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Today would have been Jiang Zemin’s ninety-seventh birthday. In 1989 Jiang, who died last November, was the mayor of Shanghai until he became the unlikely successor—a compromise candidate after the Tiananmen Square Massacre—to Zhao Ziyang as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. He ended up leading China for the next fourteen years. As Orville Schell wrote in the Review’s September 23, 1999, issue, Jiang’s careful opportunism (“Mr. Comrade Nice Guy,” as Schell has it) helped keep him in power for the tumultuous decade that saw the return of Hong Kong and Macau to China, a series of reforms that eased the nation into a hybrid “Communist capitalism,” and a visit by Bill Clinton to Tiananmen Square.
The Jiang Zemin Mystery
“I wondered whether a more sophisticated China was actually emerging from the wreckage of Mao’s revolution in the person of Jiang, who seemed to be studiously trying to re-invent himself as a more cosmopolitan leader, one less constrained by Party dogma and protocol, and more at ease with the West.”
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Categories: Culture Wars/Current Controversies