Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin – the first Chinese President to visit India, dies at 96 China’s former leader Jiang Zemin, who led the country at the time of its opening up, has died at the age of 96.
He was the first Chinese President to visit India in 1996 when India and China moved towards normalizing the bilateral ties. Jiang, who was China’s president from 1993-2003, died of leukemia and multiple organ failure on November 30, 2022, in Shanghai.
Under Jiang’s leadership, a peaceful handover of Hong Kong to China took place in 1997 and China joined the World Trade Organization which laid the base for China to become the world’s second-largest economy with high-speed growth.
An official statement said, Comrade Jiang Zemin was an “outstanding leader enjoying high prestige”. Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) headed by President Xi Jinping described Jiang as a “great Marxist, statesman, military strategist and diplomat, a long-tested communist fighter”.
They proclaimed with “profound grief” to the whole Party, the entire military, and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups that our beloved Comrade Jiang Zemin died. The official statement said, “Comrade Jiang Zemin’s passing is an insurmountable loss to our party, our military, and our people.”
Jiang came to power as China’s top leader in 1989, when after a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy student protesters in Tiananmen Square, China was detested internationally and sparked a bitter power struggle at the top of the Communist Party between hardliners and reformers.
The official obituary praised Jiang for his role in helping the party survive the 1989 crisis. He consolidated the powers of the Communist Party of China, removed internal dissent, and cracked down on the religious sect Falun Gong in 1999 which was seen as a threat to the party. He is also credited with the country’s further integration with the global system and higher status as a world power.
Jiang stepped down as Communist Party chief in 2002 to hand over the helm to Hu Jintao in the first peaceful and orderly power transition in the party since 1949. He stepped down as Chinese President in 2003 and as the head of the Central Military Commission only in 2004.
The official obituary praised Jiang for his voluntary decision to give up both these leadership roles, saying it had been done out of consideration “for the sustainable development and stable governance of the Party and the country”.
His visit to India in 1996 was seen as a big step towards normalizing India-China bilateral ties. It was during his visit that the two countries signed a comprehensive agreement to restore peace at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and reached a consensus on building a constructive and cooperative partnership. Both sides signed a set of “confidence building measures” (CBM) in the Military Field along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between the two countries. Both sides also discussed the reduction of border troops.
This was followed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit to China in 2003 when both sides decided to appoint their respective Special Representatives (SRs) to explore a solution to the border issue under the framework of a boundary settlement. Jiang was the chairman of the Central Military Commission at that time and Hu Jintao took over as Chinese President a year ago in 2002.
Jiang’s death comes at a time when China witnessed a wave of protests against the restrictive Zero-COVID policy based on mass testing, quarantine, and lockdowns.
State media reported that Xi will lead an official committee in charge of his funeral arrangements. Its other members include former president Hu Jintao and former premier Zhu Rongji, as well as all current and retired members of the Politburo, including Premier Li Keqiang. No further details of the commemorative events have been provided.