Jiang Zemin: He lives!

He was declared dead by a Hong Kong media outlet last year, but former Chinese president Jiang Zemin is alive, well, and back in the public eye.

Bloomberg reports that the 86-year-old political veteran has re-surfaced, just in time for the once-a-decade leadership conference set to kick off in China November 8:

On Oct. 19 the official People’s Daily reminded readers that late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping once called Jiang, 86, a ‘qualified’ Communist Party leader. The paper’s website the next day reported Jiang met university officials in Beijing and included a picture. Xinhua News Agency yesterday said he congratulated his old middle school on its 110th anniversary.

Jiang’s appearances less than three weeks before the start of the Communist Party Congress signals to fellow cadres that he is healthy and involved in negotiations over who will run China for the next decade, according to analysts including John Lee of the University of Sydney. The reports may be aimed at projecting stability during a transition that’s been roiled by the ouster of Politburo member Bo Xilai and heir-apparent Xi Jinping’s two- week public absence in September.”

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Standard has more details on just how roiled this transition has been:

“It’s worth noting that as Jiang, a Shanghainese, made frequent appearances in Beijing, his old foe, Li Ruihuan, broke the low profile he had carefully maintained since retirement to appear at a Beijing tennis tournament.

Why did these party elders appear in public? They are obviously trying to assert influence ahead of the changing of the guard, in support of the competing factions.

Perhaps, one may remember an episode a decade ago when Jiang was about to hand power over to Hu. Li Ruihuan was only 68 at the time – still two years short of the retirement red line of 70.

Li offered to retire from the politburo standing committee to press Jiang to relinquish all official authority to Hu.

They stepped down, but the next day, it was announced that Jiang continued to chair the powerful military commission.

The party elders’ public appearance symbolises the intense behind-the- scenes power struggle.”

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