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Contributions of Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji to China Essay

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Updated: Dec 7th, 2021

How did Jiang Zemin achieve political prominence in the 1990s?

Jiang Zemin’s rise to political prominence in the 1990s was triggered by the Tiananmen Square incident and the declining influence of Deng Xiaoping. The conservative Chinese leadership laid the blame for the protests of 1989 on the liberal policies of the then-premier Zhao Ziyang. The party wished to instill back some discipline in the party that they considered had gone way too soft and thus Jiang Zemin was chosen as a transitory leader who would replace Zhao Zhiyang and in turn be replaced by a more influential party loyalist. Jiang was a hardliner who promised to go along with Deng Xiaoping’s reformist policies as also maintain law and order. In 1993, Jiang pronounced ‘The Socialist Market Economy” an improved version of Deng’s original ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’ philosophy. Riding on his reforms agenda, Jiang managed to keep the confidence of Deng Xiaoping and persevered with his agenda. He abolished the Central advisory committee and proceeded to post his own loyalists to important party positions. He also kept the PLA happy by allowing them to continue with their businesses. The economic progress in the 1990s was steady and the stability provided by Jiang’s firm policy on law and order earned him the respect of the party leadership and his challengers slowly melted away in the background. With the demise of Deng Xiaoping in 1997, Jiang Zemin became the sole arbitrator of power in China with a complete iron hold overall party affairs.

What are the characteristics of his political style?

Jiang Zemin evolved a uniquely personal style of leadership where his own personal image was carefully crafted. He was a known authoritarian who believed that the hold of the party must never be diluted while at the same ensuring that economic reforms go through at a controlled pace. Jiang Zemin made full use of the media and the TV to generate an image of a well-meaning but firm leader who would brook no corruption. He would often use foreign languages when interacting with foreign media. Jiang believed that a strong central leadership was a prerequisite for achieving stability and economic success. So he assiduously began cultivating a personality-based style of political leadership that focused the leadership core around the persona of Jiang Zemin. Dissent among party ranks was crushed ruthlessly and only those leaders who submitted to his will were allowed to prosper. Some have accused Jiang of ruling like a dictator. Jiang’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners has been likened to genocide and crimes against humanity (WOIPFG 1). Others have likened the China under Jiang Zemin to be more of an oligarchy.

What are the policy orientations and priorities of Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji?

Jiang Zemin used the economic expertise of Zhu Rongji, the premier to launch China into an unprecedented 8% growth that soon reached double-digit figures. Jiang formulated a socio-political ideology called the “Three Represents” that focused on integrating social productive forces into the Chinese system, progress cultural development and maintain political consensus. Jiang focused on development of Special Economic Zones and allowing Capitalists to prosper. Zhu was a pragmatic leader who used tough fiscal policies to control the Chinese economy from overheating. The measures that he took included control of real estate, stock market, control inflation and reduce domestic consumption. Zemin provided impetus for “painful restructuring of state-owned enterprises (SOE) as well as government bureaucracy, an emphasis on science and education, a strategy for sustainable economic development. (Tien and Zhu 1)” Jiang Zemin and Zhu believed in macro-control of the economy which became their guiding principle. Both believed that the rapid increase in prosperity of the periphery as against the hinterland was inevitable and good for the overall development of China.

What are their major achievements and shortcomings?

The major contribution of Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji was the inclusion of capitalist policies in the overall rubric of Chinese economic progress. The acceptance that some Capitalists are good for the system did help in the rapid growth of the coastal belt of China and the rapid development of small-scale industries. Centralizing the big-ticket projects with the government helped ensure that developmental projects such as canals, dams, roads and city infrastructure were implemented and completed on time. It is undoubted that China under Jiang progressed from single-digit growth to a double-digit growth that has no parallel in human history. It is also undeniable that the special economic zone model has proved to be highly successful in catalyzing this double-digit growth throughout the period until the present economic meltdown, which was mostly the fault of Western capitalist practices led by America. Jiang’s shortcoming in resorting to buying the allegiance of the PLA by allowing the PLA commercial enterprise to flourish unchecked was a mistake and” the negative impact of this became more and more evident as the 1990s progressed (Scobell 6)”. The undue emphasis on economic development at any cost of the Jiang Zemin era has accentuated the rich-poor divide in China and has created conditions for growing social unrest. Untrammeled economic activity and a complete disregard for the environment have been another glaring shortcoming of the Jemin-Rongji policies.

Works Cited

Scobell, Andrew. “Jiang Zemin and China’s Leadership Succession: process, Precedent, the PLA and Personality.” 2009. Web.

Tien, Hung-mao and Yunhan Zhu. China Under Jiang Zemin. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000.

WOIPFG. “An Investigation Report on Jiang Zemin’s Crime of Genocide in the Persecution of Falun Gong – Part One.” 2007. Web.

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