Former Party Leader Defies Edicts on Publicity

By Wen Jun
Wen Jun
Wen Jun
December 30, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Former Chinese regime head Jiang Zemin
Former Chinese regime head Jiang Zemin attends the 17th Party Congress on Oct. 15, 2007, in Beijing, China. Jiang has defied Xi Jinping's injunctions against publicity stunts in a series of recent activities. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

One of the first public injunctions that new communist leader Xi Jinping gave was to forbid officials from ostentatious publicity stunts—including writing inscriptions and congratulatory messages, which are often used to boost the profile of cadres. 

But Jiang Zemin, former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), recently published a preface to an anthology of poetry, along with a poem, and a book launch in the Grand Hall of the People. State Councilor Liu Yandong was there, along with Liu Qibao, head of the Party’s propaganda department.

The incident has been interpreted as a gesture of challenge to Xi, according to analysts.

Jiang has always courted attention, appearing in the media before and after the 18th Party Congress, when a major leadership change took place in November. 

The recent poem he penned was from the Charm of Bamboo, an anthology of 100 poems about the hardy Chinese plant.

Party propaganda outlets covered the news in English and Chinese. 

After the book launch Jiang made a string of other, sometimes pointed, public appearances. 

On Dec. 24, for example, he launched another book titled “Huang Ju,” after the former vice premier and Jiang loyalist who died in 2007. The book contains 430 pictures with explanatory notes.

Huang was a key member of the Shanghai Gang, a loose collective of cadres based about political interests in Shanghai, which was Jiang’s power base for some time. Huang was a willing implementor of Jiang’s campaign to persecute the Falun Gong spiritual practice, and one of the few senior Chinese leaders to die while in office.

The next day Jiang gave another inscription, at the No. 4 Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, and appeared in the media again on Dec. 27, handing down instructions about a book published by the Central Party Literature Press, a collection of Jiang’s speeches on China’s economy. 

Political analysts think that the string of recent appearances is an effort by Jiang to remind everyone that he still retains political influence. 

And by commemorating Huang Ju, Jiang is inviting Xi Jinping to also become a Jiang Zemin protégé, according to Lin Zixu, a political commentator.

Lin told the independent broadcaster New Tang Dynasty Television that the recent activities are a bold defiance of Xi Jinping’s “Eight Regulations,” which warn officials away from a variety of showmanship. “In his eyes, Xi Jinping is just playing the role of a grandson. If Xi Jinping makes some rule, that’s just empty talk to Jiang. Maybe Jiang Zemin thinks he’ll give Xi a bit of a test, see where his red line is, and how he’ll react.”

Xi’s options are somewhat limited in reigning in Jiang’s conduct, according to Shi Zangshan, a Washington D.C based China expert, speaking to The Epoch Times. “The CCP system is hopeless. No matter how Xi promotes the anti-corruption strategy and the Eight Regulations, Xi has no way to reconcile with Jiang’s faction,” Shi said. 

At this stage Xi will also be loathe to open a new round of political warfare over the aging Jiang, Shi indicated. “He on the one hand has his political ambitions, to rule the country by the law. On the other hand, he fears that Jiang’s faction may take extreme measures that will disintegrate the entire CCP.” 

Read the original Chinese articles.

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Wen Jun