Former Chinese president at war parade amid infighting rumours

Former Chinese president at war parade amid infighting rumours
Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) with former presidents Jiang Zemin (C) and Hu Jintao (R) attend a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on September 3, 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan and the end of World War II.
PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin appeared in public on Thursday at a military parade marking 70 years since the end of World War Two in Asia, after rumours of destabilising infighting in the ruling Communist Party.

Jiang stepped down as party chief in 2002 and state president in 2003 but remained head of the military for another year after stacking the Politburo, one of the party's elite ruling bodies, with his people.

He remains influential to this day, though does not often appear in public.

Rumours periodically circulate in leadership and diplomatic circles about Jiang, especially about arguments between him and President Xi Jinping over policy, which, with China's political system being as opaque and secretive as it is, are impossible to verify.

State television showed Jiang, looking a little frail but appearing otherwise healthy, standing on the main leaders'rostrum overlooking Tiananmen Square, with his successor, Hu Jintao, standing next to him.

Xi stood slightly behind him in front of a row of microphones at the centre of the rostrum. It is not clear if the two spoke.

Former premiers Wen Jiabao, Zhu Rongji and Li Peng were also there.

The party's official People's Daily had fuelled speculation last month with a commentary criticising unidentified officials who clung to power after retirement and caused party splits.

Adding to the whispers, the Central Party School, which trains rising officials, removed a stone plinth carrying the school's name written in Jiang's distinctive calligraphy, from its front entrance in early August.

A party school official said this week that no disrespect was meant, and that it was simply part of a renovation project, adding that the sign was now inside the campus.

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