China's 19th party congress

Jiang Zemin's appearance lights up social media

Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin reading the text of President Xi Jinping's speech as he listened to the address beside Premier Li Keqiang during the opening of the 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing yesterday. The 91-year-old former party
Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin reading the text of President Xi Jinping's speech as he listened to the address beside Premier Li Keqiang during the opening of the 19th Communist Party Congress in Beijing yesterday. The 91-year-old former party leader was rumoured to have died of a stroke in Shanghai in May, but he was subsequently seen in public.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • Rumoured to have died a few months ago, 91-year-old former Chinese president Jiang Zemin roused social media users yesterday by taking a prominent place at the ruling Communist Party's leadership congress.

Proving that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated, the former leader sat next to President Xi Jinping and stood for the national anthem as the congress opened.

Many Chinese Internet users gushed over the elderly "Frog" - an affectionate nickname inspired by Mr Jiang's trademark wide grin and prominent bespectacled eyes - in postings sprinkled with frog emojis.

"I want to ask about his secret for longevity," said one posting on China's social network Weibo.

Guided to his chair by two ushers, Mr Jiang and his oversized glasses stood out in the crowd of dark-suited party leaders. He occasionally glanced at his watch or read Mr Xi's speech text with a magnifying glass, flashing a smile as he talked to Mr Xi.

Mr Jiang, former party leader and Chinese president for a decade from 1993, is occasionally the subject of rumours about his demise. In May, online speculation swirled that he had died of a stroke in Shanghai, the financial centre formerly governed by him as mayor and party chief. He was subsequently seen in public.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Jiang Zemin's appearance lights up social media'. Print Edition | Subscribe