Jiang Zemin

Former big shots make a timely return to public life

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2005, 12:00am

Communist Party elder Song Ping and former party secretary-general Jiang Zemin have made rare public appearances recently in the run-up to the party plenum.

The re-emergence of Mr Song, widely believed to be a patron of President Hu Jintao, serves as a timely reminder of the backing for the president.

Mr Jiang's appearance strikes a different chord following reports that he has blocked Mr Hu's ally, Liu Yandong, from securing the post of Shanghai party secretary.

The pair appeared on September 27. Mr Song visited the China Agricultural University in Beijing, while Mr Jiang - who has kept a low profile since his retirement in March - paid a visit to Nankai University in Tianjin .

In a political culture where officials' public appearances are carefully planned, the unusual re-emergence of the two retired leaders could at least be seen as reminders that their presence should not be ignored.

Mr Song - who has kept a low profile in recent years - has been unusually active since late August. He attended an exhibition on the Yimeng revolutionary base on August 23 and visited Shanxi province from September 16 to 22.

Mr Song, the secretary of former premier Zhou Enlai and one of the few surviving party elders from the revolutionary era, is widely believed to be a key person behind the rapid advancement of Mr Hu's political career.

He played a crucial role in introducing Mr Hu to late patriarch Deng Xiaoping, who anointed Mr Hu as the successor to Mr Jiang.

According to Xinhua, the famous hardliner called for improving workers' livelihood to advance the construction of a 'harmonious society' - a hallmark political slogan of Mr Hu - during his trip to the central province, where he visited factories and farmers.

And days later, the 88-year-old made a visit to the China University of Agriculture, where he studied, to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

During his visit to Nankai University, Mr Jiang looked slimmer than before his retirement. His long absence from the spotlight once prompted rumours that he was in poor health.

He also made a public appearance last month in a ceremony to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the anti-Japanese war.