A look back at Jiang Zemin with aHong Kong historianHistorians in the News
When the long-serving, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin disappeared from public view — most conspicuously during the celebrations earlier this month marking the anniversary of the China Communist Party — sinologists and journalists assumed he must have died. After all, he was 84 and when top leaders leave the picture in one-party states, that's usually the case. Chinese authorities vigorously denied Jiang was dead. But reports then surfaced that he has been quite ill and the suggestion that he might be at death's door prompted considerable discussion about his legacy and the China he presided over for almost 12 years, particularly in the turbulent 1990s....
Victor Zatsepine is a Russian-born Chinese historian who lived in China throughout the 1990s, studying and working there as a journalist. He is currently an assistant professor of history at Hong Kong University. CBC News: Jiang Zemin came to power after the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989 and rose to become "paramount leader" in the 1990s. What was Jiang's particular stamp on China during this decade? Victor Zatsepine: In the 1990s, most Western observers downplayed Jiang as a transitional leader, hoping that socialism in China would collapse in a "domino effect" following the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. This did not happen. Jiang's background as a Soviet-trained engineer and his adoption of Deng Xiaoping's pragmatic thinking made him a supporter of further economic reforms, wrapping them in a formula of "socialism with Chinese characteristics." During Jiang's leadership, the Chinese economy became more diverse and its markets gradually attracted foreign investment. Thus, the idea of Chinese socialism acquired a new dimension....
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