A measure of the opaque, and at times strange, nature of China and its politics: One is not always sure whether past national leaders are alive. Due to factional struggles within the Chinese Communist Party (or perceived struggles), the issues of former rulers, their health and their allies are closely watched and at times difficult to discern. This was the case with former president Jiang Zemin.
Online rumors began to circulate this summer that the 84-year-old Jiang had passed away. He did not show up for a celebration of the Communist Party's 90th anniversary. There were whispers of late night caravans of dark sedans pulling into state hospitals. State media denied the reports, and the issue drifted away after a while, though for some Chinese web users there was a lingering suspicion.
Sunday brought final confirmation that Jiang is, in fact, alive. He was in attendance for a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the fall of the Qing Dynasty.
The Associated Press described him as: "Dressed in a dark blue suit and red tie, Jiang wore his signature large, square-rimmed glasses as he sat listening to speeches with his hands on the table in front of him. His hair was slicked back as usual but was obviously thinning, and he appeared at times to be tired."
Of course, this is about more than Jiang. It's yet another moment to consider the effects of China's authoritarian approach to information flow. After so many years of disinformation, a fact magnified now by expanding Internet usage and a Chinese press that at times pushes boundaries, Beijing's rulers are faced with a public increasingly reluctant to accept official versions of events. Even when they're true.