Anything for Power: The Real Story of China’s Jiang Zemin—Chapter 7

Anything for Power: The Real Story of China’s Jiang Zemin—Chapter 7
(Luis Novaes/Epoch Times)

Jiang Zemin’s days are numbered. It is only a question of when, not if, the former head of the Chinese Communist Party will be arrested. Jiang officially ran the Chinese regime for more than a decade, and for another decade he was the puppet master behind the scenes who often controlled events. During those decades Jiang did incalculable damage to China. At this moment when Jiang’s era is about to end, Epoch Times here republishes in serial form “Anything for Power: The Real Story of Jiang Zemin,” first published in English in 2011. The reader can come to understand better the career of this pivotal figure in today’s China.

The full series is available here

Chapter 7: Deng Tours the South for an Open Economy; Jiang Defeats the Yang Brothers and Seizes Power (1992–1994)

Deng Xiaoping lost his major advocates for the reform and opening-up policy upon the removal of Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. Jiang Zemin, at the core of the “Third Generation Leadership,” not only didn’t promote a program of reform and opening-up, but went so far as to criticize the theory. Deng came to believe that he had no choice but to lobby for the policy himself. Thus it was that an aged and frail Deng, with the help of his daughter, made a special tour of southern China in 1992 to promote a by-then halted program of reform and opening-up.

On Jan. 17, 1992, a special train departed from Beijing, speeding southward. On the train was Deng Xiaoping, then 88 years old, accompanied by his wife, daughter, and an old friend—China’s president, Yang Shangkun. From Jan. 18 to Feb. 21, Deng journeyed through Wuchang, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, and Shanghai, making for what later became known as “Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour.”

The direct cause of Deng’s Southern Tour was Jiang Zemin’s promotion of extreme Leftist (conservative, hard-line) policies that opposed reforms. And it was Jiang who, even after Deng’s tour, prevented reporting on speeches made by Deng during the tour. Of all things, though, in the aftermath of Deng’s tour Jiang shamelessly took credit for the reforms that unfolded. The fact is, that year the persons who helped Deng the most in promoting reforms and opening-up were brothers Yang Shangkun and Yang Baibing, both of whom held power in the military. After the tour, the figure who had the most important role in shaping China’s economics was not Jiang but Zhu Rongji. With the 14th Plenary Session of the CCP’s National Congress the Yang brothers lost their influence in the military and soon grew to become opponents of Jiang. Jiang apparently sensed this: not only did Jiang team up with Zeng Qinghong to kill Yang Shangkun in 1998, but he also, again with Zeng’s help, perpetually wanted Yang Baibing dead. Jiang’s dislike of the Yang brothers went beyond personal grudges to include jealousy over the brothers’ accomplishments. Jiang saw the Yang brothers as an obstacle to taking credit for Deng’s successful program of reform.

1. Deng Xiaoping’s Ultimatum

On Jan. 18, 1992, Deng Xiaoping arrived in Wuchang to meet with Guan Guangfu, Secretary of the CCP Hubei Provincial Committee, and Guo Shuyan, Governor of Hubei Province, marking the start of his Southern Tour. During the meeting Deng directly named Jiang Zemin and asked Guan and Guo to pass a message to the CCP’s Central Committee: “Whoever opposes the policies of the CCP’s 13th National Congress will have to step down.” Jiang found the message most vexing, though he chose not to voice his resentment. For quite some time Jiang didn’t express support of any type for Deng’s speeches on the Southern Tour.

On the 19th Deng’s train arrived in the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Deng, though usually a man of few words, there made a lengthy speech in which he clearly issued an ultimatum to Jiang: “Reform and opening-up is the trend of the times, which has gained the support of the entire Party and people throughout the nation. Anyone who isn’t part of the reforms will have to step down.” Along with this Deng had Yang Shangkun and Wan Li arrange a list of persons identified as “leadership personnel” for the 14th National Congress of CCP (to be held at the end of 1992); the list included candidates for the Party’s next General Secretary. During the tour Deng was accompanied by Yang Shangkun, who was a close friend and both Chairman of China and the first Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission. On the tour Deng met individually with people such as Qiao Shi, Liu Huaqing, Ye Xuanping, Zhu Rongji, and Yang Baibing. Deng’s approach bespoke of two things. For one, it suggested that Deng was working hard to garner support for his program of reform and opening-up. Secondly, however, it told of Deng’s intention to promote Qiao Shi and remove Jiang Zemin.

On the trip Deng repeatedly mentioned Zhao Ziyang’s “remarkable achievements in accelerating development” during his five years of managing the economy. After the Southern Tour Deng didn’t give up, again sending people to contact Zhao Ziyang. But Zhao still refused to admit any “wrong” on this part in handling the student democracy movement. Both before and after his trip Deng dispatched many people to speak with Zhao, but Zhao stuck to his position and insisted he was not wrong. Zhao honored his conscience, as opposed to the Party line—something rare in the Communist Party.

In the two years after his becoming General Secretary of the CCP, Jiang Zemin carried out extreme Leftist policies and labored to play up those strategies meant to counter the West’s alleged attempt to “peacefully transform” the communist regime. Deng Xiaoping’s words, “Anyone who isn’t part of the reforms will have to step down,” hit a sensitive nerve in Jiang. On the morning of Feb. 20, Jiang held an expanded meeting of the Politburo in which he transmitted Deng’s speech. When a series of Deng’s speeches were transmitted to the entire Party as CCP Central Committee documents, Jiang removed many passages, using the excuse that they would cause “ideological instability among cadres within the party.” Most notable was his cutting of passages such as, “Reform and opening-up is the trend of the times, which has gained the support of the entire Party and people throughout the nation. Anyone who isn’t part of the reforms will have to step down.” Jiang went so far as to prohibit news media from reporting details of Deng’s Southern Tour, the outcome of which was most people in China knowing nothing of the trip.

One day in late February 1992, Li Ruihuan, a member of the Politburo’s Standing Committee and the man in charge of ideology among Party members, asked Gao Di, head of the People’s Daily, “Why hasn’t the People’s Daily been reporting on Deng’s Southern Tour speeches? Why do they (the paper’s reporters) take no action?” Confident and bold, Gao Di answered with a question, “Comrade Xiaoping is now only an ordinary Party member. I wonder from what perspective can we portray him in a news report?” It was knowing that he had Jiang Zemin to count on that Gao dared contradict Li. But what Gao didn’t realize was that Jiang’s position as General Secretary was in fact bestowed upon him by Deng Xiaoping. Deng, who had the backing of the military, could rescind the appointment at any time.

2. Scared Witless

From March 20 to April 3, 1992, Beijing held the 5th Session of the 7th National People’s Congress (NPC). The meeting focused on whether to implement reforms. On the matter of Jiang’s cutting parts of Deng’s speeches from the Southern Tour, the military—the heavyweight in political struggles—spoke out. At the Congress, Yang Baibing—who was Secretary of the CCP Central Committee’s Secretariat, Secretary General of the Military Commission, and Director of the military’s General Political Department—was the first to utter support of Deng. Yang called out, “Protect the reforms and opening-up.” Along with this Yang directly asked the People’s Liberation Army Daily to publish an editorial, titled “Protect the reforms and opening-up.” The piece was significant in that it publicly articulated the reform-camp position, to “firmly respond to Comrade Xiaoping’s call and protect the reforms and opening-up” and took a public stand in support of Deng. He Qizong, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was the first in the General Staff Department to respond. Yang’s call to “Protect the reforms and opening-up” directly targeted Jiang Zemin. From that time on Jiang held deep resentment toward Yang and He. Later Jiang would strip them of power.

On March 26—a date that fell during the NPC meeting—a newspaper, Shenzhen Special Economic Zone Daily, ran a lengthy headline article, titled “An Eastern Wind Brings Spring—Reports on Comrade Deng Xiaoping in Shenzhen City.” This was the first publication to disclose Deng’s Southern Tour and his important speeches. In the afternoon of that very same day, the Yangcheng Evening News carried a reprint of almost the entire headline article of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone Daily, something most unlikely. Then on March 28, Shanghai’s Wenhui Daily and the China Business Times both ran the full text of the article. Two days later, on March 30, the Xinhua News Agency—a state-run agency under Jiang’s control—also ran the article in full. That Xinhua ran the piece some four days after it first appeared in the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reflected Jiang’s reluctance.

Yang Baibing took a stance on behalf of the military, publicly supporting Deng’s speeches on the Southern Tour, and in turn the military gave Deng its strongest backing. The powerful support of the PLA scared those who opposed reform. The tide suddenly had turned. A shocked and flustered Jiang felt that the military had it in for him. Jiang, still reeling, pulled a rather two-faced political trick when he met with the Japanese on April 1: he stated that he agreed with Deng’s speeches. Deng took Jiang’s remark to be empty talk, believing little sincerity was behind the words.

By then it was only months away from the 14th National Congress of the CCP. Yang Baibing played the military card, the impact of which was sizeable upon the upper levels of the CCP. The political situation in Beijing was dangerous and unpredictable. After Deng’s Southern Tour, Jiang Zemin’s lack of vision and fence-sitting pushed Deng to the limits of his patience. On May 22, despite the heat in Beijing at the time, Deng visited the Shougang Group—one of the largest steel companies in China. In front of the company’s workers and cadres he complained, “About my words, some people are careless, others silent. They actually oppose them and disagree. Only a small number of people really take action.” Deng then asked Beijing leaders Li Ximing and Chen Xitong, who had accompanied him to the site, to “give this message to the Central Committee.” By “Central Committee” Deng of course meant Jiang.

During this time period Qiao Shi—who was a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, Secretary of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee, and Director of the Central Party School—pointed out many times that reactions to Deng’s speeches should not be simply matters of “boast and empty talk.” It was Qiao’s way of criticizing Jiang indirectly. Vice Premier Tian Jiyun expressed in certain terms his support of Deng’s reforms.

At Qiao Shi’s request Tian Jiyun made a speech at the Party School of the CCP Central Committee in May 1992 criticizing Jiang Zemin, though not by name. He said:

“When eliminating the ‘influences,’ we must be alert for those who are two-timers. These people will turn their palms up for clouds and down for rain. [1] They speak in human terms to humans and in monstrous terms to monsters. When given the opportunity, they will spring forth to oppose the reforms and opening-up. Should these people gain supreme power they will spell disaster for the nation and the people.” [2]

Jiang clenched his teeth with hatred upon hearing the speech. He had been planning to make another show of support for the reforms, knowing that things weren’t going well, but now his bluff had been called by Tian.

Li Xiannian was on one occasion displeased with Tian’s support for the program of reform and opening-up. At a Politburo meeting on Oct. 27, 1989—not long after the Tiananmen Square Massacre—Jiang discredited all of Zhao Ziyang’s contributions to reform. On the spot Tian proceeded to point out, however, that the new generation of leaders could not deny the previous generation’s accomplishments; everybody was to have a share of the results as well as the problems. Li was irate, and yelled out, upon hearing Tian remarks, “Once again Zhao Ziyang’s lackey springs forth!”

But what rendered Jiang truly helpless was when Tian spoke openly in criticism of Jiang’s two-faced behavior while Jiang’s big supporter, Li Xiannian, was hospitalized. Jiang could do nothing about it. At the end of May, a group of special-care medical experts reported that Li was in critical condition. Jiang began to sense that his own position was in jeopardy and that the situation was very disadvantageous for him. With no alternative, Jiang could only turn his sails to the wind, softening his opposition to the so-called “bourgeoisie reforms.”

On June 9, 1992, the Party School of the CCP Central Committee was guarded so heavily as if to be facing a deadly enemy. Jiang, surrounded by Qiao Shi and a retinue of soldiers and police, entered the institution’s assembly hall. Faculty and students laughed at Jiang and the scene, remarking, “Qiao Shi must have forced Jiang to come here.” Jiang then proceeded, under pressure from Qiao, to deliver a talk in support of Deng’s Southern Tour speeches. Jiang felt this amounted to a loss of face, having been forced to come. His resentment of Qiao grew only deeper. One observer at the assembly hall commented, “You can see that Jiang didn’t mean what he said.” On the surface, at least, Jiang had made a show of obeisance.

Between the spring and summer of 1992, General Secretary Jiang’s standing sank dramatically. Some even speculated that Jiang would have to cede his post. On June 21, Li Xiannian died of illness in Beijing. The situation forced Jiang to change his attitude. Jiang quickly began to feign support for Deng’s reforms, though the move came much later than others’ support. So greatly did Jiang fear the prospect of losing his position that he couldn’t sleep or eat very well. Most worrisome to Jiang was that he might be rebuked within the Party for his current and past actions. Jiang thus made a secret visit to Deng and offered a deep-cutting round of self-criticism. Jiang swore with his life, eyes tearing up, to follow Deng and carry out the program of reform and opening-up straight through to the end.

Jiang was also feeling at that time tremendous pressure from the Yang brothers, Qiao Shi, Wan Li, and Tian Jiyun. Jiang harbored a mixture of hatred and fear of the group. Ultimately Jiang would do an about face, however, going from an anti-reform stance to one of support for the policy. Of critical importance to Jiang was—and still is—how this chapter of his history was written; he has long been eager to present himself as an open-minded person in favor of reform. One sentence in Kuhn’s biography of Jiang is telling, for in it one detects Jiang’s wish to conceal and rewrite this part of his past. Kuhn writes, “Deep down Jiang was an economic reformer, even if not with Deng’s missionary zeal.” [3] The “deep down” and “even if not with” are meant to mask all that Jiang willfully did to resist Deng’s program of reforms and outside efforts to “peacefully transform” China’s regime. As Jiang would have it he was, incredibly, the victim of bullying conservatives. But were such the case, Deng could have simply visited Jiang’s residence to discuss the strengthening of reforms. Why would Deng have had to travel with Yang Shangkun—a powerful military figure—all the way to the southern tip of China?

3. Conspiring and Scheming

Between the months of June and July in 1992, Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yun held intense negotiations over plans for high-ranking posts at the 14th National Congress of the CCP. The conflicts then unfolding among top officials were only aggravated by the power struggle shaping up over the redistribution of posts. Jiang’s shaky political status aggravated Zeng Qinghong—a trusted follower of Jiang who was Deputy Director of the CCP Central Committee General Office. Zeng has always been an extremely ambitious figure with a yearning for political power; he likes power and plays with power. Zeng came to believe that using Jiang was a shortcut to the upper echelon of power. Jiang’s incompetence made him prone to manipulation. If Zeng’s plans came to fruition, Jiang stood to become Zeng’s puppet in a matter of a few short years. But were Jiang to now step down amidst the pressure, Zeng’s political career would be shot.

Zeng has always had a knack for scheming and politicking. When Zeng hates someone he shows no signs of it, only to later destroy the person. Zeng’s father, Zeng Shan, was at one time Minister of Internal Affairs. His mother, Deng Liujin, used to be the Director of the Yan’An Nursery, where the top leaders sent their children. Many of today’s top CCP officials were reared in the nursery and call Deng Liujin “Mother Deng.” Zeng’s family background thus gave him exposure to power struggles among the elite, and it was through that that he learned how to stay safe amidst such conflicts, how to defeat dissenters, and how to gain and consolidate power in the complex arena of politics. Notable is that Zeng became skilled in the use of false evidence and information. All were skills Zeng would later employ in political struggles with the CCP’s top officials.

During the period when Jiang was badly frightened, Zeng analyzed the situation for Jiang. As he rendered it: Deng Xiaoping might replace Jiang by making Qiao Shi General Secretary; the Yang brothers, Qiao Shi, Wan Li, Tian Jiyun, and Li Ruihuan were all political enemies; the threat came mostly from the Yang brothers, as they held military power and Deng trusted them more than others. But an attack on the Yang brothers would prove for Jiang both difficult and dangerous, Zeng knew. Yet the rewards of victory stood to be great: with their elimination Jiang could escape the deadly situation he had fallen into and regain power. Zeng thought that although the Yang brothers’ political power was soaring at the time, they were nonetheless mere military men, and as such knew nothing of political tactics. Their power came from Deng’s total trust. The most important task then became to set Deng against the Yangs. Deng at the time was afraid his reform policy might be scrapped. A deeper fear still was that after his death people would redress the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989. Everyone knew that Yang Shangkun had a good relationship with Zhao Ziyang. Yang was in fact initially reluctant to use military force to suppress the student demonstrators. Thus on the issue of the massacre there was disagreement between Deng and Yang. Jiang was angry at the Yang brothers, who looked down on him in the military system, but never dared to broach the subject. After hearing Zeng’s analysis and advice, Jiang gained new hope and grew determined to defeat the Yang brothers. By doing so, the idea went, Jiang could not only save his political power but also take revenge. From that time forth Zeng and Jiang focused on how to take down the Yang brothers. Notable among their approaches was the use of the CCP central office to search for adverse dossiers that would implicate the Yangs.

When Deng Xiaoping, who had served in the Second Field Troop of the military, became the chairman of the Military Commission, people from other factions were edged out. Those who had served in the Third and Fourth Field Troops were most dissatisfied. The people who held military power, namely the Yang brothers and Liu Qinghua, were followers of Deng. The Yang brothers had the greatest power and as such were the targets of other dissatisfied factions in the military. In the early years of the reforms, Deng declared that “the military must show tolerance” and that more resources should be used for economic development. This caused the military some challenges for a period of time. It was in that period that Yang Shangkun and his brother loyally implemented the policy that “the military must show tolerance.” Deng also tried to persuade Zhang Aiping, Yang Dezhi, and Yu Qiuli to step down, wanting, ostensibly, to “bring in younger cadres.” The three, each a retired Deputy Secretary General of the Military Commission, later learned that the new person on the job was none other than Yang Shangkun—who was three years older than Zhang Aiping, four years older than Yang Dezhi, and seven years older than Yu Qiuli. This made the three unhappy. Li Xiannian, who previously served as the head of the Fifth Division in the Third Field Troop, had long been supporting the movement against Yang by Zhang Aiping (head of the Fourth Division of the Third Field Troop), Zhang Zhen (Chief of Staff of the Fourth Division), Ye Fei (head of the First Division), and Hong Xuezhi (Chief of Staff of the Third division).

Zhang Aiping had been opposed to the Tiananmen Square Massacre and thus Jiang kept a distance from Zhang for the first few years after coming to power. As Jiang Shangqing—Jiang’s supposed foster father—had been Zhang’s direct subordinate, in the first few years after Jiang met Zhang, Jiang had fawningly acted the part of a martyr’s foster child, being reverent and respectful to this man who had once led his “foster father.” But that changed after Jiang became General Secretary of the CCP, for he needed to take a firm stand in support of the firing upon students in Tiananmen Square; Jiang thus had to keep a distance from Zhang for some time. Now Jiang wished to overturn Yang Shangkun’s power, however, and so he once again began to get close to Zhang.

Although Zeng Qinghong realized Jiang had no military background, Zeng believed that they could nonetheless make use of the troops’ dissatisfaction as a means to isolate the Yang brothers and further alienate Deng Xiaoping from the Yangs. He thought this might be able to achieve the unthinkable.

In August 1992, Deng overworked himself with the redistribution of personnel for the 14th National Congress of the CCP and in arguments with Chen Yun. He suffered a stroke and was sent to the hospital. Yang Baibing and Yang Shangkun first received the news of Deng’s hospitalization and called a meeting with 46 high ranking army officers at the end of August in Beijing.

The officers as a whole looked down on Jiang Zemin. This was an open secret. Yang Shangkun, whom Deng had charged with watching over Jiang, laughed at Jiang when Jiang trembled upon touching a gun and knew not how it felt to fire a bullet. At the meeting Yang Baibing disclosed that Deng was not well and discussed whether Jiang would be a competent chair of the Military Commission. Yang mentioned that there were many who opposed Deng’s reform policies, and proposed means by which the troops could, following Deng’s eventual passing, preserve and implement the program of reforms. Yang asked attendants of the meeting to discuss various ideas and ways to cope with contingencies. The officers relentlessly criticized Jiang, who was opposed to the reforms and incompetent at his job. They said that Jiang knew nothing about military affairs, had no courage or resolution, and was not fit for the position of chair.

Jiang was shocked and alarmed upon learning of the meeting and began to despise Yang even more. Jiang was henceforth determined to bring about the Yang brothers’ destruction. Zeng Qinghong sensed that it was an opportunity for something big and that Deng could be used to bring down the Yang brothers. Jiang thus began leaking rumors to the outside and told Deng that there were signs the Yang brothers had betrayed him. Jiang told Deng he was worried. After several such conversations Deng began to feel that Jiang was telling the truth, and asked his followers to look into this issue. His followers claimed that what Jiang said was valid. From that point on the Yang brothers had lost Deng’s trust.

4. Fooling People With Rumors, Seizing Power

In advance of its 14th National Congress, the CCP Central Committee began its selection of leaders at all levels. From Sept. 7–10 the Central Military Commission held a meeting to discuss the arrangement of personnel in the military. Yang Baibing, who was in charge of the military’s personnel assignments and organizational structure, listed out 100 middle- and high-ranking officers who were to be promoted. After the names were approved by Liu Qinghua and Yang Shangkun, Yang Baibing presented the list to Jiang Zemin. Jiang and Zeng Qinghong closely reviewed the list and thought that it was a great opportunity to drive a wedge between the Yang brothers and Deng. Jiang and Zeng held on to Yang’s list and didn’t give it approval.

Jiang and Zeng began scheming on many fronts in hopes of sowing discord between Deng and Yang Shangkun. Deng was by then in his later years and lived in the seclusion of his home; notable is that he was deeply affected by his children. Zeng meanwhile, as the child of a high-ranking official, was well aware of Deng’s situation and planned to use Deng’s children as a means to sow dissent between Deng and Yang. Zeng proceeded to get in touch with Deng Pufang, Deng Xiaoping’s eldest son, through friends Liu Jing and Yu Zhengsheng—themselves children of top officials. Liu was a Red Guard leader during the Cultural Revolution and an author of the book Theory of Bloodlines. He was also Zeng’s classmate at Beijing College of Industry (now known as the Beijing Institute of Technology). Liu was at the time Mayor of Kunming City, while Yu was Mayor of Qingdao City. Liu and Yu were both former vice chairmen of the China Federation for Disabled Persons, which was run by Deng Pufang. Under Zeng’s instruction Liu and Yu met with Deng Pufang and spoke about the danger of the Yang forces and the need to take precautions against the Yang brothers. Later, when Zeng met with Deng Pufang in person, he stressed to Deng how loyal Jiang Zemin was to Deng Xiaoping, how capable of a leader Jiang was, and that Jiang was unable to fully wield power owing to interference from the Yang brothers. Zeng then, with Yang Baibing’s list of 100 officers in mind, told Deng Pufang that the Yang brothers held too much power and were planning to replace Deng Xiaoping’s followers in the military—a dangerous prospect. Zeng also told Deng Pufang that were Zhao Ziyang to reemerge and become Chairman of the Political Consultative Conference it would indicate that Deng Xiaoping had “indirectly admitted his mistake [in the Tiananmen Massacre].” Zeng further claimed that Yang Shangkun was still conflicted over the massacre and seemed set on redressing the student democracy movement. Were Yang to team up with Zhao, Zeng implied, they might well supplant Deng Xiaoping’s power. Zeng was playing off of Deng Xiaoping’s political anxieties, and pitched his rhetoric exactly as befit the occasion. Zeng talked up the massacre so as to breed discord between Deng Xiaoping and Yang Shangkun. Zeng tried to intimidate Deng Pufang by hinting that if what he said was true, the political situation could spiral out of control and result in Deng Xiaoping having to pay for his mistakes.

At the same time, Jiang Zemin and Zeng increased their efforts in collecting evidence to blackmail the Yang brothers. For one, they furtively spread word of the “list of a hundred names” that Yang Baibing had proposed. And secondly, they continued spreading rumors, with the effect that false statements about the Yang brothers quickly spread throughout Beijing. Everywhere it could be heard, “The Yang brothers are extremely powerful,” “Yang Shangkun wants to replace Deng Xiaoping,” “Yang Shangkun and Yang Baibing are planning to organize a silent coup,” “Deng Xiaoping is dying,” and “Yang Shangkun wants to be Chairman of the Military Commission.”

The CCP’s military was itself split into factions over the matter and beset with conflict, as some there, too, were dissatisfied with the Yang brothers. Jiang and Zeng thus resorted to people such as Zhang Aiping and Wang Daohan for help. Through such figures the military’s anti-Yang faction was goaded into speaking ill of the Yang brothers, even in Deng’s presence. They would claim things such as that the Yang brothers were growing too powerful and aspired to seize military power. They even went so far as to suggest that the Central Military Commission be restructured, with the Yangs being removed from power.

5. Evading a Disaster

When Yang Shangkun questioned Jiang Zemin as to why the list of a hundred names was yet to be approved, Jiang claimed that he needed to seek Deng Xiaoping’s advice. Not long after Zeng Qinghong and Deng Pufang met, Jiang Zemin, together with Yu Yongbo—Vice President of the General Political Department of the Military—visited Deng Xiaoping in person. Jiang accused the Yang brothers of seeking to seize military power. The Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Liu Huaqing, was also present at the meeting.

Jiang and Zeng used various means to ensure that Deng heard news of the Yang brothers’ supposed aspiration to “seize military power” and “redress the Tiananmen Massacre.” Deng thought this was serious. Serious all the more in that Deng had just been ill, and he realized he needed to do what he could to arrange political affairs after his death, not only ensuring that the 14th CCP National Congress continue to execute his policies of reform and opening-up but also to prevent the Massacre from being redressed and he, himself, from being criticized posthumously. Deng fell for Jiang’s feigned show of loyalty, and fell into the conspiracy Jiang and Zeng had designed. Facing objection from Chen Yun and Bo Yibo, Deng had no choice but to abandon his plan of having Jiang replaced. Deng decided to remove the Yang brothers’ military power and to recommended veterans such as Liu Huaqing and Zhang Zhen to Jiang for the assistance they could provide in controlling the military. But Deng knew, deep in his heart, that Jiang was not reliable and could only amount to a makeshift leader. For the long run Deng wanted to select a young “successor beyond the 20th century.” During the 14th CCP National Congress, Deng, in an unexpected move, arranged for Hu Jintao (then 49 years old) to be Jiang’s successor. Something of the sort—arranging for the successor of the current successor—had never happened before in the CCP’s history.

Deng’s appointment of the Fourth Generation leader bespoke of his distrust of the Third Generation leader, Jiang Zemin. It was little secret that Hu Jintao was Deng’s designated “crown prince.” But this fact has been suppressed, as seen in Kuhn’s book, which Jiang oversaw. Again history is distorted. Kuhn quotes Jiang as saying: “I may say that it was 10 years ago that I set my eyes on him.” [4] Much to the dismay of the general public, Jiang later refused to step down from power when his term had come to an end. Through the biography Jiang tries to recuperate his image, saying things such as that he liked to “bring in new blood” into the Party leadership. Kuhn claims that Jiang “had often felt that he was of a different generation than most Western leaders,” and that he “expected Hu’s appointment to alter international perceptions of China.” Flying in the face of the fact that most people had long expected Hu to be the successor, the biography has Jiang saying, “Probably no one has thought that we would choose Hu Jintao.” [5] Many an ignoble act and faux pas by Jiang is rewritten in Kuhn’s rosy depiction.

According to Liu Huaqing’s recollection, Deng Xiaoping just before the 14th CCP National Congress wrote a letter to the Politburo concerning the placement of personnel in the Central Military Commission. The letter stated that, “From now on, Liu Huaqing and Zhang Zhen shall handle the daily affairs of the Military Commission under Jiang Zemin’s leadership. In the future, when choosing a successor, the person must be someone who is familiar with the affairs of the military.” In the letter Deng laid out detailed plans for the new leadership of the Military Commission.

The 14th CCP National Congress was held in Beijing from Oct. 12–18, 1992. To the surprise of many the Yang brothers were, at the Congress, stripped of their military power. Yang Baibing, though promoted to membership in the elite Politburo, was actually stripped of real power.

Despite his astuteness and experience, Deng was deceived by Jiang and Zeng, the younger generation, and became the unwitting victim of a cunning scheme. From then on the Deng and Yang families ceased all interactions with one another. The 60 years of friendship between Deng and Yang Shangkun crumbled amidst the party’s internal political struggle. Little did Deng realize that by cutting off ties with Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, and the Yang brothers he was destroying the regime he had labored to build. Along the way Deng thus lost his most capable aides in both the Party and the military. Even though Liu Huaqing was loyal to Deng, Liu was aged and no longer that capable; Liu was no match for Jiang and Zeng in matters of Party politics. Some years later Liu was purged by Jiang and Zeng.

6. Two-Faced

Jiang could be described as two-faced in his dealings. He will beg and plead with a person when in need of help, only to dump the person when he meets with trouble. This can be seen in Jiang’s shifting attitude towards the Yang brothers. During the 5th Plenary Session of the 13th CCP National Congress in November 1989, Deng resigned from his post as the chairman of the Central Military Commission. In the inauguration ceremony, Jiang played humble and said that he was “not prepared for the job,” that his “ability falls short of (his) wishes,” and that he lacked military experience. Jiang made repeated overtures of loyalty to the Yang brothers. He said that it would be “beneficial” for his job if Yang Shangkun worked as the First Vice Chairman of the Military Commission, and Yang Baibing as the Secretary General of the Military Commission. A dozen days later, Jiang’s speech ran as a lead story on the front pages of the People’s DailyLiberation Daily, and other major state-run media.

By acting humble and expressing it officially in the press, Jiang toadied to the Yang brothers and even displayed something of a servile attitude. But this was none other than the same Jiang who later spoke ill of the Yang brothers to Deng.

Such chameleon-like reversals can also be seen in Jiang’s interactions with the family of Deng Xiaoping. When Deng was alive, Jiang was always full of smiles at seeing Mrs. Deng. After Deng’s demise, however, his descendants became targets of Jiang’s political intriguing. Though Jiang himself had a son who was notorious for corruption, Jiang threatened Deng’s son on account of his being corrupt. Jiang also deprived Deng’s family the right to interpret Deng’s political doctrines.

Years back, after Jiang finally made his way into Beijing’s government, the day he had long awaited finally came: the chance to meet Deng in person. Deng’s children still recall the day Jiang was first invited to Deng’s residence. As Jiang stood humbly before Deng, his face full of nervous smiles, those in attendance that day didn’t take notice, having seen many a bootlicker before. Awkwardness of the sort was nothing new. When Deng happily introduced the new Jiang as the Party’s General Secretary, people remained nonchalant, showed no interest, and are said to have at most given him a second quick glance.

Upon coming to Beijing, the first thing Jiang wished to do was frequent Deng’s residence. Jiang was new to Deng’s place and didn’t know his secretaries, nurses, relatives or others. Even Deng’s bodyguards and staff were unfamiliar. Jiang didn’t know these people or their backgrounds, but he was clear enough on the principle he would follow: to not offend a single person in Deng’s residence. Countless it seemed were the people passing through Deng’s residence, flowing through like water. But Jiang felt up to the task, having long since made a practice of fawning.

Be it in the corridors or the courtyards of Deng’s place, whoever it was Jiang met—little kids being no exception—Jiang would tuck in his gut, stand slightly aside, and say with a beaming smile, “After you!” The show of excess, though it delighted the kids, made the likes of cooks and bodyguards nervous. They felt this had to be a schemer. The sense of discomfort with Jiang’s conduct was shared by others.

It was well-known that Deng smoked a lot. Word had it the tobacco he smoked was of a special make and filtered for purposes of his health. His cigarettes were produced by the Yuxi Tobacco Company in Yunnan Province. Deng’s nurses had to not only ensure that he took his medication on time, but also remind him constantly to smoke less. Each time Deng wished to smoke a nurse would remind him when last he had smoked and try to persuade him otherwise.

So while those around Deng would kindly persuade him not to smoke, Jiang, himself a non-smoker, was ever quick to brandish a lighter for Deng. While Jiang might have provoked the ire of several nurses, in the end he won Deng’s heart.

Usually it was Deng’s nurses and bodyguards who would serve him tea or fetch his slippers. The children of China’s top officials, who were used to being served and who came to Deng’s residence to play, only knew to say “Grandpa Deng” and never were sure if they could or should help him in any way. This gave Jiang an otherwise rare opportunity. On many occasions Jiang would rush to serve Deng tea or fetch his slippers when he spotted a nurse or bodyguard about to do so. The onlookers were left at a loss for what to do.

Even to this day, the children present back then joke about Jiang’s flattery.

On what would have been Deng’s 97 birthday were he alive—Aug. 22, 2001—Jiang, as custom would have it, should have encouraged the media to run articles praising his benefactor, a gesture meant to show that the current leader hasn’t forgotten how he got to where he was. The act is also meant to set an example for later generations, and in Jiang’s case, could only serve to enhance his reputation. However, the directive Jiang gave the Ministry of Propaganda prohibited running any articles that would commemorate Deng. Such was the extent of Jiang’s gratitude, apparently.

7. Doctoring His Personal History

At the 14th CCP National Congress held in October 1992, Jiang Zemin secured his position as General Secretary of the CCP. Yet Jiang still felt that his qualifications and record of service were inadequate. It was thus that he instructed his secretary to take back the copy of his resume, which he had reviewed before. This time around Jiang put a question mark next to the line “became a CCP member and started working in April 1946.” The secretary knew at once that Jiang wished to tamper with his resume. The secretary then spoke with the drafters of Jiang’s resume and told them that General Secretary Jiang now recalled that he was close with a peripheral organization of the Shanghai CCP in 1943—when he entered Shanghai Jiaotong University. The wording was meant to be quite loose. Jiang, it implied, hadn’t been close with the Shanghai underground CCP, nor did he “join” its peripheral organization; he merely “was close with” a peripheral organization. Yet just exactly how “close” he got was hard to guess.

The change dated anew Jiang’s qualifications and record of service from having been a CCP official dating back to the Civil War to instead, now, a figure involved in the War of Resistance against Japan. The difference was significant.

Acting under Jiang’s instruction the Xinhua News Agency published, shortly after the 1st Plenary Session of the 14th CCP National Congress in October 1992, the resume of all members of the Central Committee of the CCP and Central Military Committee. Among the records, of course, was that of Jiang, which now stated that the Secretary had “participated in students movements led by the Shanghai underground CCP in 1943, and became a CCP member in April 1946.” The fact is, though, in 1943 Jiang was still in Nanjing City attending Central University, which was run by the Japanese, and he was never close with the CCP of Shanghai or any of its related organizations. Qiao Shi, who was quite familiar with the history of the Shanghai student movement, noticed that Jiang’s new resume had added the words “participated in student movements led by the Shanghai CCP in 1943.” Qiao began to feel a sense of disgust and anger towards Jiang. Tensions between Qiao and Jiang grew ever more intense after the passing of the 14th CCP National Congress.

8. Envying and Hating Deng Xiaoping

According to the internal decision during the14th National Congress in 1992, Jiang Zemin was supposed to complete his power transfer to Hu Jintao at the 16th National Congress of the CCP in 2002. Deng Xiaoping spoke privately with Li Ruihuan and Wan Li so as to ensure that Jiang would complete the transfer of power at the 16th Congress. On Oct. 19, 1992, Deng attended the 14th Congress and met with all Party representatives. There he gathered all members of the CCP Politburo Standing Committee to take a picture with Hu. In the photo Deng and Hu were front and center while Jiang, surprisingly, was in the back row. Jiang couldn’t stand being positioned as such in a personal picture with Hu Jintao, feeling it hurt his image as the General Secretary of the Party. He instructed personnel to remove his image and that of others from the picture. As a result, when the CCP Central Committee’s General Office delivered the photo to Hu, the background was completely dark. Only Deng and Hu remained in the photo. Twelve years later, in 2004, during the celebration of what would have been Deng’s 100th birthday, three different versions of the photo surfaced, creating quite a stir.

Outsiders speculated much about Hu, he being the new face in Chinese politics as of the 14th National Congress of the CCP. Jiang and Zeng Qinghong secretly instructed intelligence agencies to monitor Hu’s every move and collect whatever information possible about Hu. Hu understood well the danger he faced, and was thus extremely cautious during his years as General-Secretary-to-be.

Jiang and Zeng grew only more ambitious after their scheme to overthrow the Yang brothers and secure Jiang’s post as General Secretary met with success. Their plots and tricks grew increasingly outlandish. They threatened, roped in, and attacked political opponents by means of spreading rumors and collecting information on others. It was by such means that Zeng came to be known among CCP elite as “the black assassin.” Many look at Zeng with an admixture of fear and loathing.

In the wake of the 14th Congress Jiang harbored hatred toward Deng, his having wished to remove Jiang from his post. This was not readily apparent, of course, as Jiang always made an outward show of respect towards Deng. Jiang silently cursed Deng for having arranged his successor. On these accounts he could hardly forgive Deng. Immediately after Deng’s passing Jiang began to punish the Deng family, sparing not even Deng’s bodyguards or cooks. To the details of this we shall return later, though.

9. Building Jiang’s Private Military

Less than a month after the Tiananmen Massacre of June 4, 1989, the 4th Plenary Session of the 13th CCP National Congress was held in a heavily guarded Jingxi Hotel. That night, Wen Jiabao, Director of CCP Central Committee’s General Office, and Yang Dezhong, Deputy Director of the General Office and Director of Central Security Bureau, reported to new CCP General Secretary Jiang Zemin on the plans for investigation and surveillance of former General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. Each time Jiang met with Yang he would recall that Yang had served as a bodyguard to Zhao Ziyang, loyally guarding the reformer’s safety. With Zhao’s fall from power Yang now served Jiang in the role of overseeing surveillance.

Jiang felt uneasy about his personal safety, having reached the acme of power by means of a bloody crackdown on student democracy activists. Jiang took a lesson from the fact that in 1976 it was the Central Security Bureau Director, Wang Dongxing, who arrested the “Gang of Four” and put a halt to the Cultural Revolution, and thus wished to have someone trustworthy as director of the Central Security Bureau. The current director—Yang Dezhong—hardly fit the bill, though his qualifications were without equal: his credentials came from service to Zhou Enlai, Hu Yaobang, and Zhao Ziyang. Jiang thus lacked an excuse to remove Yang. What he could—and did—do, however, was to position as many trusted persons as possible around Yang. Jiang first arranged for the former Chief of Shanghai City’s Organization Administration Division, You Xigui, to come to Beijing and head up Jiang’s Security retinue. Jiang would later promote You to Deputy Director of the Central Security Bureau, making him a deputy of Yang.

After Jiang’s position was secured, in order to have You Xigui—who was head of Jiang’s security retinue—become Director of the Central Security Bureau, Jiang ignored opposition from military officials and broke CCP protocol by buying out Yang Dezhong (who was then Director of the Central Security Bureau) via promoting him to the rank of “First Class General”—the highest of General rankings—and then advising him to retire. The post of Director of the Central Security Bureau was then filled by You. The Central Security Bureau was thus, in effect, reworked for Jiang into something of a private army.

The Central Security Guard is responsible for the safety of all central government officials, including the chairman and vice chairmen of the People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. For this reason Zeng Qinghong paid special attention to the Guard. In the name of training, he ordered everyone in the Guard to participate in political study sessions, the effect of which was to brainwash the guards into loyalty not only to the CCP but also, more importantly, to Jiang Zemin. You and Zeng deployed security guards to monitor high-ranking officials.

Jiang has never trusted Wen Jiabao, Director of the General Office of the Central Committee, either, as evidenced by several moves Jiang made. First, Jiang transferred his personal secretary, [6] Jia Ting’an, into the General Office of the Central Committee; Wen could thus be monitored more easily. Not long after, Jiang further transferred Vice General Secretary of the Shanghai CCP Committee, Zeng Qinghong—a diehard follower of Jiang—to the General Office, which is a deputy position beneath Wen Jiabao. Jiang meanwhile eliminated the Central Political Reform Research Institute, which had been established by Zhao Ziyang. From that point on Wen could no longer issue orders to the secretaries in the General Office—as they reported directly to Jiang—though Wen continued to hold the title of Director of the General Office. Zeng Qinghong was in a full command of the secretaries. Everyone in the General Office could sense Jiang’s distrust of Wen.

After the October 1992 meeting of the 14th CCP National Congress, Jiang managed to solidify, even if temporarily, his position in the CCP. In March 1993, the CCP held its Eighth National People’s Congress, at which Jiang arranged for Zeng to become Director of the General Office, transferring Wen to be Deputy Director of the Central Committee’s Leadership Group for Rural Areas—a significantly lesser post. From that point on Jiang’s faction had full control of the General Office.

Jiang closely monitored all officials of high rank, while being afraid, ironically, that he himself was monitored. Jiang doesn’t trust anyone. After retiring from the position of General Secretary of the CCP, Jiang continued to hold the post of Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and it was by means of this position that he concurrently held the post of First Political Commissar of the Central Security Bureau.

In 1994, the 4th Plenary Session of 14th Congress announced that the Party’s old vanguard should retire without strings attached and not interfere with the administration of political affairs. In order to further cement Jiang’s position in the Party, Zeng added a controversial statement to the announcement, which read, “The history of the Communist Party tells us that there must be a firm central leading group that is formed through practice, and in this center, there must be a core. Without such a leading group and core the Party’s undertakings cannot succeed.” Those against the insertion believed it would remind people, rightly so, of the era when Mao Zedong built up a personality cult. Yet Jiang welcomed the addition. In a telling about-face, Jiang struck out the statement “the core of the CCP Central Committee of Hu Jintao” upon stepping down from his post as General Secretary. Jiang saw it fit that the statement was there in his day, providing a certain flattery, but not thereafter, lest others enjoy the adulation it suggested. This is a longstanding trait of Jiang’s.

*   *   *

In 1992 another event took place that would impact China as well as regions beyond her borders. The founder of a practice called Falun Gong, a Mr. Li Hongzhi, introduced to the general public his discipline of meditation and self-improvement.



[1] An idiomatic Chinese expression suggesting duplicity.
[2] Fu Guoyong, “Yifa Zhiguo Zhong Zai Yifa Zhiguan.” Epoch Times Chinese, May 9, 2004.
[3] Robert Lawrence Kuhn, The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin (New York: Crown, 2004), 214.
[4] Ibid., 529.
[5] Ibid., 353.
[6] In China’s communist party a personal “secretary,” usually male, can be an influential political figure and is charged with overseeing political affairs more so than the “secretarial” tasks that one might imagine.

From The Epoch Times

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