Wen Jiabao

born Sept. 1942, Tianjin, China

Premier of China (from 2003).

While studying at the Beijing Institute of Geology, Wen joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 1985 he was named deputy director of the General Office of the CCP Central Committee and the following year became director. While at the General Office, Wen also served as chief of staff to several general secretaries of the CCP, including Zhao Ziyang. The two men faced criticism after visiting Beijing's Tiananmen Square during a series of pro-democracy demonstrations and being photographed talking with protestors. Although Zhao was placed under house arrest, Wen escaped any lasting political damage. In 1993 he became a full member of the Secretariat of the CCP Central Committee and four years later a member of the Political Bureau. In 1998 he was appointed one of China's four vice-premiers. Aided by his experience in shaping agricultural policy, Wen succeeded Zhu Rongji as premier in 2003.

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▪ 2004

      At a meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 16, 2003, Wen Jiabao, a 60-year-old former geologist, was formally approved as the new premier of China, succeeding the retiring Zhu Rongji. A vice-premier under Zhu since 1998, Wen had been primarily responsible for handling agricultural, financial, and environmental matters. Viewed as a skilled and efficient administrator but one who possessed a much less forceful personal style than the often outspoken Zhu, Wen nevertheless shared Zhu's reform-minded approach to government. Restructuring China's heavily indebted banking system and continuing to reform its state-owned enterprises to make them more globally competitive were expected to be among his top objectives as premier.

      Wen was born in September 1942 in Tianjin, China. He studied at the Beijing Institute of Geology between 1960 and 1968, eventually earning a graduate degree in structural geology. While a student at the institute, he joined the Communist Party of China (CPC), and upon graduation he went to work as a technician and political instructor at the Gansu Provincial Geological Bureau. He rose to become deputy director-general of the bureau before joining the Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources in 1982. Wen was named deputy director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee in 1985. The following year he was elevated to director, a post he held until 1992.

      During his tenure as director of the General Office, Wen held a number of other party positions. He served as chief of staff to three general secretaries of the CPC—Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, and Jiang Zemin. In 1989, in a highly publicized incident, Wen accompanied Zhao to Beijing's Tiananmen Square while a dramatic series of pro-democracy student demonstrations were taking place. Both Wen and Zhao were photographed visiting with striking students—an act interpreted as a gesture of support for the students' cause. Although Zhao was soon placed under house arrest, and the demonstrations were forcibly repressed by the government, Wen managed to avoid being purged from the party and escaped lasting political damage from his association with Zhao. He went on to become a full member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee in 1993 and a member of the Political Bureau in 1997. A year later he was appointed one of China's four vice-premiers.

      As vice-premier, Wen was credited with helping launch a program aimed at lessening the tax burden on Chinese farmers. His experience in shaping agriculture policy, in particular, was believed to have helped his bid for the premiership, as one of the immediate priorities for China in 2003 was revitalizing its lagging rural economy. Upon taking office as premier, Wen cited agriculture along with banking and state-owned enterprises as areas in which he hoped to implement market-oriented reforms. According to some analysts, however, Wen's reformist agenda would likely take a backseat to national-security issues during the first years of his five-year term in office.

Sherman Hollar

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▪ premier of China
born September 1942, Tianjin, China
 
 Chinese official, premier of China from 2003.

      Wen studied at the Beijing Institute of Geology, where he earned a graduate degree in structural geology in 1968. While a student at the institute, he joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and upon graduation he went to work as a technician and political instructor at the Gansu Provincial Geological Bureau. He rose to become deputy director general of the bureau before joining the Ministry of Geology and Mineral Resources in 1982. Wen was named deputy director of the General Office of the CCP Central Committee in 1985. The following year he was elevated to director, a post he held until 1992.

      During his tenure heading the General Office, Wen held a number of other party positions. He served as chief of staff to three general secretaries of the CCP— Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, and Jiang Zemin. In 1989, in a highly publicized event, Wen accompanied Zhao to Beijing's Tiananmen Square while a series of dramatic pro-democracy demonstrations were taking place. Both Wen and Zhao were photographed visiting with demonstrators, an act interpreted as a gesture of support for the protestors' cause. Although Zhao was placed under house arrest and the demonstrations were forcibly repressed by the government, Wen managed to escape lasting political damage from his association with Zhao. In 1993 Wen became a full member of the Secretariat of the CCP Central Committee, and four years later he became a member of the Political Bureau. In 1998 he was appointed one of China's four vice-premiers. Wen was credited with helping to launch a program aimed at reducing taxes on Chinese farmers. He also was involved in financial and environmental matters.

      In March 2003 Wen was formally approved as the new premier of China, succeeding Zhu Rongji. His experience in shaping agricultural policy, in particular, was believed to have helped his bid for the premiership, as one of the immediate priorities for China was revitalizing its lagging rural economy. As premier, Wen was also entrusted with restructuring China's heavily indebted banking system and continuing to reform its state-owned enterprises to make them more globally competitive. In the aftermath of the May 12, 2008, Sichuan earthquake, which left tens of thousands dead, Wen helped direct relief efforts and served as the government's public face of compassion and leadership in the wake of the tragedy.

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Universalium. 2010.

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