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Memorial for Jiang gives rise to familiar feelings

By Xu Wei | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-12-07 07:44
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Xu Wei

The last time China mourned a leader on the same scale as the commemoration of Jiang Zemin over the past week was in February 1997, when former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping passed away.

I was only nine at that time, but I can still remember watching Jiang's emotional moments when he delivered a heartfelt eulogy for Deng in a live televised broadcast, as the whole nation was in deep grief, mourning a leader who reshaped the lives of the Chinese people.

On Tuesday, a similar feeling of solemnity and awe overwhelmed me at the Great Hall of the People as President Xi Jinping led the nation in mourning Jiang, an outstanding leader who enjoyed high prestige, at a memorial meeting.

The memorial meeting marked the culmination of weeklong mourning for Jiang, who passed away in Shanghai on Nov 30.

No one was on the presidium at the meeting, where a six-member honor guard stood by the urn containing Jiang's ashes, which was covered by a flag of the Communist Party of China. Everybody, except for those who were frail, stood throughout the entire meeting.

Among the thousands of participants were gray-haired scholars, retired officials, People's Liberation Army officers and members of the public. The hall outside the meeting room was also packed with flower baskets presented by a wide range of organizations.

Jiang served as general secretary of the CPC Central Committee from 1989 to 2002, a time when people mainly relied on newspapers and television as sources of information.

The charisma of Jiang has been rediscovered with the thriving of social media as videos of him leading a chorus and giving a speech at Harvard University brought him closer to today's younger generation.

The former Chinese leader was fluent in both English and Russian, and he wrote a preface for a series of books on commonly used languages in foreign affairs in 2011.

"With China's increasingly frequent exchanges with international society, nations in the world are paying more and more attention to China," he wrote in the preface. "We need to boost our understanding of the world and also need to promote the world's understanding of China."

Jiang accepted a request for an interview from CBS journalist Mike Wallace in 2000 and another from reporters from The New York Times in 2001. "I hope the Western world can understand China better," he said in the interview with the Times.

He long championed China's opening-up to the world, hosted regular exchanges with global political and business leaders, and played a pivotal role in displaying an image of an open and confident China.

Jiang was also instrumental in China's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, which was a major factor underpinning China's phenomenal growth in the following decade.

That was just one of Jiang's lasting legacies for China and the Chinese people. For the nation, the best way to remember their beloved former leader is to carry forward his lasting legacy.

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