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Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin dies at 96

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Chinese President Jiang Zemin waves as he enters a vehicle upon arriving at Hong Kong's Kai Tak airport on June 30, 1997, for the night's handover activities as Hong Kong is returned to China from Britain at midnight. File Photo by David Yee/UPI
Chinese President Jiang Zemin waves as he enters a vehicle upon arriving at Hong Kong's Kai Tak airport on June 30, 1997, for the night's handover activities as Hong Kong is returned to China from Britain at midnight. File Photo by David Yee/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, known as an economic reformer but one who helped the Communist Party strengthen its position after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, has died, officials said Wednesday. He was 96 years old.

Media reports said that Jiang died of leukemia and multiple organ failure. His death was made public in a letter by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China, among others.

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Jiang was tasked with improving China's image during worldwide condemnation after the military's deadly putdown of student-led pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square.

The former mayor of Shanghai, Jiang invited entrepreneurs to join the Communist Party and increase economic changes while modernizing the Chinese military and tightening political control during his 11-year rule.

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"He managed to steer China from great difficulties to great promise," Jia Qingguo, the former dean of Peking University's School of International Studies, told NPR.

"China became -- under his leadership -- more open to the outside world, more liberal and China's economy became more dynamic."

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The Central Committee's letter called Jiang "an outstanding leader" who was acknowledged by the entire party, the military and the Chinese people.

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He was described as "a great Marxist, a great proletarian revolutionary, statesman, military strategist and diplomat, a long-tested communist fighter, and an outstanding leader of the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics."

Jiang's leadership in China's capitalist transformation helped the country build its middle and upper classes, lifting it into the world's second-largest economy behind the United States. His political stature helped usher in the current President, Xi Jinping.

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Anita Pointer of the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters stands with Andy Madadian (C) and La Toya Jackson (L) as Madadian is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2020. Pointer, who performed alongside her sisters June and Ruth, died at the age of 74 on December 31 following a battle with cancer. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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