The Plastic Premier

When a group of 15 executives from multinational mining companies met with Wen Jiabao, China's Premier-designate, in late 2001, they hoped to be getting face time with a kindred spirit. The execs, among them heavyweight representatives of giant mine operators such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, wanted to discuss the opening of China's mineral-extraction market to foreign investment. Wen, a geologist by training, was in a position to make a difference as the country's Vice Premier. As everybody sipped green tea in a meeting room at Zhongnanhai, the Beijing leadership compound, Wen listened politely to their pitch for streamlining the...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!