Wen Jiabao

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Wen Jiabao : biography

19 September 1942 –

On 15 March 2005, after the anti-secession law was passed, by a majority of 2,896 to nil, with two abstentions by the National People’s Congress, Wen said: "We don’t wish for foreign intervention, but we are not afraid of it." as an allusion to the United States’ stance on Taiwan. That earned him a long round of applause that was rare even by Chinese standards.

On 5 March 2007, Wen announced plans to increase the military budget. By the end of 2007 the military budget rose 17.8 percent from the previous year’s 45 billion dollars, creating tension with the United States.

There were rumours about Wen’s retirement and reputed clashes with former Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu before the party’s 17th Party Congress. Some sources suggested that Wen would ask to retire due to fatigue. Ultimately, Wen stayed on the Premier job, and was responsible for the drafting of the important speech delivered by President Hu Jintao outlining China’s direction in the next five years.

In January 2008, while during the midst of severe snowstorms, Premier Wen made his way south and visited train stations in Changsha and Guangzhou, addressing the public while calming their mood for long train delays.

Political views

Domestic and foreign media have variously described Wen as "populist" and in touch with the needs of ordinary people. On most social issues Wen seems to be moderate, with his brand of policies based around societal harmony as prescribed by the Scientific Development Concept, the leading ideology of the administration.

In the first term of his Premiership Wen’s attitudes towards political reform seemed ambivalent. He has remarked that "the socialist system will continue in China for the next 100 years", Richard Spencer, The Daily Telegraph although later in a Press Conference at the 2007 National People’s Congress, he stated that "democracy is one of the basic goals of the socialist system". Furthermore, in an interview in September 2008, Wen acknowledged that the democratic system in China needs to be improved, where the power "truly belongs to the people" through the construction of an independent judicial system and for the government to accept criticism from the people., CNN, 28 September 2008. Wen, seen as a former ally of Premier Zhao Ziyang, is likely supportive of the latter’s political rehabilitation. However, Wen has rarely mentioned Zhao publicly during his premiership. When asked by CNN whether or not China will liberalize for free elections in the next 25 years, Wen stated that it would be "hard to predict." On the subject of Taiwan, Wen reputedly believes in gradual negotiations. On the subject of Tibet, Wen toes the party line in condemning the exiled Dalai Lama for inciting "separatist violence".

Xinhua published articles in early 2007 on the direction of national development. The authorship of the articles was attributed separately to Wen Jiabao, particularly the 26 February piece "Our Historical Tasks at the Primary Stage of Socialism and Several Issues Concerning China’s Foreign Policy". The article advanced Wen’s "peace doctrine" in global affairs, as well as what appeared to be inclinations towards fostering social democracy and advocacy of universal values. This was suspected as a sign that Wen has some differing viewpoints to the official party line – that values are relativistic and that "Chinese values" are not necessarily the same as "Western values," and that universal values is thus an empty concept. The debate continues to rage in Chinese political circles today, with neo-leftist thinkers such as Chinese Academy of Social Sciences President Chen Kuiyuan criticizing Wen’s advocacy of universal values, saying that it relegates Chinese values and thinking as an inferior alternative to supposedly more "correct" Western norms.

Wen is perceived by some observers as a liberal voice in China’s ruling elite. Wen has openly talked about democracy and increased freedoms in his speeches and interviews with foreign correspondents, although much of it was deemed "sensitive" commentary and censored in state media. Wen remarked that "someone who speaks is not a criminal, someone who listens is duly warned" ( which alludes to the classical work Shi Jing) at an internal party conference in 2009, an event reported on Xinhua and other state networks. His remarks triggered debate from netizens, as it seemed to contravene the practices of the Communist Party, particularly in its suppression of dissent. Analysts noted that Wen’s message was aimed at party members, and not necessarily the general public because Wen believes freedom of speech has deteriorated since Hu Jintao’s accession to power and has negatively affected China’s political landscape and international reputation. His comments also ostensibly addressed the pervasive "fake-talking" present in Chinese political circles, in an attempt to curb systemic and institutional woes stemming from officials who are afraid to speak the truth.