Born in 1926 in Yangzhou, Jiangsu, Jiang Zemin graduated from Shanghai Jiaotong University with a degree in electronic engineering, and rose up in state-owned factories and government agencies overseeing industries. He was promoted to China's top power bench soon after the bloody crackdown on student movement in Beijing in 1989, becoming general secretary of the Party and chairman of its Central Military Commission. He became president in 1993. He held on to the military chief job for two more years even after handing Party leadership and presidency to successor Hu Jintao in 2002-2003. He is believed to still wield massive influence on Chinese politics a decade after his retirement.
Leader's liberal lecture
Willy Wo-Lap Lam
Politburo member Li Ruihuan has espoused theories on democracy and 'people's rights' that are more liberal than the official line.
The chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) has taken advantage of his trip to Canada and South America to preach the virtues of 'equality' and 'happiness for the people'.
Xinhua yesterday quoted Mr Li as giving a long discussion on 'letting the masses feel good' while talking to President Alberto Fujimori of Peru.
'As the old proverb goes, 'a successful reign is based on prosperity of the people, and a peaceful world is based on a happy people',' Mr Li reportedly said. 'And the people will be happy if they can have their say.' Again quoting proverbs, Mr Li added: 'When the people are poor, the nation is mired in worries; when the people have lots of grievances, it will be a terrible world.' The former mayor of Tianjin pointed out whoever is running a country must ensure that 'the feelings of the masses are not pent up'. 'Let the people feel good, and they will have something to go after, and there will be drive in their work,' he said.
'The worst thing that can happen to a country is for its people to lose confidence, and the administrators to lose the support of the people,' Mr Li added.
While visiting Trinidad and Tobago earlier, Mr Li, who ranks fifth in the party hierarchy, spoke on the meaning of equality, which he called a 'popular world topic'.
'There should be equality between countries, peoples, the sexes, officials and the people, and among the people,' the semi-official China News Service quoted him as saying.
'Equality is the direction that human beings are after, the trend of history, and a milestone of social progress.' A veteran party cadre said in Beijing that in internal speeches in the past year, Mr Li had also emphasised virtues such as harmony, tolerance and 'uniting as many people as possible'.
He said it was remarkable Mr Li had steered clear of Communist Party jargon while talking to foreign dignitaries in his travels abroad.
'Li made no reference to the teachings of Marx, Deng Xiaoping or [President] Jiang Zemin,' the cadre said. 'This is despite the fact that throughout the country, ideological classes are being organised to learn from Jiang's teachings.' Diplomatic analysts in Beijing said Mr Li, who comes from a different faction to Mr Jiang, was trying to boost his power base and popularity in the run-up to the pivotal 16th Party Congress in 2002.
Meanwhile, the Campaign on the Three Representatives, designed to play up Mr Jiang's contributions of Marxism, has been extended to more party and government units.
In a meeting of cadres from the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection and the Ministry of Supervision, Politburo member Wei Jianxing said the struggle against corruption must be based on the spirit of the 'three representatives'.
The latter was a reference to the fact that the party represented the foremost production force in society, the most advanced culture, and the fundamental interests of the people.
'Jiang's teachings on the 'three representatives' have put new demands on our work against corruption,' national papers yesterday quoted Mr Wei as saying.