STORY: Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin died on Wednesday (November 30) at the age of 96, state media reported.
He died of leukemia and multiple organ failure in his home city of Shanghai.
The former president was plucked from obscurity to head China's ruling Communist Party, after the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989.
But he broke the country out of its subsequent diplomatic isolation, mending fences with the United States and overseeing an unprecedented economic boom.
His "Three Represents" theory, a progressive concept with a puzzling name, helped shape modern China by inviting entrepreneurs to join the party.
This theory was written into the party constitution in 2002.
Jiang counted among his proudest achievements the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule.
Under Jiang, China weathered the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and won the bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
However, political reform stagnated and freedoms were curbed under his rule.
China's wealth gap widened, corruption worsened and social unrest grew.
Jiang retired as party chief in 2002, handing the reins to Hu Jintao in China's first bloodless leadership transition since the 1949 revolution.
His style could surprise his guests, including this meeting with then Philippine's President Fidel Ramos in 1996, where he enjoyed a spot of karaoke.
The former president was known to sometimes burst into song, recite poems or play musical instruments.