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Rocketing to the top
In the weeks after the bloody crackdown on Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989, Jiang Zemin was elevated from mayor of Shanghai to head of China's Communist Party and the military. As party chief, Jiang replaced Zhao Ziyang, who was punished for his apparent sympathy to the protesters. Zhao died in 2005 after 16 years under house arrest. Jiang was at first seen as a transitional figure, with little actual power. Here, he delivers a speech at annual Party Congress in Oct. 1992.
— Mike Fiala / AFP
Pressing the flesh with power-brokers
Jiang with Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping, center, and Wang Zhen, an influential hard-liner who helped orchestrate the 1989 crackdown. When this picture was taken in October 1992, Jiang had been anointed with two of Deng's former titles: head of the Communist Party and chairman of the Central Military Commission. But by most accounts, Deng continued to call the shots until the mid-1990s.
Eye on the presidency
Jiang confers with then-President Yang Shangkun in 1991 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Two years later, Jiang would replace Yang as president. This third title, though largely symbolic, was another sign of Jiang's likely status as heir to Deng Xiaoping.
— Mike Fiala / AFP
A lesson from the USSR
Jiang presided over China as Communist allies in the Soviet Union fell apart. In this May 1991 picture, Jiang shakes hands with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev after signing an agreement on border disputes. By the end of the year -- after an aborted coup and a period of turmoil -- Gorbachev had resigned and the USSR had dissolved. Beijing saw the change as affirmation of its approach to governing: reforming the economy while maintaining strict political control.
— Vitaly Armand / AFP
With a dwindling number of Communist allies remaining in the world, Jiang visited Cuba in 1993. Here he shakes hands with Cuban President Fidel Castro in Havana. Jiang reaffirmed Beijing's support for Cuba, which was suffering from the end of Soviet aid.
— Feliberto Carrie / AFP
Winning over the top brass
Through deft political maneuvering, Jiang won the loyalty of China's military brass, despite his own lack of military experience. Though economic growth remained paramount, the USSR collapse and the massive show of U.S. strength in the 1991 Gulf War created insecurity in Beijing, prompting Jiang to throw support behind military modernization. In this October 1995 photo from the state-run Xinhua news agency, Jiang reviews naval units taking part in exercises at an undisclosed Chinese port.
— Zha Chunming / XINHUA
Receiving the golden goose
Marking one of the most significant historical moments in modern China, the British-ruled capitalist enclave of Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997. The long planned transfer of power took place on Jiang's watch. Here he shakes hands with Britain's Prince Charles after the ceremony in Hong Kong. Looking on are Chinese Premier Li Peng, left, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
— Paul Lakatos / AFP
Thaw in U.S.-China ties
After nearly a decade of chilly U.S.-China relations in the wake of Beijing's crackdown on Tiananmen protesters, Jiang made an eight-day visit to the U.S., which featured meetings with President Bill Clinton. The state visit marked restoration of normal ties and paved the way for a massive surge in U.S.-China trade. In this Oct. 29, 1997 picture, the two leaders share a toast at the White House.
— Paul J. Richards / AFP
Traveling with colonial flair
Jiang gained a reputation for his gregariousness, which sometimes verged on goofiness. He was fond of chatting in English, singing American show tunes and reciting the Gettysburg Address. In this 1997 photo, he and his wife don American colonial hats presented to them as gifts during a stop in Williamsburg, Va.
— Luke Frazza / AFP
Smiling through protest
On his eight-day tour of the United States, Jiang spoke at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., declaring that "after 100 years of struggle, China has stood up again as a giant." During a short question and answer session afterward, he was challenged on democracy, Tibet and the Tiananmen crackdown, but cheerfully dodged the questions.
— Stuart Cahill / AFP
Old comrades, new roles
Jiang poses with North Korean autocrat Kim Jong-Il in Beijing in January 2001. As long-time Communist allies with Pyongyang, Chinese leaders continued to publicly support the regime. However, since the 1990s, Beijing has diminished aid to its isolated neighbor, while privately urging Pyongyang to reform its economy. In conflicts between North Korea and the United States and regional powers, Beijing increasingly has played middle man.
— - / AFP
Dogged by peaceful protest
During Jiang Zemin's tenure -- and reportedly under his direct orders -- Chinese authorities launched a harsh crackdown on Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that surprised the government with a massive peaceful demonstration in Beijing in April 1999. Beijing declared the movement illegal, and police rounded up hundreds of members, an unknown number of whom were imprisoned or disappear. Activists say more than 1,000 were killed. This October 2004 protest was held in Hong Kong, which maintains greater political freedom.
— Samantha Sin / AFP
Jiang began withdrawing from leadership in 2002, when he gave up his post as leader of the Communist Party. In March 2003, he handed the presidency to his successor Hu Jintao, right. In this March 2003 photo, Hu confers with Jiang during a session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
— Goh Chai Hin / AFP
On the wane
Jiang appears to snooze as his successor, President Hu Jintao, follows a speech by Premier Wen Jiabao at the opening session of the National People's Congress in March 2004 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Later in the year, Jiang retired from the top military post, again to be succeeded in that role by Hu.
— Frederic J. Brown / AFP
Shelf space with Marxists
In an effort to cement his legacy as a Marxist theorist alongside predecessors Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong, Jiang published his Selected Works. The works laid out his "The Three Represents" theory, which continues to be referenced in speeches by current leaders, along with "Deng Xiaoping Theory" and "Mao Zedong Thought." Here, a book store customer peruses Jiang's book in August 2006, shortly after its release.
— Str / AFP
In the line-up
Jiang became a part of China's pantheon of paramount leaders, joining predecessor Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, left, and current President Hu Jintao, right. This picture taken on June 23, 2011, shows a group of Young Pioneers of the Communist Youth League in a program celebrating the 90th anniversary of the party.