11/30/2022, 17.32
CHINA
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Death of former leader Jiang Zemin at 96 leaves Xi Jinping with one less enemy

by Li Qiang

Suffering from leukaemia, he was considered one of China's modernisers. His "Shanghai clique" is one of the last factions within the Communist Party to oppose Xi. Chinese protesting COVID-19 lockdowns may come to regret his passing. During his time in power, China’s GDP grew by an average of 9 per cent a year.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Jiang Zemin died today in Shanghai. The 96-year-old former leader, successor to the "little helmsman" Deng Xiaoping, suffered from leukaemia and multiple organ failure, Xinhua reported.

Considered one of the architects of China’s modernisation in the past 40 years, Jiang served as China’s president and general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) from the early 1990s, not long after the Tiananmen massacre, to 2002.

During its tenure in 2001, China joined the World Trade Organisation and won the right to hold the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

For most observers, Jiang's leadership laid the ground for China becoming a superpower and challenge the United States.

While the country loses a prominent figure, current President Xi Jinping will have one less enemy at a time of great tensions with popular protests against draconian restrictions to contain COVID-19 rocking several Chinese cities.

The "Shanghai clique”, that is Jiang's faction within the CPC, remained influential in national politics until Xi came to power.

With Xi allowed to have a third term in power at the 20th Party Congress last October, his victory over what was left of internal opposition is total.

According to international media reports, Jiang and his old ally Zhu Rongji were strongly opposed to Xi's reappointment.

Criticism from the old guard, which historically had great sway in the country, prompted the General Office of the Party Central Committee to ban retired leaders from making “negative political speeches” before the 20th Congress.

With the country in turmoil, marked by Xi's zero-COVID policy and its negative impact on the economy, ordinary Chinese may come to regret the Jiang era, when the country's GDP grew at an annual average of 9 per cent compared to possibly 3 per cent this year.

While China’s growth was heralded before and during the 20th Congress, doubling in Xi's first decade as leader, under Jiang Zemin (1993-2002), it more than tripled.

Like Xi, Jiang had to deal with a serious crisis, the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998.

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