Anything for Power: The Real Story of China’s Jiang Zemin – Chapter 3

Going From Section Chief Upward: A Calculating Hustler Uses Lies, Boasting and Empty Promises to Rise (1956–1985)
By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
September 2, 2014 Updated: February 5, 2015

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 3: Going From Section Chief Upward: A Calculating Hustler Uses Lies, Boasting and Empty Promises to Rise (1956–1985)

1. The Origin of Jiang’s Western-Sounding Nickname, “Kericon”

In 1956 Jiang Zemin turned 30. At the beginning of the year he finished his training at the Stalin Automobile Works in Moscow and returned to Changchun City in northeastern China to prepare for the construction of the Changchun No. 1 Automotive Plant; the facility was slated to begin operations officially that summer. Jiang began as the section chief of the motive power department. Soon after, following production of the first Liberation Brand truck, he was promoted to a deputy director of the division. Jiang’s immediate superiors were a Soviet technician and a director, Chen Yunqu. Though Chen was an expert, he lacked the credentialing that came with being a CCP member, and so it was that Jiang, a full-fledged member of the Party, became Secretary of the Party branch in the division.

Much did Jiang Zemin benefit along the way from his CCP membership. Dating back as early as the CCP’s coming to power in China, Party members have always, in matters of personnel choices, enjoyed first consideration and been placed into important positions. Non-members—whether white or blue collar workers—have, on the other hand, been met with distrust. Jiang lacked a history of “revolutionary involvement” in CCP activities, being, instead, a traitor who received his education at the puppet Central University and a man who once worked for the KMT (before the CCP seized Shanghai). Under normal circumstances all somebody of Jiang’s profile could have expected was to be a target for “reform” or, at best, to become a provisional staff member. Thus it was that Jiang used the CCP martyr status of his uncle, Jiang Shangqing, to secure a rather glorious designation, “the foster son of a martyr,” by way of concocting a story of adoption. Jiang hence became a cadre the CCP felt it could trust. Jiang was, then, something of a rare find for the CCP: a man of the Party and somebody having good technical skills.

While at the plant, Jiang grew acquainted with his “fellow townsman” Shen Yongyan—a man who, like Jiang, came from the area of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces. The two became friends and would pass idle time in the evenings getting together and chatting. During breaks from work they often played ping pong. Word has it that Jiang would, after losing—a frequent event, allegedly—mumble a few words of Russian and take a seat off to the side.

In terms of Jiang’s technical skills, his colleagues knew that he wasn’t good at his job. But Jiang was good at something: talking. His talent was concentrated in his mouth. His relationship with the Soviet expert at the plant was most collegial, reaching new heights whenever Russian folk songs came into play. Jiang’s forte was not so much resolving technical problems as accompanying delegations that visited the plant. His colleagues thus gave him, in jest, a foreign-sounding nickname, “kericon”—a name suggestive of the times. Kericon is a character in a Russian novel who makes false, exaggerated, and empty statements, being a person ever keen on doing things for his own gain; upon assuming any real work his incompetence is exposed. The nickname Kericon not only suited Jiang’s personality, but was also befitting the standards the CCP used to promote people.

The CCP has come up with a host of rather ridiculous phrases and ideas over the years, such as, “a communist heaven on earth,” “the Four Modernizations,” “being fairly well-off,” and “Three Represents,” among others. Even now it still tries, vainly, to convince China’s people that they live in a supposedly “harmonious” society. But the CCP is not engaged in the actual production of much of anything, and when it meets with crises it simply resorts to killing people. Then, after the crisis has passed, it continues to exist by means of boasting and deception. It is for this reason that cadres who are adept at exaggerating and lying are considered indispensable. During Mao’s Great Leap Forward (1958–1962), exaggerating and lying reached a peak; a quick look through official news reports from that period quickly gives one a taste of things.

One case is worth recounting. On June 8, 1958, newspapers first reported that the wheat yield in Suiping County, Henan Province was 1,052.5 kilograms per mu. [1] By Sept. 18, 1958, the People’s Daily was reporting that the rice yield in Red Flag Agricultural Producers’ Cooperative in Huanjiang County, Guangxi Province was as high as 65,217 kilograms per mu. In July of that year, the bulletin of the Ministry of Agriculture claimed that summer grain production increased 69 percent from the year before, with the total output even surpassing that of the United Stated by 2 billion kilograms. A “great leap forward” also purportedly took place in the automobile industry. Within half a year, more than 200 types of automobiles were said to have been designed and manufactured. Moreover, the CCP claimed that advanced technology such as V-engines, power steering equipment, and automatic transmissions were being put into the new vehicles. China’s auto industry was said to be advancing rapidly and surpassing other countries.

One of the more advanced automobiles was allegedly created by Jiang Zemin and his coworkers. The new automobile employed a wooden air pump and a bamboo body. Jiang Zemin majored in engineering in school so he of course knew that his group’s “inventions” were not in fact of much use, practically speaking, though they were of use in terms of impressing people. Jiang realized that he was, by being in the spirit of things, showing himself to be in step with the Party, and that only by doing so could he continue to rise through the ranks. After coming to this understanding Jiang always managed to find a reason for his subordinates to complete tasks assigned them by the CCP, however absurd they were.

During the Great Leap Forward—an era in which a person could accomplish little without lying—Changchun No. 1 Automotive Plant went through a re-organization between the end of 1958 and the beginning of 1959 wherein the power division was split off and made into a branch of its own. It was then that Jiang Zemin, who had been building his credentials doing the CCP’s bidding, indeed moved up another rung and was made head of the branch.

2. A Time When People Starved to Death

The Great Leap Forward brought about economic problems and a famine of disastrous proportions. Since farmers were forcefully organized into “People’s Communes” to smelt steel, nobody was left to cultivate the land or harvest the grain. And the grain that each family had saved was seized and put into the communes’ canteens, where everyone was supposed to eat. As a result, some people ran out of food, and death from starvation started to occur in the rural areas. Within a short time, the famine spread to the entire country, including cities. Experts estimate that from 1959 to 1961, between 20 million and 50 million people starved to death. In many areas where the famine was particularly severe, people even ate other people’s children. In the Xinyang area of Henan Province and in Renshou County of Sichuan Province, as with other areas, some entire households and villages starved to death. In some areas 9 out of 10 homes were left empty.

Northeastern China enjoys the natural benefit of having a lot of land and fewer people. So conditions there were somewhat better during that three-year period. Even so, the workers in the Automotive Plant did not have enough to eat. Even the workers that did heavy labor were only rationed 15 kilograms of grain per month, and they had to purchase it with their ration cards. Jiang Zemin began to dislike being in the northeast all the more.

Back in 1956, soon after Jiang had returned from the Soviet Union, he and his wife Wang Yeping and their two young sons moved from Shanghai to Changchun. Relative to the positions that Jiang held, his family’s living conditions were quite good in Changchun. Not only had they Jiang’s income, but his wife as well had a good salary. Jiang’s family was assigned a three-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor. The apartment was equipped with a Soviet-style central heating system, gas stove, private bathroom, and double-glazed windows that were preferred in the severe cold of northeastern China. Most Chinese would have been envious of such living conditions. Although prices were very low then, all most people could dream of was to manage to fill their stomachs with things like steamed cornbread. But even during the years of the famine, Jiang Zemin expected to eat chicken every day.

The conditions in Changchun were not agreeable to Jiang’s wife, who was accustomed to living in the region south of the Yangtze River. In Changchun she could only wear skirts for a few days each year; most of the time she had to wrap herself in a heavy, thick cotton jacket and cotton-quilted pants. So she, as someone who loved to dress beautifully, was bitter toward Jiang Zemin, and blamed him for moving the family to such an icy, frigid place.

CCP official Wang Daohan had sent Jiang Zemin off on his training in the Soviet Union wishing to help him earn a promotion down the line. But as a consequence, Jiang ended up having to leave Shanghai to work in Changchun. Jiang hated to leave prosperous Shanghai and the banks of the Huangpu River, which reminded him of happy days in his youth. But, looking at things from a long-term perspective, Jiang realized that moving to Changchun would eventually pay dividends and lead to promotions.

Jiang’s wife, Wang Yeping, grew up in Shanghai. She is the niece of Wang Zhelan, who is the wife of Jiang Shangqing—Jiang Zemin’s martyred uncle. She graduated from Shanghai Foreign Language Institute and is two years younger than Jiang Zemin. After skirt-chaser Jiang transferred from the Japanese puppet Central University in Nanjing to Shanghai Jiaotong University, he visited the Wang family a few times. He and Wang Yeping were somewhat interested in one another, though neither thought much of it at the time. In 1949, when it was obvious the CCP would soon seize power, Jiang was struck by an idea and began pursuing Wang Yeping.

Wang Zhelan had some resentment towards the family of Jiang Shijun (Jiang Zemin’s biological father). When her husband, Jiang Shangqing, had passed away, the CCP was still being called “the Communist bandits.” Being an older brother, Jiang Shijun had admonished Jiang Shangqing to leave the Communist bandits, but to no avail. To avoid being implicated, he tried not to have much contact with his brother. When Jiang Shangqing died, Jiang Shijun thought that it was his younger brother’s own fault, and thus, though he was one to indulge in extravagant spending, he never gave Wang Zhelan’s family any financial assistance. The 28-year-old widow lived a hard life raising daughters of one and three years old. When Jiang Zehui, her second daughter, was interviewed by Kuhn, she said, “Our family had little to eat, sometimes no food at all.” [2]

After the CCP took power the situation reversed. Jiang Shijun hung his head low, and things grew difficult for his children as well. Jiang Zemin then proceeded to, in order to solidify the “martyr’s foster son” title he sought so dearly, make efforts to tighten his relationship with Wang Zhelan’s family. When Wang Zhelan visited her parents’ home in Shanghai and she saw that Jiang Zemin and her niece were dating, Wang Zhelan didn’t realize what Jiang had in mind. She thought that Jiang was different from his cold-hearted, disloyal father, and as such was pleased about their relationship. In December 1949, not even two months after the CCP was officially inaugurated, Jiang Zemin swiftly married Wang Yeping. The marriage emblazoned once and for all the glorious title, “foster son of a martyr,” as if across Jiang’s forehead.

Soon after, aunt Wang Zhelan found a job in a bank in Shanghai. After she retired, she was cared for by her elder daughter, Jiang Zeling, for over 20 years. About one month after Jiang Zemin became mayor of Shanghai she died in Yangzhou City at the age of 74.