Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, March 17, 2003

New Premier Comes from Grass Roots

He ate dumplings with coal miners 720 metres underground on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, held an umbrella in the rain to comfort flood victims and went to visit farmers at work in the fields to gather information on the current agriculture situation first-hand.


He ate dumplings with coal miners 720 metres underground on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year, held an umbrella in the rain to comfort flood victims and went to visit farmers at work in the fields to gather information on the current agriculture situation first-hand.

Wen Jiabao, 60, won overwhelming endorsement yesterday for his appointment as premier from nearly 3,000 deputies of the 10th National People's Congress (NPC).

His man-of-the-people manner and down-to-earth touch has impressed many officials as well as NPC deputies.

"He works very diligently and has always visited those at the grass roots to do investigations and research," said Zhao Chunming, former executive deputy director of the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, who joined Wen on several inspection tours.

Tight schedule
When Wen was vice premier, he was in charge of works related to agriculture, flood-control and finance.

"Wen's working schedule was always very packed - day and night," Zhao said, recalling Wen's inspection and visits.

He usually visited flood-control projects during the day and held meetings with local officials at night to learn as much as possible about the situation from the grass roots, according to Zhao.

"During those trips, Wen never spent more than 20 minutes dining and always insisted that the food be very simple," said Zhao in an interview with China Daily.

When handling problems with flood control, which is high-risk work, Wen would listen to the opinions of experts, but make the final decisions himself, said Zhao.

"I was deeply impressed by Wen's ability to guide agricultural work and analyze the situation from daily work," said NPC deputy Wang Shouchen, who is director of the Agricultural Commission of Jilin Province.

Wang, who accompanied Wen during his visit to Jilin in May 1998, said that Wen did not follow the routes arranged by local officials.

He visited here and there to chat with local farmers to learn of the true conditions.

He said that Wen has played an important role in pushing China's tax reform forward in rural areas, which is now being conducted in 20 provinces and autonomous regions across the country and has benefited a large number of farmers.

Another NPC deputy Yang Weize - also mayor of Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu Province - said that Wen's expertise in agriculture and finance are helpful for the new government to build China into the xiaokang, or a materially and socially well-off, society.

When Wen visited Jiangsu in September 2001 to investigate methods of treating Taihu Lake's polluted water, Yang was at Wen's side.

Wen urged local officials to attach importance to improving the environmental conditions in Jiangnan - regions south of the Yangtze River - by citing a poem "With Memory of Jiangnan" written by Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) poet Bai Juyi (AD 772-846).

"We were impressed by his scholastic charisma," recalled Yang.

Born in 1942 in an alley in Tianjin, Wen enrolled in Beijing Geological Institute in 1960, where he studied geological surveying and mineral prospecting.

After graduating with a master's degree in structural geology in 1968, he chose to lead the hard life of a geologist in Gansu.

For 11 years of his youth, Wen travelled the mountain ranges of Northwest China's Gansu Province as a technician and then deputy head of a geological prospecting team.

On one trip, his team encountered mountain torrents, and they had to move their tents three times in one night, according to his former colleagues.

Today his former colleagues in the Gansu Geological and Mining Bureau still remember the "good-tempered young man who loves reading."

It was then in Gansu that Wen fell in love with Zhang Peili, his colleague. The young woman was a graduate from the Geological Department of Lanzhou University, Gansu. The two got married in the 1970s.

In the following years Wen worked in the Gansu Geology and Mining Bureau, the Ministry of Geology and Mining and the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

In 1998 he was elected vice-premier of the State Council. Today, Wen lives with his family in a simple apartment in downtown Beijing.

Special New Year's Eve
"I didn't recognize Vice Premier Wen at first glance and thought he was a mining expert who came down to guide our work," said Liu Yi, a miner of Fuxin Coal Group in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, as he recalled his encounter with Wen 720 metres underground in a coal mine on January 31.

Wen was visiting the coal miners at work on the Chinese New Year's eve.

"It was dinner time.

"The 'expert' sat down among us, on the rails deep in the mine, and had a box of jiaozi (dumplings) together with us. Someone told me who he was, and we chatted for almost two hours about mine safety and laid-off workers. It was wonderful," Liu recalled.

In 2000, Wen visited Fengning County, North China's Hebei Province, which was then suffering from a severe drought.

The local officials who accompanied him once again noted that he refused the arranged route at all. He stopped, here and there, talked with farmers in the fields and visited their houses to see the actual situation of rural life

During a three-month period in 1998, he travelled five times to Jiujiang, East China's Jiangxi Province, the frontline of the battle against floods.

He visited armies and local residents standing fast on the dam, helped settle flood victims and made plans with hydraulic engineers and government officials to cope with the problem.

At the critical moment when the most important dam of the Yangtze River was breached and Wuhan, the capital of Central China's Hubei Province, was threatened by floods, many urged Wen to blow up the Jingjiang Dam, which would have flooded vast rural areas, to protect Wuhan.

Wen, after consulting with hydraulic engineers, decided to defend both the Jingjiang Dam and Wuhan. The decision proved right.

"During the battle against floods in 1998, we discovered that Wen can inspire people in desperate conditions and he can quickly evaluate the source of a problem.

"His sharp insight lead to the punishment of a group of government officials who were derelict of their duties," said an official with the Hubei Flood-control Headquarters, who declined to give his name.

With his affinity to the common people, Wen does not have to depend on government statistics to do his work.

"Wen has the ability to govern the over-all situation and is good at handling issues from a strategical point of view," said NPC Deputy Wang Shouchun, who gave a supporting vote to Wen. (China Daily News)

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