Anything for Power: The Real Story of China’s Jiang Zemin – Introduction

Anything for Power: The Real Story of China’s Jiang Zemin – Introduction

The Epoch Times Editorial Board Created: Jul 6, 2011 Last
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The full text of “Anything for Power: The Real
Story of Jiang Zemin
" is available here.

If it is fate that decides a person’s destiny, then it is also within the
capacity of history’s design to arrange for a life to have shameful origins.


When Jiang Zemin attended talks with the Hubei provincial delegation during
the Chinese Communist Party’s meeting of the People’s Congress on March 12,
2003, he said, “I was the director of the Wuhan Institute for Boiler Research
from 1966 to 1970. That was during the Cultural Revolution… the rebel faction
[sic] carefully examined my personal dossier. [1]That’s fine, as it proved that I have a clean record."Perhaps Jiang’s audience didn’t understand what his purpose was. Why would
Jiang—the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—need to
vindicate himself and his “clean record"?

The reason lies in Jiang’s personal history being questionable. His
biological father, Jiang Shijun (also known as Jiang Guanqian), was a traitor
who worked for the Japanese during their occupation of China. The university
Jiang Zemin attended, Nanjing Central University, was in fact run by the
Japanese occupation. He made up the lie that his uncle had adopted him, even
though his uncle was actually deceased by that time. While in Russia for
training, Jiang at one point indulged in an affair with a Russian woman and
became a spy for the KGB. And this is only a small part of a much larger
picture, for Jiang’s is a history full of ugly details. On what grounds could he
lay claim to a “clean record"? When the “rebel faction" examined Jiang’s dossier
they could not have known the tremendous troubles of Jiang’s past that were
being hidden.

In 2005 with much fanfare Jiang Zemin launched the book The Man Who Changed
China, a biography, published in both English and Chinese, that he commissioned
an American businessman, named Robert Kuhn, to write. The book represented
Jiang’s public attempt to gloss over the personal history he has long been

The fact that Jiang “doth protesteth too much" is telling. In the flattering
prose that makes up Jiang’s biography one notices that one word in particular
stands out for its frequency: patriotic. The section depicting his time
attending the Japanese-occupied Nanjing Central University was, curiously
enough, titled “I Am a Patriot." Yet patriotism is a matter of civic duty and
almost something innate, a loyalty toward the land that nurtures you. A person
with a clean record hardly needs to make a public showing of his patriotism.

The simple fact is that Jiang’s biological father defected and worked for the
Japanese occupation. In the latter half of Jiang’s life—even as told by the
biography he asked others to write—Jiang was quick to avoid talking about his
father. The only thing mentioned in his biography is that, “Jiang’s father died
in 1973."

Jiang falsely stated that he was adopted at the age of thirteen by the family
of his uncle, CCP member Jiang Shangqing; but that would have put Jiang’s
adoption shortly after, of all things, the uncle had passed away. Jiang Zemin
graduated from college at the age of twenty-one. Then it reasons to ask: who
supported Jiang between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one? Jiang Shangqing’s
daughter, Jiang Zehui, told Kuhn that their family lived in “unending want and
deprivation." [2] If that were the case, then who paid the costly tuition
necessary for Jiang Zemin to attend a privileged high school and then Nanjing
Central University? Who paid for his study of the arts and music during
tumultuous, war-torn years that witnessed enormous inflation? Who made it
possible for him to drive a jeep so soon after graduating from college (as
alluded to by Kuhn)? In other words, who else but his biological father could
have reared him? Could Jiang Shangqing, who had passed away some eight years
earlier, really have assumed such a role?

The reality is that Jiang Zemin’s life had nothing to do with his supposed
foster family. It wasn’t until after the CCP took control of China that Jiang
suddenly “remembered" having a CCP martyr (his uncle) in the family. He invented
a past in which he abandoned his biological father and became the foster child
of a deceased man. However, to this part of the story we will have to return

The above is not meant to imply that a person’s character or worth is the
mere product of his family background. Instead, it is to suggest that we can
begin to uncover Jiang Zemin’s deceptiveness by examining his largely fabricated
and hidden background, as well as his past. In recent years Jiang has taken
things further and hinted that his father—a traitor—was instead a hero for his
part in fending off the Japanese troops. In the words of his cousin, Zehui, “My
family were all revolutionaries," [3] “The Jiang men were away at war," [4] and “all went out to join the revolution, fighting both
the Japanese invaders and the Chinese Nationalists." [5] For the reader in China who knows not the details of
Jiang’s family background, such statements very easily mislead.

The official mouthpiece of China’s CCP government, The People’s Daily,
reported on December 11, 1999, that Jiang Zemin and then-Russian leader Boris
Yeltsin signed in Beijing three Sino-Russian border agreements. Yet incredibly
the meeting finds no mention in Kuhn’s biography, while trivialities like where
and when Jiang sang a certain song and insignificant details about meetings with
other prominent leaders are included. Why did Kuhn omit a national meeting as
important as the signing of a border agreement with Yeltsin? As it turns out, at
that meeting Jiang gave diplomatic recognition to each and every unfair treaty
dating back to the end of the Qing Dynasty—treaties that no former Chinese
government had agreed to. What Jiang signed was an outright traitor’s agreement
that forfeited the legal grounds by which later generations might have reclaimed
the lost land. The agreement submissively gave to Russia over 1 million square
kilometers of fertile soil—land over thirty times the size of Taiwan. Seeing
that a growing force of Chinese around the world sought to hold him accountable
for selling out the country, Jiang Zemin tried to boldly rewrite his past.
Little did he realize how self-defeating the maneuver would prove.

In his book, Jiang packages himself as a caring leader who was deeply
concerned with the lives and suffering of the Chinese people. But consider for a
moment what Jiang was doing during the massive flooding that hit China in 1998.
In early September, when countless people were battling the flood and on the
verge of death, Jiang invited actors and actresses to a party at the Zhongnanhai
leadership compound in Beijing. Kuhn described it as, “Jiang Zemin’s idea of a
good time." At the get-together Jiang sang duets with a female singer old-time
Russian love songs such as “Moscow Nights." [6] We are told that in a burst of excitement he joined the
crowd in singing “The Ocean Is My Home." Kuhn elaborates that it was “especially
Jiang" who was seized by the moment, seeming “devoid of artistic inhibitions."
[7] How ironic. While China’s people were desperately fighting
surging, ocean-like floods, Jiang was off singing “The Ocean Is My Home" in the
intimate company of women at Zhongnanhai. Sadly, it should come as little
surprise that Jiang, a person willing to hide a background of treason in order
to gain high-ranking posts, had little concern for the lives of his

In Kuhn’s work Jiang comes across as an exemplar of frugal living and the
fight against corruption. Yet while the rise in corruption that has befallen
China in recent years is well known, few realize that the root of the problem
lies in none other than Jiang Zemin and his family. Thus it was that his sons,
lacking in abilities and qualifications, managed to build Jiang’s family a
wealthy empire. They are, one could say, “royally corrupt."

It has long been rumored that Jiang went one snowy night to deliver a
birthday cake to the mistress of China’s former chairman, Li Xiannian. Li had
guests at the time, so Jiang waited outside for hours in a show of loyalty. The
story is outright bizarre and couldn’t be substantiated. For some strange
reason—perhaps a guilty conscience?—in his biography Jiang tries to defend his
delivery of the cake, which actually serves only to confirm the odd story. Jiang
tells his readers that he was caring towards his leadership and that the cake
was “the last cake at the hotel." [8] He also claims that his goal was reaching consensus and
“building rapport with the right people." [9] Supposing we accept that spin, then it is as good as
saying China is free of corruption or bribery—isn’t every such act then just a
matter of being “caring towards the leadership" or of “reaching consensus and
building rapport"? That would amount to legitimizing corruption.

Jiang Zemin’s quick rise through the ranks of power was dependent upon two
things. One was fabricating the story of his martyr-family background, which
gained Jiang two political allies in Wang Daohan and Zhang Aiping; both would
later promote Jiang time and again. Notably, the two were friends of Jiang’s
uncle. The second was his ability to sweet talk superiors and gain favor with
Party elders. It was ultimately these two traits that allowed Jiang to steal the

After coming to power, Jiang Zemin sought the limelight, and thus began
shenanigans like dancing and singing during international diplomatic exchanges.
That such antics fly in the face of diplomatic protocol and betray the dignity
of China seems far removed from Jiang’s mind. It was through this, the sapping
of China’s honor, that Jiang won the nickname of “the clown." During one meeting
with the King of Spain, he took out a comb and proceeded to groom himself,
oblivious to all onlookers. On one occasion when he was to be given a medal, he
couldn’t wait and snatched the medal, adorning himself with it. Once, in the
middle of a state dinner, he suddenly invited the first lady of a foreign nation
to dance. He sprung from his chair to sing “O Sole Mio," and struck up a piano
tune, fixing his lustful eyes on the misses. His clowning made him something of
a laughingstock in the Western press. Or just consider his meetings with former
U.S. President Bill Clinton. Jiang visited the United States in 1993 and 1997,
and Clinton visited China in 1998. Every time they met, Jiang played some
musical instrument or went into song. After performing he would each time ask
Clinton to play the saxophone, which Clinton, tellingly, declined despite being
a virtuoso. In 1997, during Jiang’s visit to the United States, a journalist
raised the matter of Tibet at a press conference. Jiang abruptly launched into a
rendition of “Home on the Range," much to his audience’s bewilderment. Classic
Jiang is the former leader’s frequent recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg
Address. Be it talking to students, doing interviews with the press, or even
when making foreign visits, Jiang finds occasion for reciting the Address. When
asked, he obediently recites it; when not asked, he recites it all the same.
Hardly can the figure of a nation’s sovereign be made out here.

Still more absurd is Jiang’s obsession with speaking foreign languages. In
advance of a visit to Latin America, Jiang—disregarding his age and to the
neglect of important national affairs—spent several months taking an intensive
Spanish language class. Jiang went about it like a clown who, placed
accidentally on a throne, could do little to change his showy nature. In the
Chinese version of his biography, he reasons, “If you can’t communicate with
another person because of differences in language, how can you exchange ideas or
reach agreement?" Yet common sense dictates that clumsy foreign language skills
would hardly be enough to allow Jiang more expressive or dynamic exchanges. Many
heads of state speak their respective native tongues and employ an interpreter.
Is that to say they can’t come to agreements in their diplomatic exchanges?

Owing perhaps to the leaders of Communist nations typically being
conservative, many Western leaders consider this “excitable" Jiang Zemin a
different Party breed and find his performances most amusing.

Leaders with real talent and great vision don’t waste their time and energy
on such antics. The reason Jiang Zemin is so chirpy and “excitable" has to do
with his abilities being as scant as those of the stooge in some vaudeville
show. Western politicians have rolled out the red carpet for Jiang not so much
for his talents as for the contracts in his pocket and the prospects of tapping
China’s vast consumer market. China’s recent economic progress was driven by
over $500 billion worth of foreign investment combined with a remarkably
industrious—and cheap—labor force. With such massive investment, cheap labor,
and so many talented Chinese people involved, of course production is high. But
this is not to Jiang’s credit. To the contrary, Jiang’s incompetence,
imperiousness, envy, and political conservatism have resulted in the cessation
of political reform in China along with a decline in moral values and rampant
corruption. The outcome is that whatever economic progress has been made, it has
been at the cost of tremendous resources and to the detriment of the ecology,
the environment, and society itself. Actually, China’s superficial economic
prosperity has come at the huge expense of environmental sustainability. Jiang
has harmed the nation’s future, put China’s political reform on hold or even set
it back, and drove to new heights human rights abuses and the lack of freedom of
belief. To put it in historical context, Jiang’s reign will ultimately be seen
as scandalous; so great are the debts he has incurred to China’s people.

As Jiang would have Kuhn depict him, he is something of a talented problem
solver. But as facts would have it, whenever a crisis came about—be it floods,
the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, democratic elections in Taiwan,
or the SARS epidemic—Jiang always pushed others to the frontline and cowardly
stayed in the back. When SARS was spreading in Beijing, Jiang so cravenly feared
for his life that he fled to Shanghai for refuge. But in the Chinese version of
his biography, he claims that he “had been staying in Shanghai all along," so as
to cover for his escape. Truth be told, just days before his flight Jiang was in
Beijing to speak at the People’s Congress and the People’s Political
Consultative Conference. What grounds has he to use “staying in Shanghai all
along" to exonerate himself?

When he is not building up his own political faction or traveling about to
sing and show off, what Jiang Zemin has set his heart on and takes to be most
urgent is persecuting the Falun Gong. While the outside
world might well know that Jiang went so far as to distribute pamphlets that
denounced Falun Gong at diplomatic meetings, few are aware of Jiang’s quick
response to the interception of TV signals by several Falun Gong practitioners.
On March 5, 2002, Falun Gong practitioners intercepted cable TV programs on
eight different channels in Changchun city and aired forty-five minutes of
information on the persecution of their group. In recalling that evening, Kuhn’s
book quotes a close friend of Jiang in Changchun. The friend said that ten
minutes after the TV interception had ended (at 9:10 p.m.) a furious Jiang Zemin
called and said, “Falun Gong practitioners are broadcasting on Changchun’s cable
system!" “Who is your city’s Party secretary or mayor?" [10] Jiang’s quick response to the incident—which happened in
a city far from Beijing—and his prompt attempt at intimidating the municipal
Party committee secretary suggest that Jiang has indeed been the mastermind of
the Falun Gong’s persecution; that he has received direct briefings on the
affair; and that it has been he that issues orders. By contrast, when the
Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed, Jiang Zemin was for days nowhere to be

In his biography Jiang tries to speak in his own defense, with his main
device being to quote himself so as to project whatever image he fancies, in
turn beautifying things. Yet which Chinese official who has been convicted of
corruption hasn’t claimed at many a meeting that he “fights corruption"? Actions
speak much louder than words. How true this holds for a sweet-talking,
fancy-singing figure like Jiang Zemin.

Jiang’s lack of filial respect to his biological father, his lack of loyalty
to his organizations, and his lack of honesty with the people render him
“unkind, unjust, undignified, unwise, and untrustworthy" [11] —a clown who has brought disaster to the nation of
China. To allow the likes of a Jiang Zemin to inflate himself by rewriting
history is a disservice to posterity.

Jiang’s biography, you could say, parallels his life: it is riddled with lies
and rife with contradictions.

If we are to be a generation that bears witness to history, returning to
history the real Jiang Zemin is a responsibility we must not shirk.

[1] Under communist rule in China records of every single person,
called “dossiers," are kept by authorities detailing the individual’s
activities, political leanings, family background, travel abroad, and many other
things as a means of monitoring and control.
[2] Robert Lawrence Kuhn, The Man Who Changed China: The Life and
Legacy of Jiang Zemin (New York: Crown, 2004), 31.
[3] Kuhn, The Man Who Changed China, 33.
[4] Ibid., 32.
[5] Ibid., 34.
[6] Ibid., 366.
[7] Ibid., 369.
[8] Ibid., 125.
[9] Ibid., 124.
[10] Ibid., 490.
[11] This is in contrast to the cardinal virtues of human living
as depicted by Confucius, namely: kindness, justice, dignity, wisdom, and

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