The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin

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Robert Lawrence Kuhn

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Jiang Zemins life and leadership sweep through almost eighty tumultuous years of Chinese history: Japanese occupation, Civil War, Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square, and, more recently, dramatic economic growth, tensions with Taiwan, and opportunities and confrontations with America. Jiangs story is an epic of war, deprivation, revolution, political turmoil, social convulsion, economic reform, national transformation, and international resurgence. To Robert Lawrence Kuhn, a longtime China observer, understanding the legacy of Jiang Zemin is essential for understanding the challenges of contemporary China. By examining Jiangs life, we observe the clash between Chinas traditional culture and chaotic history, and we appreciate how its changes impact the entire world.

In The Man Who Changed China, Kuhn, who was cited by the Asian Wall Street Journal for the unprecedented access he was given in the course of writing this book, has produced what the Journal called probably the closest thing to an authorized biography thats possible in Communist China. Here a reader will find a complex and nuanced portrait of Chinas senior leader, whose policies continue to exert great influence over the course of his country. Kuhn offers insight into how the Japanese occupation during Jiangs teenage years imprinted his psyche for life, how he became a Communist, and how, decades later, he struggled to transform the Party in the face of withering criticism.

In a sense, Kuhn argues, Jiangs early skeptics got it right: He was a transitional figurebut not in the way they had meant. With unshakable if paternalistic vision, a lifelong love of Chinese civilization, and backroom political skills that no one had anticipated, Jiang Zemin became an unexpected agent of change, effecting the transition from a traumatized society to a confident, prosperous country rapidly ascending in the new world order. Kuhn shows how Jiang led China through an amazing metamorphosisfrom a fretful country destabilized by the turmoil and crackdown in Tiananmen Square into a vibrant nation that became a primary engine of global economic growth. Above all Jiang is a Chinese patriotand it is important to appreciate what that really means. In offering this unusually intimate and comprehensive personal and political biography, Kuhn demonstrates that Jiang Zemins life personifies the history of contemporary China, giving invaluable insight into what China is today and will become in the future.


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