Chinese Leader Rewrites History
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
BEIJING — China’s former president, Jiang Zemin, is not a man prepared to retire quietly.
Still miffed by being forced to step down as head of the army two years ago — a year after he gave up the nation’s leadership — he delivers a hefty retort today to his successors in the Communist Party: a 654-page autobiography, devoted solely to his triumphs.
The self-congratulatory “For a Better World: Jiang Zemin’s Overseas Visits” credits him with most of the achievements during China’s rapid emergence as a superpower.
Its high-profile publication today by a Foreign Ministry-owned publishing house is likely to spark intense debate. His successor, President Hu, has been consolidating his power since Mr. Jiang’s retirement was forced upon him. But embassies in the countries he visited during his 13-year rule — from 1990 to 2003 — could not decline the order to send back files for research.
Through 11 chapters, he credits himself with most of the nation’s progress toward world superpower status, including China’s accession to the World Trade Organization and Beijing’s successful bid to host the 2008 Olympics.
The reclaiming of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997 features highly, as do 167 large pictures of Mr. Jiang rubbing shoulders with world leaders.
Issues that are not highlighted include the brutal crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement, rising social tensions because of the widening wealth gap in China, and Mr. Jiang’s direct role under the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in the bloody crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests.
However, China’s foreign minister, Li Zhaoxing, who wrote the foreword, points out: “Jiang came to power as China’s diplomatic work was in great difficulties under ‘sanctions’ from certain Western countries.”