With the passing of Betty Ford last week and the purported death of former PRC President Jiang Zemin, all sorts of random images are spinning through my mind.
First of all, check out this photo of Betty Ford in Beijing back in December, 1975. The PRC leadership was falling apart and lord only knows what kind of chaos preceded the Fords’ China visit.
Mao was ill (he’d be dead in 9 months), as was Zhou Enlai (who’d die from bladder cancer a month after the Fords left China). And Madame Mao and her three cohorts (the infamous Gang of Four) were plotting their takeover.
Fast forward 21 years. I learned Deng Xiaoping had died one morning when I happened to turn on the TV in my small Hong Kong flat. My then-husband phoned his parents in Hubei province to see if they’d heard the news. (They had; the Xinhua News Agency had released the news domestically and abroad all at the same time.)
We worried about Jiang Zemin taking over from Deng. But after all these years, the verdict is still out on Jiang. In my amateur estimation, I think it could be a case of being the right person at the right time.
Do you have any thoughts on Jiang, China’s tight controls over the passing of its (former) leaders, or Betty Ford?