By: By Michael C. from the CPUSA Peace & Solidarity Commission, Asia-Pacific Subcommittee
Born in the city of Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, on 17 August 1926, Jiang Zemin grew up on the front line of the war of resistance against Japan; better known in the West as the Pacific theater of World War II. Biographers record that in Middle School, the young Jiang and his classmates were even forced to learn Japanese—although he would go on to be proficient in multiple languages, the young Jiang is recorded as having resisted heavily. Two years after the Japanese invasion, in 1939, at the age of only 13, Jiang Zemin’s uncle, Jiang Shangqing, serving at the time as a Party Secretary and Vice Principal of the Anti-Japanese Military and Political Cadre School in Northeast Anhui, as well as other duties for the Communist Party of China, would become a national hero and revolutionary martyr.
Jiang Zemin would, despite the dangers, go on to study electrical engineering at National Central University, then located in occupied Nanjing, before transferring to Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where he would graduate in 1947. Following in his uncle’s footsteps, he joined the Communist Party in 1946.
Following his graduation, Jiang wasted no time before involving himself directly in the great struggle to rejuvenate the Chinese nation, and to build a thriving Socialist country.
First, traveling to Moscow, at the Stalin Automobile Works, where he received training alongside other workers and students from China and the Soviet Union.
Then, applying his advanced knowledge and training from the Soviet Union, establishing the First Automobile Works (FAW) in Changchun. In 1958, FAW would become the first automobile manufacturer in the country. Today, it is the 2nd largest State-owned car manufacturer in the country.
Comrade Jiang’s diligence, intelligence, and devotion to the cause of the people did not go without notice; he would soon be brought into the Shanghai Electric Science Research Institute.
From this point, for all his work, Cde. Jiang’s career would rise steadily and rapidly over the next decades. Known for his sincerity, he avoided the majority of the chaos of the cultural revolution by quietly continuing his work, maintaining his austere lifestyle and close relationship with the people. By 1965, Cde. Jiang maintained multiple critical roles overseeing the industrialization of the country. Politically, he saw the need for Socialist construction in order to improve the livelihoods of the people and build up the Chinese nation, and refused to be entangled in factionalism; a principled pragmatism that would become one of his greatest legacies. When approached by radical students, he is reported to have responded to their jostling, “[y]ou young people must keep a clear head… You must learn how to use your own mind to analyze problems and discover the truth.”
Towards the end of the period, he would be sent to the May 7th Cadre School for ideological instruction and development through labor; leaving in 1970, he would immediately return to Beijing, leading the way in the development of China’s international cooperation in industry and engineering. Following the passing of Chairman Mao Zedong, he played a key role in ensuring the continued development of China’s politics and industry, and avoiding a crisis at the hands of the Gang of Four.
Under the administration of Comrade Deng Xiaoping, Comrade Jiang’s contributions to the development of the country took on a new light. With the development of reform and opening up and the creation of Special Economic Zones to encourage the growth of industry and productive forces in the country, Comrade Jiang once again took on a leading role. In 1985, recognizing his accomplishments and seeking to re-energize the city of Shanghai, Jiang Zemin would be appointed mayor. Within a year, the city would announce plans to become the industrial and economic heart of Asia. By 1988, his term ending, a then-62 year old Comrade Jiang prepared to retire from politics completely, intending to spend the rest of his days as a professor at his alma mater.
Instead, in 1989, for his service in Shanghai, skills in diplomacy, and years of dedication to Socialist construction, at the fourth plenary Session of the 13th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Jiang Zemin would be elected General Secretary. Comrade Jiang would serve as General Secretary until 2002, as well as President of the People’s Republic of China from 1993 to 2003. His administration would be marked by the principled pragmatism and focus on reform and development for which he had become so well known in the forty years prior. Stressing the necessity to continue developing productive forces in order to achieve common prosperity, President Jiang’s contributions to the development of the Chinese nation and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics were foundational in securing China’s rise to the world stage.
From the return of Hong Kong and Macau from colonial rule, to the development of China as a Socialist power on the world stage, to the addition of the Three Represents to the constitution of the People’s Republic; the legacy of President Jiang Zemin is in many ways the flourishing and prospering of the Chinese nation itself.
“Having traversed a 78-year course of struggle, our party has united and led the Chinese people of all nationalities in scoring great achievements in revolution, construction and reform, winning their wholehearted support. It has become a strong Marxist ruling party with over 60 million members, overcoming all difficulties and obstacles and constantly making new headway in our cause. The reason for this lies in the Party’s historical experience that we have persisted in integrating Marxism, which is our guidance, with our country’s specific conditions and situation in different historical periods. By leading our people in their practice which focuses on the central task of our party, we have made unremitting efforts in strengthening our Party ideologically, politically, organisationally and improving its work style. Comrade Mao Zedong defined Party building as one of the main magic weapons for the party to grow in strength and conquer the enemy. Over the past seven decades, our party has persisted in practicing this important historical experience and maintained its nature as the vanguard of the working class. As a result, our party’s fighting capacity and leading ability have been enhanced…
Comrades, we are at a historical juncture at the turn of the century and shouldering the great and tedious task of cross-century development. Through the ‘three stresses’ education drive, we should make further improvement of the theoretical and political level of all the party members, raise the ability of the leading cadres to have an overall understanding of the situation and handle the complicated circumstances properly. The education drive will further strengthen the cohesiveness and fighting capacity of the Party, thus the Party will be in a better position to lead the Chinese people of all nationalities in advancing in an all-round way the great cause of building socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
— President Jiang Zemin
June 28, 1999