Chinese state media was forced to deny reports of the death of former president Jiang Zemin (centre) [Reuters]

The former Chinese president Jiang Zemin has made a rare public appearance, months after speculation that he had died or was close to death.

The 85-year-old Jiang took his seat onstage with other leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing at an official event commemorating the centennial anniversary of the 1911 revolution that overthrew imperial rule.

Looking frail, Jiang smiled as he chatted to his successor, Hu Jintao, during a live TV broadcast.

Jiang's failure to appear at a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party's founding in July sparked intense speculation that he had died, resulting in an official denial in state media.

Although retired, Jiang remains a very influential figure within party circles, commanding the loyalty of proteges jockeying for power among China's rising political elites.

For 12 years, Jiang led China through big economic and social changes after crushing the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement, until he transferred power to Hu in 2002.

Source: Agencies