Mainland news portals yesterday trumpeted yet another public appearance by former president Jiang Zemin in the run-up to the Communist Party's once-in-a-decade power change next month. Jiang's October 9 meeting with Shanghai Ocean University leaders in Beijing was his second high-profile public appearance since late September. Political observers see the appearances as an effort to reassert his influence before the party's 18th national congress. News of Jiang's visit was yesterday simultaneously carried by several popular news portals including the People's Daily 's website and Sina.com even though the university had posted details about the event a week ago. The university, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this month, posted two group photos and a close-up shot showing the 86-year-old retired leader in apparently good health. Last year, Jiang reportedly fell seriously ill, sparking rumours of his death. "On October 9, comrade Jiang Zemin and his wife, Wang Yeping, kindly received the university's party chief, Yu Lijuan, and principal Pan Yingjie," the press release said. Jiang has long maintained a close relationship with the university. In the late 1940s, he, a former professor and the professor's wife worked at the same Shanghai foodstuffs factory. The professor's wife was a member of the factory chorus Jiang headed. Last month, Jiang attended a concert at the National Centre for the Performing Arts with former vice-president Zeng Qinghong, his closest protégé, and former vice-premiers Li Lanqing and Zeng Peiyan, among others. While many retired heavyweights have been making such appearances, Jiang's re-emergence coincides with reports of his renewed involvement in key party decisions. Two days before Jiang's university visit, former Standing Committee member Li Ruihuan also made a rare public appearance at the China Open tennis finals in Beijing. Li is widely regarded as Jiang's rival.