It was Jiang's face that flashed onto the big screens in Tiananmen Square as revelers there watched the countdown to the Hong Kong hand-over Monday night, Jiang who outlined the blueprint for the governance of the territory in an address in Hong Kong on Tuesday morning, and Jiang who spoke to the massive audience in the Beijing stadium with all the luminaries of the Communist Party sitting behind him.
"All people in Beijing should rally around the leadership of the party center with Jiang Zemin at the core," Beijing party boss Wei Jianxing told the stadium audience, using a phrase often seen in newspapers here. Indeed, two more speakers repeated it before Jiang stood up to give his speech.
His rather wooden delivery of a prepared text suggested that he may never inspire the personality cult that surrounded Mao.
"Still not finished?" one young woman said, sighing, when Jiang was only halfway done.
But at least one of his listeners believes his grip on power to be secure.
"Jiang's position is the absolute top in China," said university student Lu Jindong, 21, between bites of a sandwich after Jiang's address gave way to a dance on the field by hundreds of colorfully outfitted performers. "His position is immovable."
Times staff writer David Holley in Shanghai and Bao Lei of The Times' Shanghai Bureau contributed to this report.