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Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin makes rare public appearance

By Jaime FlorCruz, CNN
October 10, 2011 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, right, sits with President Hu Jintao at the ceremony on Sunday.
Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, right, sits with President Hu Jintao at the ceremony on Sunday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jiang Zemin appears at a ceremony marking China's 1911 revolution
  • It is his first public appearance since rumors months ago about his health
  • Jiang was China's president from 1993 to 2003

Beijing (CNN) -- China's former President Jiang Zemin appeared in Beijing on Sunday, the first time he's been seen publicly since rumors surfaced months ago that he had died.

Jiang, 85, was among many current and former dignitaries attending a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of China's 1911 revolution, which led to the toppling of the Qing Dynasty. China became a Communist state in 1949, under the leadership of Mao Zedong.

At the start of the ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, live footage on China's state-run television showed Jiang for a few seconds as he walked on the stage, closely followed by an assistant.

In another segment, Jiang appears to sing along with others during the playing of the Chinese national anthem.

Death rumors spur reflections on Jiang legacy

Former Chinese premier Li Peng was also in the crowd, among other retired party and government leaders. So were active government ministers, private entrepreneurs and Beijing-based ambassadors from other countries.

Where is 2010's Peace Prize winner?

In the event's keynote speech, current President Hu Jintao extolled the "thoroughly modern, national and democratic revolution" of 1911. And among other stances, he urged mainland China and Taiwan to work together for a "peaceful reunification of China," according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Reaching an accord with Taiwan had been one of Jiang's focuses in his tenure as president, during which he made conciliatory overtures to the island nation including a "One Country, Two Systems" proposal.

It was one of many efforts he pursued in his time, between 1989 and 2002, as the general-secretary of China's Communist Party and, from 1993 to 2003, as the nation's president.

As China's ruler, he generally pushed market reforms while working to keep the country politically and socially conservative.

China's economy boomed under his leadership, growing at an annual average rate of over 9%. China also regained control of Hong Kong in 1997 and Macau in 1999, while national pride soared in 2000 when Beijing was picked to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

With rare exceptions, Jiang largely has been out of the public eye in recent years. This summer, Chinese authorities dismissed as "pure rumors" reports that he was on his death bed.

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