Zhū Róngjī (born 1 October 1928, ) is a prominent Chinese politician who served as the Mayor and Party chief in Shanghai between 1987 and 1991, before serving as Vice-Premier and then Premier of the People's Republic of China from March 1998 to March 2003.
A tough administrator, his time in office saw the continued double-digit growth of the Chinese economy and China's increased assertiveness in international affairs. Known to be engaged in a testy relationship with President Jiang Zemin, under whom he served, Zhu provided a novel pragmatism and hard work ethic in the government and party leadership increasingly infested by corruption, and as a result gained great popularity with the Chinese public. His opponents, however, charge that Zhu's tough and pragmatic stance on policy was unrealistic and unnecessary, and many of his promises were left unfulfilled. Zhu retired in 2003, and has not been a public figure since. Premier Zhu was also widely known for his tasteful humour.
From 1952-1958, he worked in the State Planning Commission as group head and deputy division chief. Having criticized Mao Zedong's "irrational high growth" policies during the Great Leap Forward, Zhu was labeled a "Rightist" in 1958 and sent to work as a teacher at a cadre school. Pardoned (but not rehabilitated) in 1962, he worked as an engineer for the National Economy Bureau of the State Planning Commission until 1969.
During the Cultural Revolution, Zhu was purged again, and from 1970 to 1975 he was transferred to work at a "May Seventh Cadre School," a type of farm used for re-education during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
From 1975 to 1979, he served as the deputy chief engineer of a company run by the Pipeline Bureau of the Ministry of Petroleum Industry and as the director of Industrial Economics Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
When Deng Xiaoping started economic reforms in 1978, his politic looked for like-minded economic advisors and sought out Zhu. The CCP formally rehabilitated Zhu on the strength of Zhu's forward-thinking and bold economic ideas. His membership in CCP was restored. Deng once said that Zhu "has his own views, dares to make decisions and knows economics."
As the mayor of Shanghai from 1989 to 1991, Zhu won popular respect and acclaim for overseeing the development of Pudong, a Singapore-sized Special Economic Zone (SEZ) wedged between Shanghai proper and the East China Sea, as well the modernization of the city's telecommunications, urban construction, and transport sectors.
Between 1993 and 1995, Zhu served as a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee while retaining his posts as the vice-premier of the State Council and as the governor of the People's Bank of China. From 1995 to 1998, he retained the positions of Standing Committee member and vice-premier.
Concurrently serving as governor of the Central Bank, Zhu tackled the problems of an excessive money supply, rising prices, and a chaotic financial market stemming, in large measure, from runaway investments in fixed assets. After four years of successful macro-economic controls with curbing inflation as the primary task, an overheated Chinese economy cooled down to a "soft landing". With these achievements, Zhu, acknowledged as an able economic administrator, became premier of the State Council.
With support from Jiang Zemin and Li Peng, then president and premier respectively, Zhu enacted tough macroeconomic control measures. Favoring healthy, sustainable development, Zhu expunged low-tech, duplicated projects and sectors that would result in "a bubble economy" and projects in transport, energy and agricultural sectors, averting violent market fluctuations. He focused on strengthening agriculture, still the economic base of the developing country and on continuing a moderately tight monetary policy.
President Jiang Zemin nominated Zhu for the position of the Premier of the State Council at the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC), who confirmed the nomination on 17 March 1998 at the NPC First Session. Zhu was re-elected as a member of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, China's de facto central decision-making group, at the 15th CPC Central Committee in September 1997.
The 1990's were a difficult time for economic management, as unemployment soared in the cities, and the bureaucracy became increasingly tainted with corruption scandals. Zhu kept things on track in the difficult years of the late 1990s, so that China averaged growth of 9.7% a year over the two decades to 2000. Against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis (and catastrophic domestic floods) mainland China's GDP still grew by 7.9% in the first nine months of 2002, beating the government's 7% target despite a global economic slowdown. This was achieved, partly, through active state intervention to stimulate demand through wage increases in the public sector, among other measures. China was one of the few economies in Asia that survived the crisis.
While foreign direct investment (FDI) worldwide halved in 2000, the flow of capital into mainland China rose by 10%. As global firms scrambled to avoid missing the China boom, FDI in China rose by 22.6% in 2002. While global trade stagnated, growing by one percent in 2002, mainland China's trade soared by 18% in the first nine months of 2002, with exports outstripping imports.
Despite the glowing growth statistics, Zhu tackled deep-seated structural problems: uneven development; inefficient state firms and a banking system mired in bad loans. Observers think there are few substantial disagreements over economic policy in the CPC; tensions focus on the pace of change. Zhu's economic philosophies had often triumphed over that of his colleagues, but it nevertheless resulted in a testy relationship with then-President Jiang Zemin.
The PRC leadership struggled to modernize State-owned enterprises (SOEs) without inducing massive urban unemployment. As millions lost their jobs as state firms close, Zhu demanded financial safety nets for unemployed workers, an important aim in a country of 1.3 billion. China needs 100 million new urban jobs in the next five years to absorb laid off workers and rural migrants; so far they have been achieving this aim due to high per capita GDP growth. Under the auspices of Zhu and Wen Jiabao (his top deputy and successor), the state tried to alleviate unemployment while promoting efficiency, by pumping tax revenues into the economy and maintaining consumer demand. Zhu has won acclaim domestically and internationally for steering the People's Republic of into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.
Critics have charges that there is an oversupply of manufactured goods, driving down prices and profits while increasing the level of bad debt in the banking system. But so far demand for Chinese goods, domestically and abroad, is high enough to put those concerns to rest in the time being. Consumer spending is growing, boosted, in large part, due to longer workers' holidays.
Zhu's right-hand man, Vice Premier Wen Jiabao, oversaw regulations for the stock market and campaigned to develop poorer inland provinces to stem migration and regional resentment. Zhu and Wen set tax limits for peasants to protect them from high levies by corrupt officials. Well-respected by ordinary Chinese citizens, Zhu also holds the respect of Western political and business leaders, who found him reassuring and credit him with clinching China's market-opening World Trade Organisation (WTO) deal, which has brought foreign capital pouring into the country.
Zhu remained as Premier until the National People's Congress met in March 2003, when it approved his struggle to clinch trusted deputy Wen Jiabao as his successor. Wen was the only Zhu ally to appear on the 9-person Politburo Standing Committee. Like his fourth-generation colleague Hu Jintao, Wen's personal opinions are difficult to discern since he sticks very closely to his script. Unlike the frank, strong-willed Zhu, Wen, who has earned a reputation for being an equally competent manager, is known for his suppleness and discretion.
During the 2000 ROC presidential election in Taiwan, Zhu gave the warning "there will be no good ending for those involved in Taiwan independence". In his farewell speech to the National People's Congress, Zhu unintentionally referred to China and Taiwan as two "countries" before quickly correcting himself. His stance on Taiwan during his time in office was always with the Party line.
Zhu is known for his technical intellect. In 1997 at a state banquet in Australia, Zhu left for the bathroom, and was gone quite a while. Concerned security staff finally went off to find him. He was in the bathroom, studying the water-saving dual-flush system which he had just disassembled. As a hydrologist, Zhu grasped the impact such water savings, multiplied by China's huge population, could have on China's infrastructure.