Wen Jiabao

52

Wen Jiabao : biography

19 September 1942 –

Like Hu Jintao, whose purported brilliance and photographic memory have facilitated his meteoric rise to power, Wen is regarded as well-equipped to preside over a vast bureaucracy in the world’s most populated and perhaps rapidly changing nation. In March 2003, the usually self-effacing Wen was quoted as saying, "The former Swiss ambassador to China once said that my brain is like a computer", he said. "Indeed, many statistics are stored in my brain."

Mild-tempered and conciliatory, especially compared to his predecessor, the tough, straight-talking Zhu Rongji, Wen’s consensual management style has enabled him to generate a great deal of good will, but has also created some opponents who are in support of tougher policy decisions. Notably, Wen was widely known to have clashed with then-Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu over the central government’s policies.

Wen was involved in two major episodes involving public health. In early 2003, he was involved in ending the official inaction over the SARS crisis. On 1 December 2004, he became the first major Chinese official to publicly address the problem of AIDS, which has devastated parts of Yunnan and Henan and threatens to be a major burden on Chinese development. Since May 2004, Wen made various visits to communities devastated by AIDS, trips shown prominently on national media. By showing these actions, Wen displayed an effort to reverse years of what many activists have described as a policy of denial and inaction. Furthermore, Wen is concerned about the health and safety of previous drug addicts; since March 2004, Wen had visited several drug addict treatment facilities in southern China and addressed the issue to the patients in person, recognizing that AIDS is more likely to be spread by drug abuse and the reuse of hypodermic syringes than by sexual contact.

Wen was known to conduct visits to relatively poor areas of China’s countryside randomly to avoid elaborate preparations to appease officials and hide the real situation, which is done often in China. At committee meetings of the State Council, Wen made it clear that the rural wealth disparity problem must be addressed. Along with General Secretary Hu Jintao, the government focused on the "Three Rural Issues", namely, agriculture, the countryside, and farmers, and emphasized these core areas as requiring further work and development. The Hu-Wen administration abolished the thousand year old agricultural tax entirely in 2005, a bold move that significantly changed the rural economic model. But despite these initiatives, Wen has been criticized for allowing the urban-rural gap to actually increase during his tenure.http://chinanalyst.com/archives/368 Like Zhu Rongji, Wen is generally seen as a popular communist official with the Chinese public. His attitude is seemingly sincere and warm, triggering comparisons with former premier Zhou Enlai. Wen spent Chinese New Year in 2005 with a group of coal miners in a Shanxi coal mine. To many, Wen has gained the image of being the "people’s premier", a populist, and an ordinary Chinese citizen who knows and understands ordinary people’s needs. In an annual meeting of the Chinese Authors Association, Wen spoke for over two hours to the delegates without looking at script. To foreign media, Wen was also the highest figure in the Chinese government to give free press conferences, often facing politically sensitive and difficult questions regarding subjects such as Taiwan Independence, Tibetan independence and human rights.

In December 2003, Wen visited the United States for the first time. During the trip, Wen was able to get President George W. Bush to issue what many saw as a mild rebuke to the then President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Chen Shui-bian. Wen has also been on visits to Canada and Australia, mostly on economic issues. Wen also visited Japan in April 2007 in what was termed the "de-thawing journey", where he characterized the relationship between the Asian powers as for "mutual benefit". He also met with Emperor Akihito and played baseball.