BEIJING -- The general secretary of China's Communist Party since 1989, Jiang Zemin was named to the ceremonial state presidency in an effort to widen his power as the chosen successor of senior leader Deng Xiaoping.
Jiang, 66, whom Deng has dubbed the 'core' of the new leadership generation, was elevated to party leader in June 1989 to replace the ousted Zhao Ziyang after the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
But he has served more as a public relations man than a key decision- maker. And the dwindling club of communist nations has restrained him from high profile trips abroad, which he can now make as president without problems of protocol.
Still Jiang remains overshadowed by powerful party elders and has built only a limited power base dominated by associates from Shanghai, where he served as mayor and party boss in the 1980s.
Although chairman of the party military commission, and also newly named as chairman of the government military commission, he has not amassed real authority over the crucial armed forces.
But Jiang was bolstered when his predecessor as president, Yang Shangkun, was removed from key military posts last fall along with his half-brother, a powerful general.
Military publications, including the Liberation Army Daily, have in recent months undertaken an editorial campaign to boost Jiang as having Deng's direct blessing.
Born in August 1926, Jiang studied electrical engineering at a Shanghai college and later managed a factory in the 1940s. He trained in an auto plant in Moscow during the 1950s and served in party and economic posts until he rose into the national government and party Central Committee in the early 1980s.
He was credited for using citizens militias, not the army, to control spring 1989 protests in Shanghai during the Tiananmen period.
But while supporting the country's market-oriented reforms, he has also signed on to political repression and at times been referred to derisively as a 'weather vane,' turning in whatever direction the wind blows.
Chunky and gregarious, and always appearing in thick black- rimmed glasses, he has charmed foreign visitors with his command of English, Russian and some Japanese. Official biographies claim he speaks Romanian as well and favors classical art and popular music.
He and his wife, Wang Yeping, have two sons.