Anything for Power: The Real Story of China’s Jiang Zemin – Chapter 4

Trimming His Sails in Dealing With the Shanghai Student Upheaval; Licking the Boots of the Upper Echelon to Rise Further (1985-1989)

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.


Chapter 4: Trimming His Sails in Dealing With the Shanghai Student Upheaval; Licking the Boots of the Upper Echelon to Rise Further (1985-1989)

1. Working His Connections and Fawning on Key Personnel to Become Shanghai’s Leader

It’s as if Jiang Zemin has an indissoluble bond with Shanghai. Though he was a traitor in Nanjing City, his transfer to Shanghai Jiaotong University allowed him to conceal his traitorous past. His performance as he worked in the Ministry of Electronics Industry was only mediocre, yet he became Mayor and Party Committee Secretary of Shanghai Municipality. That gave Jiang an opportunity to feel what it was like to crush dissent with violence, as he suppressed the outspoken students there. After ascending to the position of General Secretary of the CCP, Jiang spared no efforts in establishing the aptly named “Shanghai Gang” to ensure the stability of his power. Tellingly, as soon as the SARS crisis arose Jiang retreated to Shanghai and went into hiding.

Jiang Zemin’s receiving a position in Shanghai in 1985 was the result of strong endorsement from Chen Guodong, the Party Committee Secretary of Shanghai Municipality, and Shanghai’s Mayor, Wang Daohan. Chen and Wang did not act solely for the sake of the state, but also to reciprocate the goodwill of [Jiang’s uncle,] Jiang Shangqing.

Jiang Shangqing was once Wang Daohan’s immediate superior. During the initial period of the War of Resistance against Japan, Wang Daohan had held the post of Jiashan County CCP Committee Secretary in Anhui Province; he reported directly to Jiang Shangqing. Chen Guodong, meanwhile, had become Anhui Lingbi County’s Magistrate due to Jiang Shangqing’s strong recommendation.

Forty years later, those two CCP cadres with backgrounds in the East China system were both made high provincial officials. Feeling indebted, they gave maximum support to Jiang Zemin, the supposed foster child of the deceased Jiang Shangqing.

When we look at the histories of the people who supported Jiang Zemin, we can see that it was not due to his abilities that Jiang rose to power, but rather, to his connection to a deceased man that purportedly adopted him.

Every winter CCP elders retreat to Shanghai. This fact gave Jiang many chances to curry favor with influential officials and move closer to fulfilling his political ambitions. The abilities of Chen Yun and Li Xiannian to influence, respectively, the CCP’s Central Committee and State Council members, provided Jiang with the opportunity to maneuver his ascent.

Chen Yun was born in Shanghai. After the Zunyi Meeting, while the Red Army was fleeing to the North, Chen was ordered to reinstate the CCP’s underground activities in Shanghai. After the CCP came to power and established its government, Chen, who had simultaneously held the position of Secretary of the Central Committee Secretariat and Deputy Premier of the State Administrative Council (now known as the State Council), was also made Director of the country’s Financial and Economic Committee. Virtually all cadres closely associated with Chen and who supported a planned economy were so-called “leftists” and politically conservative. Chen’s relative Song Renqiong, who later held the post of Minister of the Organization Department of the CCP Central Committee, along with Chen’s student Yao Yilin and the cadres in the East China system, were virtually all from Chen’s clique. The clique also included Chen’s aid, Zeng Shan, who was the Financial and Economic Committee Director of the East China region and the father of Zeng Qinghong, a current member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. Others who were once in office under Chen Yun included people like Chen Guodong, Wang Daohan, and the Chief of the Organization Department of the East China Bureau, Hu Lijiao. Li Xiannian, however, was constantly entangled in conflicts with Deng Xiaoping, asserting his reservations about, and later rejection of, Deng’s economic “reform and opening-up” policies.

Although Deng Xiaoping was the core leader of the second generation leadership, Chen Yun and Li Xiannian constantly held him back as they struggled for power. Neither side, however, ever achieved an absolutely dominant position. Jiang Zemin, who was at the time Mayor of Shanghai, attended to the needs of and kissed up to both Chen and Li, singing the praises of their economic plans. But at the same time, Jiang didn’t dare to offend Deng Xiaoping. And in front of Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang the conservative Jiang Zemin would morph into a completely different person, for he felt it necessary to go along with and express outwardly an interest in economic reform.

2. A First Sweet Taste of Success in Suppressing Dissent With Violence

Jiang Zemin came to Shanghai during a time when urban reform was just beginning. Citizens were faced with prices of non-staple food products and other daily basic necessities that unexpectedly rose 17 percent within just one year. The CCP claimed that the rise in costs was just a precursor to an economic breakthrough. Not only were there no breakthroughs in the price of goods, however, but the high prices even led to public discontent and gave rise to a student movement. The students demanded that the government solve two problems: the increase in living costs and the corruption of government officials.

At that time, it was Hu Yaobang who presided over the CCP Central Committee, so, naturally, Jiang Zemin presented himself as being part of the reformist camp. Jiang went to a university to make a speech to more than 10,000 teachers and students. There he acknowledged that the rise in prices was beyond expectation but explained that the market economy would ultimately stabilize the prices, making them reasonable. The students believed Jiang at the time. Meanwhile, far away in Beijing was Hu Yaobang, who had begun actively pushing for political reform.

A series of significant events took place in 1986. In July, not long after doing graduate study at Princeton University in the U.S., the Vice President of the University of Science and Technology of China (in Anhui Province), Fang Lizhi, gave a series of speeches advocating democratic principles. In September, Taiwan’s first opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), founded 14 years earlier, won the general election and set the stage for political change in the Republic of China (Taiwan). The news was broadcast on Voice of America and heard by many students inside China. Those who were inspired by the idea of democracy were particularly excited after learning that Taiwan, having the same language and racial background as Mainland China, could form an opposition party.

The end of 1986 was the breaking point that prompted students to begin demonstrating. Setting them off was a stipulation by the Party Committee of the University of Science and Technology that undergraduate and graduate students were not allowed to run against the designated candidates for the People’s Representative positions in the elections in Anhui Province. In early December, more than 10,000 students from the university took to the streets twice to demonstrate. The news spread to Shanghai, which led to an expansion of the movement: students from Shanghai Tongji University and Shanghai Jiaotong University took to the streets in succession in response, calling for democracy, freedom, equality, and the abolition of autocratic dictatorship. The outcry later swept across Beijing and all over the country.

Students in Shanghai demanded dialogue with Jiang Zemin as well as, among other things, political reform, freedom of the press, and a loosening of governmental controls. On Dec. 8 of that year, Jiang and the Minister of Propaganda of the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee held a dialogue at Shanghai Jiaotong University with the students. What unfolded was dramatic in several regards.

Jiang Zemin stepped onto the podium, a sheet of paper in hand. He put on his thick glasses, unfolded his paper, and proceeded to speak about the achievements of the five-year economic plans. The students, however, were noticeably disinterested—the 3,000-plus students booed and hissed at Jiang. An irate Jiang looked up, sneered, and stared at the students, trying to identify the perpetrators. The students kept booing, unfazed. Some even shouted, “That plan of yours, we’ve been reading about it in the newspapers and seeing it on TV every day. This time you should listen to us!” Other students began shouting slogans.

Jiang Zemin, with sternness in his voice, pointed at the most boisterous student and said, “Jeering at me won’t get you anywhere. Let me tell you, I’ve seen plenty of upheavals! What’s your name? I dare you to come up to the podium. I dare you to make a speech!”

To Jiang’s surprise, the student did get up and walk up to the podium. He took the microphone and began talking confidently about his views on democracy. Then about 10 other students sprang up and went to the podium, standing face to face with Jiang, ready to debate. Jiang’s legs began to shake as things escalated. The students demanded freedom of the press, open and unbiased reports on their marches and demonstrations, and open debates in the form of large posters. The audience directed its attention to the students making the speeches.

Most shocking to Jiang was that the students went so far as to ask an extremely touchy question: “How did you become mayor?” Jiang smiled awkwardly in response as he retreated to the edge of the platform. When people had turned their attention away from him, Jiang signaled to the Minister of Propaganda, Chen Zhili, to take pictures of each student who came up to the podium. He wanted to take revenge on them later.

After the students’ emotionally-charged speeches it was finally Jiang’s turn to speak. He said, “As soon as I entered the campus, I saw your big posters.” Jiang tried hard to force a smile and went on to say, “You want to set up a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ That is from Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, given on Nov. 19, 1863 to commemorate the martyrs of the American Civil War. Now I want to ask you, which of you can recite the address verbatim?”

The rowdy students were silent, wondering what tricks Jiang had up his sleeve. Faced with the students’ silence, Jiang, accustomed to the use of showmanship to distract from real issues, regained his confidence. He plucked up his courage, cleared his throat, and began to recite loudly, in English, the preamble of the U.S. Constitution and then Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address. The night before he had gone over each time and again so as to commit them to memory.

After the Cultural Revolution and at the initial stage of the reform and opening up period, students’ proficiency in English was, to be sure, in general not that high. Jiang Zemin prattled on with his recitation until he could recite no more. With a triumphant look he asked, “Did you understand that? I tell you, the situation in China is different from that in America…” When Jiang then began to ramble about how the leadership of the Party would be necessary for democracy, a student shouted at the top of his lungs, “We want to have the freedom to march and demonstrate now—as the Constitution guarantees! And to have news reported freely!” Jiang retracted his forced smile. With a fierce look that camouflaged the faint heart within, Jiang added, “Whoever blocks traffic and sabotages production is obstructing reforms, and therefore must bear the political consequences!” The students, bowed neither by persuasion or threat, remained fervent in their defiance of Jiang Zemin even though they had lost the microphone.

The afternoon’s meeting lasted for over three hours. As the atmosphere grew only increasingly more tense, Jiang lied and said that he had an appointment concerning foreign affairs and had to leave. Panic-stricken and eager to escape, on his way out Jiang accidentally bumped his head on a partially opened door. Though the cut was not deep it bled much. Jiang couldn’t stand the thought of waiting there, on the scene, to have his wound dressed, and so he used his hands to cover his forehead, hurriedly walked out, got into his car, and slipped away. Jiang’s panicked exit was for quite some time the standing joke among students.

It was surprising that, as mayor of Shanghai, the first thing Jiang did upon returning to his office was to make a phone call to the Secretary of the Party Committee of Shanghai Jiaotong University, He Yousheng. Jiang instructed He to go to Chen Zhili and collect the photos of students from that afternoon. Jiang urged him repeatedly to uncover the students’ names and class years. He Yousheng realized the seriousness of the matter, and repeatedly assured Jiang he would act accordingly.

Immediately afterwards Jiang Zemin instructed that, since Shanghai Jiaotong University was engaged in “bourgeois liberalization,” it was to shut down all student organizations and publications; only dance parties would be allowed henceforth. So it was that Jiang distracted people from their concerns over democracy and human rights by satisfying their more base desires—a method he has continued to use through the present. And the tactic proved quite effective. When the student movement started in 1989, students in different parts of the country marched and organized like wildfire. The students at Shanghai Jiaotong University, however, closed their doors and held dance parties all through the night, as they had once before. Not until Beijing students began a hunger strike on May 13, 1989, did many university students in Shanghai come out to march and express support. But the students at Shanghai Jiaotong University, now indifferent, continued to be preoccupied, holding dance parties daily. It was only when the government imposed martial law on May 19, 1989, that the students of Jiaotong University came out in droves to join the large-scale marches.

The day after Jiang Zemin’s 1986 “dialogue” with the students at Jiaotong University, the students of Shanghai took to the streets and gathered at the People’s Square, marching all the way to the city government and demanding further dialogue with Jiang. Their request was granted, but the meeting, from start to finish, was no different from that of the previous day. Jiang had learned from the first encounter and used it to his advantage the second time around. He quickly ordered 2,000 police to stand by at the Square and await his command. Jiang this time, enjoying the protection of the armed forces, was no longer full of forced smiles. He played tough and refused to give an inch—a chameleon-like change from only the day before. The dialogue ended in deadlock and the police were used to disperse students by force; the most rebellious were whisked off by bus. The students dispersed in an uproar. To Jiang the episode was a taste of sweet success—success in using political might and force to suppress dissidents.

The highly vindictive Jiang would never condone anyone who failed to comply with his demands, much less students who had defied him and embarrassed him before a crowd. The students whose photos were taken by Chen Zhili were not in the same class year and thus graduated at different times. In those days, China had a system whereby the government allocated college graduates to different locations. Jiang Zemin—the mayor—personally involved himself this time in the petty work of following up to see where those students were sent. He was not satisfied until each of the students who had spited him were sent off to the most remote and poverty-stricken areas of China.