Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Zhu Rongji

Zhu Rongji (right) with his successor Premier Wen Jiabao.

Zhū Róngjě (Simplified Chinese: 朱镕基, Traditional Chinese: 朱鎔基) (1928- ), native of Changsha, Hunan Province, was Premier of the People's Republic of China State Council from March 17, 1998 until March 16, 2003. He was and a Standing Committee member of the Politburo of 15th CPC Central Committee until November, 2002.

Purges, "rehabilitation," and Deng Xiaoping

Zhu joined the Communist Party of China in October, 1949. He graduated from the prestigious Qinghua University (known by many in the United States as "China's MIT") where he majored in electrical engineering. Afterwards, he worked for the Northeast China Department of Industries as deputy head of its production planning office.

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. 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 kind of farm for re-education during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1975).

From 1975 to 1979, he served as deputy chief engineer of a company run by the Pipeline Bureau of the Ministry of Petroleum Industry and director of Industrial Economics Institute under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

He was politically rehabilitated by Deng Xiaoping, on the strength of his forward-thinking and bold economic ideas, when the latter began his reform program in 1978 and was looking for like-minded economic advisors. Deng once said that Zhu "has his own views, dares to make decisions and knows economics."

Career in Shanghai

Zhu went to work for the State Economic Commission (SEC) as division chief of the Bureau of Fuel and Power Industry and deputy director of the Comprehensive Bureau from 1979 to 1982. He was appointed member of the State Economic Commission in 1982 and vice-minister in charge of the commission in 1983, where he held the post until 1987 before he was appointed mayor of Shanghai.

As Mayor of Shanghai from 1989 to 1991, Zhu won popular respect and acclaim for presiding over the development of Pudong, a Singapore-size Special Economic Zone (SEZ) wedged between Shanghai proper and the East China Sea, as well the modernizations of the city's telecommunications, urban construction, and transport sectors.

Vice Premiership

In 1991, Zhu became vice-premier of the State Council, transferring to Beijing from Shanghai. Also holding the post of director of the State Council Production Office, Zhu focused on industry, agriculture and finance, launching the drive to disentangle the "debt chains" of state enterprises. For the sake of the peasantry, he took the lead in eliminating IOUs in state grain purchasing.

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 vice-premier of the State Council and 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 investment in fixed assets. After four years of successful macro-economic controls with curbing inflation as the primary task, an overheated Chinese economy has cooled down to a "soft landing" and a good situation rarely seen in the world has been prevailing in the country. With these achievements, Zhu, acknowledged as an able economic administrator, has become 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, agriculture and sectors, averting violent market fluctuations. His attention has focused on strengthening agriculture, still the economic base of the developing country and on continuing a moderately tight monetary policy.

Zhu was nominated as premier of the State Council by President Jiang Zemin and confirmed by the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC) on March 17, 1998 at the NPC First Session. He was reelected Standing Committee member of Political Bureau of 15th CPC Central Committee in September 1997.

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. The ability of the PRC to chart an effective course through the recent Asian crisis was also noteworthy. Against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis (and catastrophic domestic floods) mainland China's GDP still 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, and other measures.

While foreign direct investment (FDI) worldwide halved in 2000, the flow of capital into mainland China rose 10%. As global firms scramble to avoid missing the China boom; FDI in China has risen 22.6% in 2002. While global trade stagnates, 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 statistics of growth, Zhu has been tackling 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.

The PRC leadership is struggling to modernize state owned enterprises (SOEs) without state sector without inducing massive urban unemployment. As millions are losing their jobs as state firms close, Zhu has demanded financial safety nets for unemployed workers. It is a necessary 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 has been alleviating unemployment while promoting efficiency by pumping tax revenues into the economy and maintaining consumer demand.

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 Rongji (left) with Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Zhu's right-hand man, Vice Premier Wen Jiabao oversaw regulations for the stock market, campaigned to develop poorer inland provinces to stem migration and regional resentment. Zhu and Wen have been setting tax limits for peasants to protect them from high levies 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. Like his forth-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 as an equally competent manager, is known for his suppleness and discretion.

Zhu has won acclaim domestically and internationally for steering the People's Republic of China through Asia's financial meltdown in the late 1990s and into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.

Zhu has a reputation as a strong, strict administrator intolerant of flunkeyism, nepotism, and a dilatory style of work. He is generally considered one of the most popular Communist officials in mainland China.


Zhu has a good command of English. He is rarely seen speaking from script. In his free time, Zhu enjoys the Peking Opera. His wife, Lao An, was once vice-chairman of the board of directors of China International Engineering and Consulting. She and Zhu were in the same schools twice, first the Hunan First Provincial Middle School and then Qinghua University. They have a son and a daughter.

See also

Preceded By:
Li Peng
Premier of the PRC
Succeeded By:
Wen Jiabao