HONG KONG—China's ex-president Jiang Zemin is still flexing his muscles behind the scenes, vowing never to renounce the use of force to reclaim Taiwan a day after he stepped down from his last formal leadership post as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC).
At an expanded meeting of the commission Monday, Jiang was seen to throw his support behind his designated successor President Hu Jintao, but he called on the military never to go soft on Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a renegade province.
"On the Taiwan issue, we should, with the greatest sincerity, make the greatest efforts to realize the peaceful unification. But we can never promise to give up the use of force. This is a very important political choice," Jiang told the meeting.
Jiang said Hu was rightly taking over from him as CMC chairman, in a move that was "completely up to standards" of Communist Party practice, official television reported.
The system of one person acting as party chief, state president and head of the Central Military Commission "is not only necessary in such a large party and large nation as ours, it is also the most appropriate method," Jiang said.
Jiang and Hu, both clad in People's Liberation Army attire, called for unity in the military. "If the military is internally united, and the military and the people are united, there is no difficulty that cannot be overcome," Jiang said.
Hu echoed his words with a slogan: "Unity is strength. Unity is victory."
Jiang, 78, stepped down Sunday as chairman of the CMC, handing over control of the 2.5 million-strong nuclear-armed military to Hu.
The move completed a leadership transition that began in the autumn of 2002, when Hu replaced Jiang as party boss. In March 2003 Hu took over from Jiang as state president.