Qiao Shi

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Qiao Shi
Qiaoshi in 1994.jpg
Qiao Shi in 1994
6th Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
In office
27 March 1993 – 15 March 1998
Preceded by Wan Li
Succeeded by Li Peng
Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection
In office
October 1987 – October 1992
Preceded by Chen Yun
(first secretary)
Succeeded by Wei Jianxing
Director of the General Office of the Communist Party of China
In office
June 1983 – April 1984
General Secretary Hu Yaobang
Preceded by Hu Qili
Succeeded by Wang Zhaoguo
Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission
In office
Preceded by Chen Pixian
Succeeded by Ren Jianxin
Personal details
Born December 1924
Shanghai, China
Died 14 June 2015(2015-06-14) (aged 90)
Beijing, China
Political party Communist Party of China
Spouse(s) Yu Wen (m. 1952; wid. 2013)
Children 2 sons and 2 daughters
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Qiao.
Qiao Shi
Traditional Chinese 喬石
Simplified Chinese 乔石

Qiao Shi (December 1924 – 14 June 2015) was a Chinese politician and one of the top leaders of the Communist Party of China. He was a member of the party's top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, from 1987 to 1997. He was a contender for the paramount leadership of China, but lost out to his political rival Jiang Zemin, who assumed leadership of the party in 1989. Qiao Shi instead served as Chairman of the National People's Congress, the third-ranked political position, from 1993 until his retirement in 1998.[1] Compared with his peers, including Jiang Zemin, Qiao Shi adopted a more liberal stance in political and economic policy, promoting the rule of law and market-oriented reform of state-owned enterprises.[2]

Early life[edit]

Qiao Shi was born Jiang Zhitong (蔣志彤; Jiǎng Zhìtóng) in December 1924 in Shanghai. His father was from Dinghai, Zhejiang province and worked as an accountant in Shanghai. His mother was a worker at Shanghai No. 1 Textile Mill.[3] He studied literature at East China Associated University, but did not graduate. He adopted the nom de guerre Jiang Qiaoshi after becoming involved with underground revolutionary activities when he was sixteen years old, as was common practice at the time for young aspiring Communists. He eventually dropped the surname Jiang altogether and simply went by "Qiao Shi". He joined the Communist Party of China in August 1940, and became involved with the anti-Kuomintang student movement in his youth. His specialty was intelligence and security.[4][5]

Early PRC and Cultural Revolution[edit]

After the People's Republic of China was established in 1949, Qiao Shi served as a leader of the Communist Youth League in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province until 1954. From 1954 to 1962, he worked at Anshan Iron and Steel Company in Northeast China, and then Jiuquan Iron and Steel Company in Gansu, Northwest China.[6]

In 1963, Qiao Shi was transferred to the International Liaison Department (ILD) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. He was recognized as an expert in international studies, and travelled widely to other communist countries.[4] However, he was severely persecuted when the Cultural Revolution began in 1966, because his wife Yu Wen was a niece of Chen Bulei, a key advisor to the Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek. He underwent numerous struggle sessions, which caused him to be hospitalized for duodenal ulcer and blood loss. In 1969, Qiao Shi and his wife were sent to work in rural labour camps, first in Heilongjiang, and later in Henan province. He was able to return to the ILD in 1971, when Geng Biao became Director of the department.[3]

Rise to power[edit]

After the end of the Cultural Revolution, Qiao Shi became the Deputy Director of ILD in 1978,[7] and Director in 1982, responsible for managing relationships with foreign communist parties. He also became an alternate member of the central Secretariat, the highest execution body of the party organization. Subsequently he also held the positions of head of the CPC General Office, in charge of day-to-day party administration, and of the Organization Department, in charge of human resources.[4] Under his directorship, the General Office changed its focus from class struggle to economic development, as part of the reform and opening-up policy.[7]

In 1985, Chinese spy chief Yu Qiangsheng defected to the United States, causing Politburo member and Political and Legal Affairs Commission Secretary Chen Pixian to be demoted. Qiao Shi was then selected to fill the void, partly due to his proximity to General Secretary Hu Yaobang and his winning the approval of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.[8] In that year, Qiao Shi was elected to the Politburo of the Communist Party. In 1986, he became a Vice Premier of the State Council.[2][5] From 1987 to 1997, Qiao Shi was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China's top decision-making body, overseeing the broad portfolios of internal security, intelligence, justice, and party discipline.[8] From 1987 to 1992, he also served as the Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party's agency in charge of anti-corruption efforts.[5]

Tiananmen Square and aftermath[edit]

Qiao Shi was thought to have played a key role during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, but it is still uncertain whether he supported or opposed the crackdown against the student protesters.[1] Most sources, including the autobiography of Zhao Ziyang, said that Qiao Shi held an ambivalent position on how to deal with the protests. He was said to be tolerant of the student movement, and abstained from a May 1989 Politburo vote on whether to send the army to Tiananmen Square.[2]

Qiao Shi managed to keep his leadership position when his Politburo colleagues Zhao Ziyang and Hu Qili, who opposed the crackdown, were purged. In the political aftermath of Tiananmen Square, Qiao Shi and then-Premier Li Peng were touted as two of the top candidates to lead the party. However, Deng and many party elders felt that Li Peng was too far left and had insufficient knowledge of economics to take the top job. Qiao Shi therefore appeared like a 'default' choice judging based on his experience and seniority at the time.[4] Deng personally arranged a meeting with Qiao Shi to discuss the leadership question.[8] However, Qiao Shi eventually lost out to his rival, then Shanghai party chief Jiang Zemin, who assumed the party's leading post in 1989 and the presidency in 1993.[4]

It was never made clear why Qiao Shi did not get the nod to become party leader. Observers speculated that Qiao Shi had too much prior experience in law enforcement and therefore was more prone to hardline, aggressive tactics to deal with issues, or that Qiao Shi had lost favour with important "party elders" – retired leaders who nevertheless held significant influence in the leadership succession process. Qiao Shi instead became Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in March 1993, officially ranked third in political positions in the People's Republic of China. As head of the national legislature, he tried to strengthen China's legal system and turn the national congress from a rubber-stamp body into an institution with real power in establishing the rule of law.[1] Dissident leader and Tiananmen student leader Wang Dan once commented, "Although Qiao Shi is a master of illusions, it's possible that he could lead China toward more enlightened rule."[4]

Relationship with Jiang Zemin[edit]

After 1989, Qiao Shi was known to have a tense relationship with the newly anointed party leader Jiang Zemin. Jiang, who had overnight climbed from a municipal leader to national party chief, was a mere Politburo member at the time he was called up to Beijing to take the reins (Qiao was a Standing Committee member, one rank above Jiang). Qiao was a party veteran who had served the central organization for over a decade, while Jiang never had any experience in the centre. Qiao also had a glowing resume with revolutionary credentials during his days as a student agitator in Shanghai; Jiang's revolutionary experience appeared unsubstantial by comparison.[8] As a result, it was not lost on political observers and those in the highest echelons of power that Jiang had 'leapfrogged' over Qiao, who by all measures seemed more qualified, had better credentials, and had a wider political network compared to Jiang.[8] Moreover, Qiao Shi's time as China's law enforcement chief meant that he had trusted aides staffed in key positions around the country, which was seen as a dormant threat if not an explicit challenge to Jiang's leadership.[8]


After the death of China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1997, President Jiang Zemin succeeded in excluding Qiao Shi from the CPC Central Committee and the Politburo at the 15th National Congress of the Communist Party of China by lowering the retirement age for party officials to 70 years of age, consolidating his power.[9] In 1998, Qiao Shi, then 74, retired from politics, and largely stayed out of the public eye thereafter.[1]

While Qiao Shi left active politics in 1998, his tenure in the highest echelons of the party and government earned him the distinction of holding the largest number of key offices compared to any of his contemporaries or any leader in succeeding generations. Among other things, Qiao Shi was at one point the top official in charge of party administration, organization and human resources, ideological indoctrination, internal discipline, intelligence, internal security, legislation, law enforcement, and the justice system.[a] By virtue of his Standing Committee membership, Qiao Shi remained the top official in charge of law enforcement even during his term as the chairman of the National People's Congress.[8]

Unlike his peers, most notably Jiang Zemin and Li Peng, Qiao Shi did not attend even the most important events on the Chinese political calendar after he retired, including the successive party congresses, National People's Congresses, the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, or various anniversaries of historical events.[10] In 2012, he published the book Qiao Shi On Democracy and Rule of Law, which received significant attention from both domestic and international media.[4] That Qiao Shi, a normally low-profile figure content with retirement, would publish such a work in his old age led to speculation that the book was a veiled criticism against the perceived deterioration of the legal and security portfolio under then security chief Zhou Yongkang. In 2014, Qiao Shi donated 11 million yuan to the China Legal Exchange Foundation, whose goal was to promote justice and the rule of law.[11]


Qiao Shi died on 14 June 2015 in Beijing of an unspecified illness. In his official obituary, Qiao Shi was extolled as "an excellent Party member, a time-tested fighter for the communist cause, and an outstanding proletarian revolutionary, statesman and leader of the Party and the state".[7] Qiao Shi was the first major leader from the third-generation of leadership to die. His obituary numbered over 2,000 Chinese characters, half of the length of the obituary of second-generation stalwarts Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yun, but far higher than the word count of the obituaries of Hua Guofeng, Liu Huaqing, and Huang Ju, who were each given a mere few hundred words.[12] The announcement of his death was the third item on the evening Xinwen Lianbo program; the announcement was made in the form of a "joint statement" by the top organs of the party and state, which is generally reserved for only the highest-ranked leaders.[13]

Flags were flown at half-mast in mourning of Qiao Shi's death.[14] Qiao's send-off ceremony took place at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery on June 19, 2015. It was attended by President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and all the sitting members of the Politburo Standing Committee except for Zhang Gaoli, who at the time was away on a visit to Europe. Former president Hu Jintao also attended. Jiang Zemin did not attend the funeral proceedings, but state news agencies made special mention of Jiang expressing his condolences; Jiang and his wife Wang Yeping sent a wreath to the ceremony.[12]


Qiao Shi married Yu Wen (郁文; 1926–2013) in early 1952. They had met when they were both working for the underground Communist Party in Shanghai in the 1940s. They had two daughters and two sons. Their eldest son Jiang Xiaoming (蒋小明; born 1953) earned a doctorate in economics at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Their younger daughter is named Qiao Xiaoxi (乔晓溪), who studied medicine at Baylor University and worked in the United States.[3][15] They had two other children, son Jiang Xiaodong (蒋小东) and daughter Qiao Ling (乔凌). Qiao's family is largely scandal free and has never been the target of overseas media speculation or criticism, unlike the families of other top Communist officials.[1]


In April 1996, Qiao Shi was awarded an honorary citizenship by the Cuban capital Havana, and an honorary doctorate in law by the University of Regina of Canada.[6]


  1. ^ By comparison, "security czar" Zhou Yongkang (Standing Committee term 2007–2012) was responsible for intelligence, security, and law enforcement, but was never part of the party administration and organization systems.
  1. ^ a b c d e Nectar Gan (14 June 2015). "Former China Communist Party senior official Qiao Shi dies at 91". South China Morning Post. 
  2. ^ a b c Mackerras, Colin; McMillen, Donald H.; Watson, Andrew (2003). Dictionary of the Politics of the People's Republic of China. Routledge. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-134-53175-2. 
  3. ^ a b c Lu Mengjun (14 June 2015). 乔石往事: 妻子是陈布雷外甥女, "文革"期间被贴了大字报 [Qiao Shi's past: wife was a niece of Chen Bulei]. Eastday (in Chinese). 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Song, Yuwu (2013). Biographical Dictionary of the People's Republic of China. McFarland. p. 258. ISBN 978-0-7864-3582-1. 
  5. ^ a b c "Qiao Shi". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 23 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Biography of Qiao Shi". Eastday (in Chinese). 14 June 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c "Former Chinese top legislator Qiao Shi dies at age 91". Global Times. 14 June 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Niu Lei (June 14, 2015). "牛泪:乔石与江泽民交往秘史". Duowei (History Channel). 
  9. ^ Seth Faison (10 September 1997). "China's President Ousts Rival From High Party Positions". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "关于乔石需要了解的五个事实". Duowei News. June 14, 2015. 
  11. ^ Jess Macy Yu (23 February 2015). "Former Chinese Premier Draws Praise for His Philanthropy". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ a b Mu, Yao (June 19, 2015). "第三代无一人露面 中共澄清江泽民不送乔石". 
  13. ^ "新闻联播 June 24, 2015". CCTV. 
  14. ^ "揭秘中共曾为哪些元老降半旗". June 17, 2015. 
  15. ^ "乔石女儿乔晓溪:母亲郁文是我心灵的避风港". Beijing Youth. April 1, 2015. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Wan Li
Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
1993 – 1998
Succeeded by
Li Peng
Party political offices
Preceded by
Song Renqiong
Head of CPC Central Organization Department
1984 – 1985
Succeeded by
Wei Jianxing
Preceded by
Ji Pengfei
Head of the International Liaison Department of the CPC Central Committee
1982 – 1983
Succeeded by
Qian Liren
Preceded by
Chen Pixian
Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission
1985 – 1992
Succeeded by
Ren Jianxin
Preceded by
Chen Yun
(first secretary)
Secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection
1987 – 1992
Succeeded by
Wei Jianxing
Preceded by
Hu Qili
Director of the General Office of the Communist Party of China
1984 – 1986
Succeeded by
Wang Zhaoguo
Preceded by
Gao Yang
President of the Central Party School
1989 – 1993
Succeeded by
Hu Jintao