Jiang Zemin Emerges as Chinese Leaders Honor 1911 Revolution

Former president Jiang Zemin quelled recent speculation that he is dead or dying with his appearance at the Great Hall of the People on Sunday as past, current and future Chinese leaders gathered for a grand ceremony to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the 1911 Revolution and the end of imperial rule.  The Financial Times reports:

Mr Jiang sat between the country’s two top leaders, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, at a commemoration of the 1911 Revolution, which marked the end of more than two thousand years of dynastic rule and led to the eventual rise of the Communist party.

Mr Jiang’s prominent presence in state television reports about the event came just three months after Hong Kong media said he had died and others reported that he was critically ill. Mouthing the words to the national anthem, following the speeches and waving to the crowd with a smile, Mr Jiang, seemed alert but at times also tired.

Chinese political scholar Cheng Li of the Brookings Institute told the New York Times that Jiang’s re-emergence was highly political:

“Retired top leaders apparently want to have more say on the country’s economic policy, political succession and  foreign relations, especially at a time  when the Chinese public has become increasingly concerned about the administrative capacity and political unity of  the current leadership,” Mr. Cheng said.

The makeup of the next leadership could pivot in part on struggles between Mr.  Jiang’s loyalists and those of the current  president and party chief, Hu Jintao ,  over who will join the Politburo  Standing Committee, the group at the  top of the party hierarchy that governs  China by consensus.

There are currently nine seats on the committee but that could change.

In recent years, Mr. Jiang, whose base is known as the Shanghai gang, used his influence to prevent one of Mr. Hu’s allies, Li Keqiang, from becoming the consensus choice to succeed Mr.  Hu. Mr. Li is expected to become the next prime minister, but the top post is expected to go to Xi Jinping, who is favored by Mr. Jiang. The other seats appear to be up for grabs. Party officers have begun circulating lists of names among hundreds of senior officials, but the final decisions will probably not be made until  next summer at the earliest.

“I’ve heard all kinds of different versions of the next lineup,” said a person with close ties to some top families.

The political maneuvering is so precarious that close family members of some leaders, including Mr. Xi, have been asked to stay out of Beijing so that their activities do not disrupt the succession process.

See previous coverage, via CDT, of the upcoming CCP leadership shuffle and other retired Chinese leaders who have pulled strings from behind the scenes.