Jiang Zemin Emerges Ahead of Party Congress

Bloomberg News calls attention to former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, the party elder who in 2011 was declared dead by a Hong Kong television station but is now back in the headlines of the Chinese press ahead of next month’s 18th Party Congress:

On Oct. 19 the official People’s Daily reminded readers that late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping once called Jiang, 86, a “qualified” Communist Party leader. The paper’s website the next day reported Jiang met university officials in Beijing and included a picture. Xinhua News Agency said Oct. 21 he congratulated his old middle school on its 110th anniversary.

Jiang’s appearances less than three weeks before the start of the Communist Party Congress signals to fellow cadres that he is healthy and involved in negotiations over who will run China for the next decade, according to analysts including John Lee of the University of Sydney. The reports may be aimed at projecting stability during a transition that’s been roiled by the ouster of Politburo member Bo Xilai and heir-apparent Xi Jinping’s two- week public absence in September.

“His public appearances are probably calculated to advance both his presence and the standing of his preferred candidates within the party,” said Lee, an adjunct professor at the university’s Centre for International and Security Studies. “The involvement of elders is seen by the Party as a stabilizing rather than destabilizing factor since the psychological factor of continuity rather than radical change is much more comforting.”

Late last week, sources close to the top leadership told Reuters that Jiang had forged a consensus with current president Hu Jintao and his expected successor, Xi Jinping, on the candidates to fill openings on the Politburo Standing Committee. The South China Morning Post also reported on Sunday that Jiang’s appearance “coincides with reports of his renewed involvement in key party decisions”.

See also additional CDT coverage of the 18th Party Congress and China’s upcoming leadership transition.