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Jiang Zemin

Former President Jiang Zemin is considered among the three most powerful men in China, along with leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping and current President Hu Jintao.

Jiang was president from 1993 to 2003 and was the chairman of the Central Military Commission for 16 years up to 2005. The size of China's economy almost quadrupled from $440 billion to $1.64 trillion during his time in power. Though he officially retired 10 years ago, 86-year-old Jiang still retains his political influence amid the leadership transition and reportedly has a hand in picking candidates for the party's top decision-making body — the Politburo Standing Committee.

Jiang has recently made several public appearances despite reports of his death by a Hong Kong television station last year. His public appearances before the leadership transition this month show the power retired elders have long had over China's political process. Xi — the future president — is considered one of Jiang's most prominent protégés.

Pictured left: Chinese president Hu Jintao (L) shakes hands with former president Jiang Zemin.

Photo: Minoru Iwasaki | AFP | Getty Images