Former president Jiang Zemin made yet another high-profile foray into the public eye ahead of the Communist Party's key congress next month, as the octogenarian sent congratulations to his former middle school, in Yangzhou, Jiangsu, on its 110th anniversary.
Jiang, 86, wrote a calligraphy couplet on Thursday to mark the anniversary of his alma mater, Yangzhou Middle School, and to highlight contributions that the school has made in the nation's development, by nurturing various talents over the years, according to a report yesterday in the Xinhua Daily, a Nanjing -based newspaper affiliated with the Jiangsu provincial party committee.
The gesture was the fourth high-profile public activity the former top leader has participated in during the past month.
Late last month he attended a concert in Beijing along with his proteges, including former vice-president Zeng Qinghong and former vice-premier Li Lanqing, and early this month photos appeared online and in state media of Jiang celebrating the 100th anniversary of Shanghai Ocean University. Last week, he also sent condolences to the widow of late Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk.
A photo of Jiang's calligraphy from last week was picked up by most mainland news portals and had been widely circulated by thousands of internet users by yesterday.
Chen Ziming, a Beijing-based political analyst, said that, by taking the limelight time and again over the past few weeks, Jiang may be trying to send a reminder to the public that he remains in good health and that he still wields political influence. "Jiang has emerged because a consensus [on the line-up of the next leadership] has not been finalised, and there's still room for political contesting. Otherwise, there would be no point in him doing such things anymore," Chen said.
Likewise, Professor Joseph Cheng Yushek, a political scientist at Hong Kong's City University, noted that Jiang's unusually frequent activities indicated that he wanted to boost the bargaining chips held by his allies in their pursuit for seats in the party's top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).
"I believe three out of the seven seats of the new PSC have not been finalised," Cheng said.
"In the worst-case scenario where no consensus is reached, there could be a plan B that involves keeping the number of PSC seats at nine instead of downsizing the body," Cheng said.