News of his death was announced Wednesday by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It reported that he suffered leukemia and died from multiple organ failure in Shanghai.
Jiang was China’s top leader for almost 10 years from March 1993 to March 2003. His period in office was noted for kickstarting China’s economic growth drive into high gear. He also oversaw the handover of Hong Kong from the U.K. to China in 1997.
Jiang arrived in the top job as a compromise candidate a few years after the 1989 student uprising. He was one of only six Chinese post-1949 leaders to have accumulated so much political influence that he was additionally named as “paramount leader.”
Chatty and smiley, Jiang was sometimes mistaken for a lightweight. He was known for breaking out into song and for his avowed love of Hollywood movies.
His political philosophy, enshrined in China’s constitution in 2002, was knows as the “three represents.” It positioned the Communist Party as representing advanced productive forces, advanced culture and the fundamental interests of the majority of the Chinese people.
Jiang has been rarely seen in public since July 2011, when there were widespread rumors of his death. These rumors were reported as fact by Asia Television, Hong Kong’s then number two free to air TV broadcaster. The station was fined by the territory’s media regulator and the erroneous report contributed to the broadcaster’s slow downward slide until closure in 2016.
A letter addressing the party, the military and the Chinese people described Jiang as “an outstanding leader enjoying high prestige acknowledged by the whole Party, the entire military and the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, a great Marxist, a great proletarian revolutionary, statesman, military strategist and diplomat, a long-tested communist fighter, and an outstanding leader of the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” according to a translation by Hong Kong’s RTHK.