Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, who took office following the Tiananmen Square riots, passed away at the age of 96.
He passed away on Wednesday in Shanghai just afternoon, according to state media.
He ruled over a period of wide-scale opening up and rapid growth, making him one of the key characters in recent Chinese history.
His passing occurs at a time when Covid restrictions are the focus of some of the most significant protests China has seen since Tiananmen.
Leukemia and multiple organ failure were listed as the cause of death in a Chinese Communist Party announcement.
It added that he was recognised “as an outstanding leader with high prestige” and “a long-tested Communist fighter”.
Jiang came to power following the brutal crackdown on demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, which caused China to become isolated globally.
Hard-line reactionaries and reformers engaged in a vicious power battle at the head of the Communist Party as a result of the incident.
Jiang, who had previously been seen as a plodding bureaucrat, was consequently promoted to a high position. In the hopes that he would bring together conservative and more liberal groups, he was picked as the compromise leader.
Under his leadership, a powerful economy was created. The Communists tightened their hold on authority, and China ascended to the top of the global power structure.
In 1997, he supervised the peaceful transfer of Hong Kong, and in 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization, integrating it into the world economy.
However, he ignored political changes and suppressed internal criticism while maintaining a tough posture on Taiwan. He received criticism for the harsh crackdown he instituted on the Falun Gong sect in 1999 since it was thought to pose a threat to the Communist Party.
In an effort to modernize the party and preserve the stability of his position inside the Communist Party, he developed his own political ideology, the Three Represents theory.
Jiang tried to deepen ties with the US while he was in office. He visited the nation multiple times and offered then-president George W. Bush cooperation in Washington’s “war on terror” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
He was seen as having a more colorful personality than his successors, which was unusual for a nation not known for its showy leaders. He performed a memorable Elvis Presley song at a mountaintop and went swimming off the coast of Hawaii.
Later in life, he retreated from politics and hardly ever appeared in public. But even as he became less noticeable, he started to appear in internet memes that went global.
His distinctive big glasses, which many Chinese people caricatured with affection, were used to describe him as looking like a toad. Young supporters went by the name “Toad”