Monday, May. 08, 2006

Wen Jiabao

Less irascible and blunt than his hard-driving predecessor Zhu Rongji, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has earned the reputation of being a modest, even-tempered and practical person capable of getting things done through consensus. Along with President Hu Jintao, he is part of a leadership composed largely of technocrats rather than revolutionary military veterans. As Premier, Wen has guided China's tectonic economy, supporting continued economic reform and growth but also pointedly calling for greater emphasis on social equality for those who have been left out of the country's "economic miracle." Indeed, his expressions of concern for the plight of ordinary peasants and laborers, whose disaffection has manifested itself in an alarming increase in social unrest, have given him the image of being something of a populist. He has faced other political challenges: the AIDS crisis, SARS, China's worsening environmental problems. Wen, 63, has taken a relatively hard line on Beijing's claim to Taiwan, saying, "We don't hope for foreign intervention, but we are not afraid of it." Yet he has also taken pains to emphasize that in foreign policy, "the path embarked on by China is one of peaceful development," which he described recently as "the natural choice for China."

Schell, author of nine books on China, often reports and writes about Asia