Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin dies at 96

Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, who came to power after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, died in Shanghai on Wednesday of leukemia and organ failure, the Chinese Communist Party announced. He was 96.

Jiang, a former top official in Shanghai, was initially considered a transitional figure when he became the surprise pick to lead the ruling Communist Party and serve as president as China worked to reintegrate itself into the international community after the Tiananmen massacre. Instead, he held office for more than a decade, embracing market reforms and paving the way for China’s meteoric economic growth. He stepped down as party chief in 2002 and president in 2003.

Jiang’s death comes as China faces unrest over President Xi Jinping’s “zero COVID” policies, the biggest protests since the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement.