Wen Jiabao Exits the Stage
Image Credit: Wikicommons

Wen Jiabao Exits the Stage


Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao thanked the Chinese people for allowing him to serve and expressed confidence in his successors during a panel discussion at the 12th National People's Congress (NPC).

"The past decade was extraordinary in the country's development history. I am very grateful and have cherished the chance to serve the country," Wen said Xinhua News Agency reported.

Much of Wen’s speeches at the NPC have been spent defending his and outgoing President Hu Jintao’s record. Still, many Chinese and foreign analysts are already portraying Wen and Hu’s tenure as a “lost decade” for China, despite the extraordinary economic growth they presided over.

During his farewell address this week Wen himself conceded: “If I did not do enough, it would mean that I was not competent enough. I beg forgiveness from the people." 

The modest tone of Wen’s speech was characteristic of his time as China’s premier where he was often seen as a grandfatherly figure. This image was undoubtedly tarnished somewhat by a New York Times investigation last year that found that Wen’s family members had enriched themselves significantly during his time in power.

Wen has also been a strong advocate for deepening political reforms in China, a fact not altogether surprising given his former closeness to General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, the liberal reformer who was ousted by Deng Xiaoping after he refused to sign the decree ordering the army to crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Even with Wen’s vocal support, however, political reform in China largely stalled during the last decade.

Wen also delivered the government’s work report at the NPC on Tuesday, setting a 7.5 percent growth target for 2013. It was the last time he will deliver the report as Li Keqiang is scheduled to formally succeed Wen as premier during the annual meeting of the Chinese Legislature.

Wen expressed confidence in his successors at the NPC despite previously sparring with Li over the issue of urbanization, which Li has already indicated will be a top priority for him as premier.

In a January speech to the nation’s top economic planning body, National Development and Reform,Wen warned against sacrificing, “rural industry and the interests of rural residents,” in pursuit of rapid urbanization. This seemed to contradict Li who has repeatedly called urbanization the main growth engine for the Chinese economy in the years ahead, and said he believes it should be accelerated.

Wen and Hu came into office pledging to focus more attention on the interests of China’s rural and non-coastal regions after these areas were largely neglected when Jiang Zemin and the “Shanghai Faction were in power. 

Zachary Keck is assistant editor of The Diplomat. He is on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Head Hunter
March 12, 2013 at 14:50

Aye, if you can't debate or can't talk in public, especially on the international arena, you have no business being amongst the top leaders.  The job requirements in this regard for top jobs like these, are clearly underlined.

Washington's Vile Propaganda War
March 10, 2013 at 15:59

Now we know why the Washington Posts and New York Post  "released"  their "expose" about top Chinese  leaders.  The timing is not co-incidental.  It is made pre-emptively for the medias and their readers to throw mud at the Chinese leaders when they retire.  Just by releasing another article asking talking about these rtired or exiting leaders.  And on cue you will see all the mud being thrown, especially by the CIA trolls.  And you think the financail investigation or audit was done by the WP and NYT?  Not on your nelly.  It was given to them to publicize as part of Imperial Washington vile propaganda  campaign. And Mr Hu and Wen had no balls and spine to make a firm stand to Mr Obama's duplicitous behaviour and actions towards the Chinese. At least the KJU had balls compared to Hu and Wen.

March 10, 2013 at 13:12

China's best actor, but as Deng said; black Bo or white Wen, it doesn't really matter.

March 9, 2013 at 17:29

Yep! Bro … there's lots of things you do not know and will never know! Keep on sleeping and wishing and dreaming! Don't worry … China is so backward and useless as you said and think! And will never be the TOP DOG in the world! zzzzzzzzzzzz…….!

March 9, 2013 at 07:40

Leonard R. wrote:

March 7, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I find myself agreeing with paragraphs 1 & 3 of Liang1a's post. His economic analysis in paragraph 3 does not factor in a currency war with Japan, the US & the BRIC's. When you add that in – Liang1a's analysis becomes even more ominous.

Think about that. Because of the economic model Beijing has chosen – it will get very ugly inside China once the currency wars pick up momentum. Focusing on exports was a very reasonable choice for Beijing at one time. And China did very well at that game. But those days are gone. And the Hu-Wen government did very little to prepare for the next phase. That's why their era is deservedly called a 'lost decade'.

Liang's response:

I don't know what Leonard meant exactly by currency war.  If he meant that developed countries will now purposely devalue their currencies to make their exports more competitive, then he is not entirely right.  China's exports for the next several years will still be labor intensive products.  Therefore, even if America, Japan and EU devalued their currencies it will make little difference to China.  Of course, beyond 5 years and if China can advance its indigenous technologies to the world cutting edge then China will begin to compete against the developed countries for a bigger share of high tech exports.  Abe already has announced his intention of devaluing the yen.  But a lower value of yen and dollar will only make imports more costly for these countries thus causing stagflation.  It will make their peoples' lives more miserable but it won't affect China's exports of labor intensive products.  At least for the next 5 years or so.  Then as China shifts to high tech exports, it will reduce Japan's market share and will motivate Japan to devalue its yen even further.  And that will ultimately lower Japan's per capita nominal GDP to some $30,000 or less with an even lower purchasing power GDP of only $25,000 or less.  The lives of the Japnese will be very miserable indeed.  And beyond 10 years as Chinese indigenous technologies surpass Japnese technologies by a significant degree then Japnese will have to rely on cheap yen to compete.  At which time China and Japan will reverse their roles with China relying on quality to compete while Japan has to rely on cheap labor.  Ultimately, Japnese per capita GDP will sink down to just $20,000 while China's per capita GDP will rise to $66,000 or 3 times or more than Japan.  This is because China does not need to export and its export will only be around 3% of its GDP while Japan must rely on exports to get the raw materials and energy so exports will make up 15% of its GDP (the proportion of exports as a fraction of GDP will increase as the GDP shrinks).  Japan is doomed and there is nothing it can do about it.

Leonard R. wrote:

Shinzo Abe has been brilliant so far. He has manuvered (sic) China into an economic trap. China's economy could survive currency wars – if the main driver of GDP of its GDP – like the US – was domestic consumption. But it's not. And it's too late for Beijing to turn that battleship around.

Liang's response:

Abe had done nothing to maneuver China into anything.  He just got elected as PM, so how dould he have time to do any maneuvering?  Don't get carried away!  Even if the Chinese government didn't know what kind of enlightened policies to implement to grow the domestic economy, yet the Chinese people on their own will surely do much to develop the domestic economy.  They will have a hard time because the government policy will allow energy and raw materials and various essential resources to be channeled to the exports sector.  But the productivity of the people is increasing and their consumption and demand will increase thus leading to greater supplies which will increase employment at higher wages.  Hopefully, China can maintain a growth rate of some 7% or more which will be enough to double Chinese domestic GDP within 10 years or achieve the goal of 100 trillion yuan by 2023.  This will be enough to keep the momentum going and make up for mistakes by Xi.  And if Xi can implement enlightened policies then it is even possible for China to increase GDP growth rate to double digit rate by 2018.  We'll see.

In any event Xi has announced he intends to double the incomes and wages of the Chinese people in 10 years.  Obviously he could not do this by relying on exports.  Therefore, he must shift to domestic development.  And since he is not wed to the exports he can make major changes to the economic policies easier than Hu and Wen.  So, we'll see.

Kim's Uncle
March 9, 2013 at 01:19

In an article in the FT it was reported that the Chinese legislature has over 83 billionaires while in the US Congress has zero billionaire! :)

China, land of the most corrupt officials on earth!

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