Benedict Voigt was a correspondent for the daily mirror in China.
There have been repeated reports of his death in recent years. As early as 2011, the Hong Kong television station Asia Television reported that Jiang Zemin had “died of illness” because he failed to attend the celebrations marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese censors then had their hands full trying to recapture the false news of the death of the former party leader (1989-2002) and state president (1993-2003).
But now it’s official: On Wednesday, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that Jiang Zemin, who was suffering from leukemia, died at the age of 96 from multiple organ failure.
He came from the “Shanghai clique”
The rumors about his death were significant in the past because, despite his old age, he was said to have had an influence on current politics for a long time.
High-ranking Communist Party officials who rose to power under Jiang Zemin were dubbed the “Shanghai clique.” Within the Communist Party, they faced the wing of the Communist Youth League, from which Jiang Zemin’s successor, Hu Jintao, came.
In the meantime, however, these wings have lost their power, and Xi Jinping has long ruled the party and the People’s Republic alone. Even the current public displeasure with his “dynamic zero-Covid policy” has probably not yet been able to generate any resistance against Xi within the party.
Secretary-General since the Tiananmen massacre
After the Tiananmen massacre of 1989, Jiang Zemin took over the office of Secretary-General and subsequently – with Deng Xiaoping in the background – further consolidated the authoritarian one-party state.
Nevertheless, the news of his death makes some Chinese wistful: he stood for a time of economic upheaval, which also gave them hope for a political opening.
In contrast to his emotionally reserved successors, Jiang Zemin possessed a sense of humor and shirtlessness: once he sang a song together with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and the singer Julio Iglesias; He visibly enjoyed interviews with foreign journalists.
It is also inconceivable that Xi Jinping today would admonish Hong Kong journalists that they are “too simple, too naive” and that they should follow an example from a US journalist. The death of Jiang Zemin shows once again that those days are long gone.
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