The state funeral of former president Jiang Zemin marked the end of an era and the turning of a new page in Chinese politics. President Xi Jinping heaped praise on his predecessor for his statesmanship, upholding socialism and defending the Communist cause, while also pressing ahead with reform and opening up in the aftermath of Beijing’s crackdown on a pro-democracy movement. “Comrade Jiang Zemin, who is sincerely loved by the whole party, the army and the people of all ethnicities, will live forever,” Xi said in his eulogy at the funeral attended by thousands at the Great Hall of the People. Jiang, who died last month in Shanghai at the age of 96, was cremated at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing. The cremation ceremony was attended by Xi and other top leaders, including Jiang’s immediate successor, Hu Jintao . The funerary events - held at a sensitive time when anti-Covid controls protests have erupted across the country - were comparable to those for late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping 25 years ago, who was widely hailed as the main architect of China’s reform enterprise. The day of the memorial was a day of mourning across China. Flags at official buildings and embassies were lowered to half-mast, and financial trading was suspended for three minutes when the funeral was held. In Hong Kong , government officials, lawmakers, civil servants and the public also paid their respect to the former president, who presided over the handover ceremony of the territory in 1997. Mourning was observed in China’s cyberspace too. Prominent Chinese websites and social media platforms were turned monochrome as a gesture of sorrow. Public entertainment venues such as theme parks were also closed for the day. Jiang, who was handpicked by Deng as the Communist Party general secretary after purging the disgraced chief Zhao Ziyang, is widely credited with leading China out of diplomatic isolation to become a country of much higher global standing. The former president not only helped China break through western sanctions in the 1990s, but he also reshaped the Communist Party with his “Three Represents” theory in embracing private entrepreneurs as party members. Internationally, he is remembered as the Chinese statesman who had scored an array of firsts - the first Chinese leader to visit the US in 12 years after the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, the first visit to Japan as a Chinese head of state in 1992, while he also cemented China’s World Trade Organization membership in 2001. Jiang, who was Shanghai’s mayor and party boss before his accession to the top, is still fondly missed by many Shanghainese - especially the older generations, who remember him as one of their own. Jiang’s death signifies that the era of “old-man politics” in China had ended, as the influence of party elders like him dwindled after they stepped down from their official positions. In his eulogy for Jiang, Xi, who now enjoys unrivalled power in the leadership, called on the country to rally around himself and to “inherit the will of comrade Jiang Zemin … and to write a new chapter of socialism with Chinese characteristics”. As evident from Jiang’s state funeral, few will confuse who is writing the next chapter of Chinese politics. 60 second catch-up Jiang Zemin funeral: Xi Jinping hails late leader for steering China through tough times and defying Western pressure Video: Xi Jinping pays tribute to late Chinese president Jiang Zemin at state funeral in Beijing Why former Chinese leader Hu Jintao was highest profile absentee from Jiang Zemin’s funeral As it happened: Xi Jinping pays tribute to late Chinese president Jiang Zemin - ‘a great Marxist and leader’ Chinese leadership mourns ‘insurmountable loss’ of Jiang Zemin as former president dies aged 96 Video: Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin dies at the age of 96 Opinion: Jiang Zemin paved the way for China’s rise. He was helped by diplomats like Liu Huaqiu Deep Dives ‘Dig into tough problems’: scientists remember Jiang Zemin for his intellectual curiosity Former president had a keen appreciation of science, ‘thirst to explore new ideas’ Jiang sometimes even phoned researchers directly with tough questions Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin has been remembered for his lifelong intellectual curiosity and keen appreciation of science. Jiang died last week at the age of 96. Jiang, who led China’s economic integration through the 1990s and early 2000s as it transformed into a global power , always made time to dig into complex scientific problems and learn from scientists despite his busy schedule, according to some acquaintances. Read more China’s economic rise under Jiang Zemin featured lessons, warnings that still resonate today When China was at a critical crossroads in 1989, Jiang helped solidify the groundwork for a socialist market economy via market reforms and international trade But the economic awakening was not without its pitfalls, as corruption was widespread in the 1990s and China’s wealth divide turned into a vast chasm China’s embrace of change in critical times – with bold economic reform and the pursuit of favourable external ties – was seen as a hallmark of Jiang Zemin’s 13-year leadership. And such proactive pursuits serve as a lesson that many analysts today believe could help the country weather a variety of storms and looming headwinds. Read more China, US and the Jiang Zemin reset: how former Cold War rivals found a decade of unsteady calm after Tiananmen Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton met in Seattle in 1993, when an ostracised China was ‘in great difficulties’ following the Tiananmen crackdown So began Jiang’s eventful steering of bilateral ties, the high points of which were China’s entry to the WTO and hosting of the 2008 Olympics When Jiang Zemin arrived in Seattle in November 1993 – his first US visit as president of China – Beijing’s relations with Washington and most of the world were in disarray, overshadowed by the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown four years earlier. China was “in great difficulties” back then, hit by US-led sanctions and diplomatic isolation following the events of June 1989, former foreign minister Li Zhaoxing recalled later. Read more Shanghai remembers Jiang Zemin as ‘key architect’ of growth and reform Residents remember the former president who died on Wednesday as an influential leader that put the city firmly on the path towards economic reform Jiang graduated from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 1947, earning a degree in electrical engineering. He had joined the Communist Party while studying there Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin died in Shanghai, the city that had a profound impact on his life and political career. Residents of the mainland’s commercial and financial hub, in which he reigned as mayor and Communist Party secretary between 1985 and 1989, remember him as an influential leader that put the city firmly on the path towards opening up and economic reform. Read more Jiang Zemin: leader who counted Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule as one of his proudest achievements Jiang Zemin promised Beijing would unswervingly implement the principles of ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong’ Past and present Hong Kong chief executives pay tribute to ‘outstanding leader’ No Chinese leader had set foot in Hong Kong for more than a century until then-president Jiang Zemin landed on the eve of the city’s historic return to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, with a strong pledge of non-interference in local affairs. Jiang, the first Chinese head of state to visit Hong Kong, flew in on the afternoon of June 30 along with then premier Li Peng, Zuo Lin, widow of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, architect of the “one country, two systems” governing principle, and other officials to mark the end of 156 years of British colonial rule. Read more Jiang Zemin: the president who took China from Tiananmen pariah to rising power Jiang is hailed for mending ties with the West, the handover of Hong Kong, modernising the Communist Party at home and a successful bid to host Olympics In a country led by inscrutable politicians, charismatic ‘Uncle Toad’ came to be admired for his distinctive appearance and idiosyncratic diplomacy Jiang Zemin , China’s top leader in the 1990s and the early 2000s, has left behind a country with a much higher global standing and an economy far more integrated with the world than Communist rulers before him knew. Jiang, who ruled the country from 1989 to 2002, died in Shanghai from leukaemia and multi-organ failure just after noon on Wednesday, according to an official announcement by state news agency Xinhua. He was 96. Read more Global Impact is a fortnightly curated newsletter featuring a news topic originating in China with a significant macro impact for our newsreaders around the world. 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