President Jiang Zemin, ex-President of China died on 30th November at the age of 96. He was the man who lead China after the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. He presided over the economic growth of China which sees it as the leading contender to the US for global economic supremacy. His death has been mourned officially which means his legacy is considered as part of the state policy continuum..
The CCP has written a letter informing the people of China of his death, writes Xinhua news agency. It states, "Comrade Jiang Zemin's death is an incalculable loss to our Party and our military and our people of all ethnic groups". His history for the moment seems secure.
Jiang's death has more than a little symbolic meaning. It comes just a few days after China saw anti-Covid restrictions protest, the first street protest after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. The extremely strict zero covid policy has been very unpopular as it has bitten into many Chinese lives including economics. Western commentators say it was sparked by the Covid stringencies but the main cause was economic slowdown. “China is also in the midst of a sharp economic slowdown exacerbated by zero-COVID.” Clearly Covid has not spared anyone including China.
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Jiang himself was not a political softie and put down student protests in Shanghai as the “pro-democracy demonstrations” spread across China in 1989. However, his period also saw phenomenal economic growth and most associate his name with the rise of prosperity.
Policy continuation ?
Western media is promoting the idea that there is a lot of nostalgia for his era but scholars have disagreed saying that Jiang was also an authoritarian like the current leader Xi. The CCP letter said, “ our beloved Comrade Jiang Zemin" as an outstanding leader of high prestige, a great Marxist, statesman, military strategist and diplomat and a long-tested communist fighter. “The focus on his ideology is significant implying that he acted according to the state principles held by all Chinese leaders.
“ He served as president from 1993 to 2003 but held China's top job, as head of the ruling Communist Party, from 1989 and handed over that role to Hu in 2002. He only gave up the position as head of the military in 2004, which he also assumed in 1989.” (Reuters)
In China, the leadership pattern is based on clan loyalty and this has always been the case. Jiang had his Sanghai group and his successor Hu Jin Tao went to some lengths to remove them from positions of power and build his own. After Hu’s era, Xi has removed them from similar positions and even had Hu escorted out from the Congress meeting where Xi was elected a leader for the third term.
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Meanwhile, China continues to feel the impact of the Covid management crisis and protests. Some easing of restrictions is being noted while they also caused production to slow down. Asia's industrial activities in general have faced difficulties too due to China’s since they rely so heavily on them for parts and goods.
However, though the Western world seems to be hoping that China will crash as a state followed by large scale 'pro-democracy" rebellion, that may not be the case. This won’t be the first time when such hopes are dashed. Which means the threat to the West’s global economic supremacy posed by China will continue which really took on steam when Jiang Zemin came to power.