Jiang Zemin's appearance ends rumours of his death

  • @cliffordcoonan

Thinner, balder, but most assuredly not dead, the former leader of China, Jiang Zemin, made a rare public appearance yesterday to scotch a summer of speculation that he had died.

The 85-year-old was shown in photographs wearing his trademark dark blue suit, red tie and big, black square-rimmed glasses talking to China's president Hu Jintao at a ceremonial event in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to mark 100 years since the revolution that overthrew imperial rule.

Hong Kong news outlets reported unattributed rumours during the summer that he had died. The speculation followed his non-appearance at another anniversary event, namely the 90th year since the foundation of the ruling Communist Party.

State media ran denials but the rumours of his demise ran wild across the internet prompting censors to block online searches about the man who led the country during a period of great change after the crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement until he handed over power in 2002.

While Mr Jiang is no longer a figure of importance politically, he has a residual influence because he was crucial in implementing economic reforms launched by Deng Xiaoping. He was also famous for the way he cultivated always-tense relations with the United States.

China is generally very secretive about leadership issues and the topic is again high on the party's agenda with next year's Communist Party congress expected to confirm a transition in China's leadership from Hu Jintao – the successor of Jiang Zemin – to current party grandee and apparently anointed successor Xi Jinping.