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

Deng Tours the South for an Open Economy; Jiang Defeats the Yang Brothers and Seizes Power (1992–1994)
By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
September 16, 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 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?