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State media say Jiang died of leukemia and multiple organ failure in the city of Shanghai.
Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin has died aged 96, Chinese media reported.
Jiang died at 12:13 p.m. (0413 GMT) from leukemia and multiple organ failure in the city of Shanghai, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday, publishing a letter to the Chinese people from the Communist Party in power, parliament, cabinet and military announcing the death.
“The death of Comrade Jiang Zemin is an incalculable loss to our Party, our military and our people of all ethnic groups,” the letter read, saying the announcement was made with “deep sorrow.”
He described “our beloved comrade Jiang Zemin” as an outstanding leader of great prestige, a great Marxist, a statesman, a military strategist and a diplomat and a long-proven communist fighter.
Flags of major Chinese Communist Party and government buildings in China and around the world will be flown at half-mast, state media reported.
The order, from Jiang’s funeral arrangement committee, applies from Wednesday until the date of his funeral, which has not yet been announced, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Jiang rose from obscurity to lead the ruling Chinese Communist Party after the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, but brought the country out of its subsequent diplomatic isolation, mending fences with the United States. and overseeing an unprecedented economic boom.
Jiang has seen China go through historic changes, including a revival of market-oriented reforms, Hong Kong’s return from British rule in 1997 and Beijing’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.
Even as China opened up to the outside world, Jiang’s government crushed dissent at home. He imprisoned human rights, labor and pro-democracy activists and banned the Falun Gong spiritual movement, which he saw as a threat to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.
Although he served as Chinese head of state and chairman of the Communist Party for 13 years, Jiang was never known for his vision, but rather acted as an administrator and figure of compromise for different streams of the party.
Jiang seems to have reached the peak of his power only after the transition in 2002 to the ruling generation led by Hu Jintao. For a long time, he pulled the strings as the “strong man” in the background. He was known among the people as “the elder” (Zhangzhe).
Jiang relinquished his last official title in 2004 but remained a behind-the-scenes force in the feuds that led to the rise of current President Xi Jinpingwho took power in 2012. Xi has stuck to Jiang’s mix of economic liberalization and tight political controls.
Initially seen as a transitional leader, Jiang was recruited on the verge of retirement with a mandate from then-supreme leader Deng Xiaoping to bring the party and nation together.
But it turned out to be transformative. In 13 years as General Secretary of the Communist Party, the highest post in China, he guided China’s rise to global economic power by welcoming capitalists into the Communist Party and attracting foreign investment after China’s accession to the WTO.
He presided over the country’s rise as a global manufacturer, the return of Hong Kong and Macau from the UK and Portugal, and the realization of a long cherished dream: winning the competition to host the Olympics after a previous rejection.
Jiang was an exuberant figure who played the piano and loved to sing, unlike his more reserved successors, Hu and Xi.
He spoke enthusiastic if hesitant English and recited the Gettysburg address for foreign visitors. During a visit to the UK, he tried to entice Queen Elizabeth II to sing karaoke.
Jiang had disappeared from public view and last appeared alongside current and former leaders atop Beijing’s Tiananmen Gate during a military parade in 2019 celebrating the ruling party’s 70th anniversary. He was absent from a major party convention last month where former leaders are given seats in recognition of their service.