'The Wish and Will of the People Are Not Stoppable'

On Oct. 3, Fareed Zakaria spoke to Premier Wen Jiabao on his CNN program Fareed Zakaria GPS . Excerpts:

  • STR/AFP/Getty Images

    China's Premier Wen Jiabao expresses his condolences to survivors after a deadly flood-triggered landslide hit the area of Zhouqu, in northwest China's Gansu province.

    On Oct. 3, Fareed Zakaria spoke to Premier Wen Jiabao on his CNN program Fareed Zakaria GPS . Excerpts:

    Do you feel that the global economy is stable and strong? Or do you worry that the U.S. could go back into a recession?
    I think the world economy is recovering, although the process of recovery is a slow and torturous one. I hope that there will be a quick recovery of the U.S. economy, because, after all, the U.S. economy is the largest in the world. I have taken note of the recent policies and measures taken by President Obama. I think these are on the right track.

    What lesson have you drawn from the financial crisis? Have you lost faith in American macroeconomic management?
    The biggest lesson that I have drawn from the financial crisis is that, in managing the affairs of a country, it's important to pay close attention to addressing the structural problems in the economy. China has achieved enormous progress in its development. Yet I was one of the first to argue that our economic development still lacks balance, coordination and sustainability. This financial crisis has reinforced my view. As far as the U.S. economy is concerned, I have always believed that it is solidly based. The U.S. has the strength of scientific and technological talent and managerial expertise. In spite of the twists and turns, the U.S., I believe, will tide over the crisis.

    Can China be a strong and creative nation with so many restrictions on freedom of expression and the Internet being censored?
    I believe freedom of speech is indispensable for any country. Freedom of speech has been incorporated into the Chinese constitution. In China there are about 400 million Internet users and 800 million mobile-phone subscribers. They can access the Internet to express their views, including critical views. I often say that we should not only let people have the freedom of speech; we, more important, must create conditions to let them criticize the work of the government. All this must be conducted within the range allowed by the constitution and the laws so that the country will have normal order. And that is all the more necessary for such a large country as China, with 1.3 billion people.

    I was particularly struck by a speech you gave in Shenzhen in which you said, "Along with economic reform, we must keep doing political reform." But a lot of Chinese people say there has not been much political reform over the past six or seven years.
    I have summed up my political ideals in the following four sentences: To let everyone lead a happy life with dignity. To let everyone feel safe and secure. To let the society be one with equality and justice. And to let everyone have confidence in the future. In spite of the various discussions and views in the society, and in spite of some resistance, I will act in accordance with these ideals unswervingly and advance, within the realm of my capabilities, political restructuring.

    Wouldn't it be good for China to allow a more substantial appreciation of the renminbi?
    There are three points. First, China does not pursue a trade surplus. Our objective in having foreign trade is to have balanced and sustainable trade with other countries, and we want to have a basic equilibrium in our balance of payments. Second, the increase of a trade surplus of a country is not necessarily linked with the exchange policy of that country. The third point is that the trade imbalance between our two countries is mainly structural in nature. Many Chinese exports to the U.S. are no longer produced in the U.S., and I don't believe that the U.S. will restart the production of those products — products that are at the low end of the value-added chain. Even if you don't buy them from China, you still have to buy them from India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. And that will not help resolve the trade imbalance between our two countries.

    Is there a book you've read in the past few months that has impressed you?
    The books that are always on my shelves are books about history, because I believe history is like a mirror, and I like to read both Chinese history and history of foreign countries. There are two books that I often travel with. One is The Theory of Moral Sentiments , by Adam Smith. The other is The Meditations [of Marcus Aurelius] . There are too many memoirs selling nowadays. I don't like reading those books.

    You have spoken of your determination to continue political reform. Do you believe that the next generation of Chinese leaders will keep trying to press your vision?
    First, as the Chinese saying goes, as the Yangtze River forges ahead waves upon waves, the new generation will invariably surpass the old. I have confidence that the future Chinese leadership will excel the previous one. Second, it is the people and the strength of the people that determine the future of the country and history. The wish and will of the people are not stoppable. Those who go along with the trend will thrive, and those who go against the trend will fail.