2010, ISBN 978-7-119-06024-8 / ISBN 978-7-119-06025-5


  • Robert Lawrence Kuhn, The Man Who Changed China. The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin. Crown Publishers, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-5474-5 ( Review: [1] )
  • Hung-mao Tien / Yun-han Chu, China Under Jiang Zemin. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000. ISBN 1-55587-844-X
  • Bruce Gilley, Tiger on the Brink. Jiang Zemin and China's New Elite. University of California Press, 1998. ISBN 0-520-21395-5

Web links

Commons : Jiang Zemin  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Habemus Papam! - China reveals its new leaders The Economist, November 15, 2012
  2. China ABC: Xi Jinping Radio China International ( Memento from May 21, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  3. ^ "Prinzling" Xi Jinping leads party and military in China Handelsblatt, November 15, 2012
  4. ^ A b Willi Lam President Xi Suspects Political Conspiracy Behind Tianjin Blasts in Jamestown Foundation, China Brief, Volume 15, Issue 17, September 3, 2015, accessed September 6, 2015
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  6. ^ Ex-president Jiang joins mourners at Tiananmen premier's funeral. July 29, 2019, accessed October 7, 2019 .
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  14. see: Der Spiegel , edition 13/1999, p. 296 and Der Spiegel , edition 18/2001, p. 224