Zhu Rongji, one of the top decision-makers ofthe Communist Party of China (CPC), has frequently been seen beaming withsmiles that were barely visible in the past.
Zhu has his reasons.
After three years of successful macro-economiccontrol with the primary task of curbing inflation, the overheated Chineseeconomy has cooled down to a "soft landing" and a good situationrarely seen in the world prevails. With these achievements, Zhu, acknowledgedas an economic planner, was re-elected a member of the Standing Committeeof the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, with his rankingnext only to Jiang Zemin and Li Peng.
Zhu, 68, was born in Changsha, capital of CentralChina's Hunan Province. He joined the Party in October 1949. After graduationfrom the prestigious Qinghua University where he majored in electricalengineering, he served as deputy head of the production planning officeof the Northeast China Ministry of Industries. He then worked in the StatePlanning Commission and the State Economic Commission for years, wherehe was acknowledged as an official who "knows economics."
In 1987, Zhu was appointed mayor of Shanghai,China's largest industrial and financial city.
His three-year term as Shanghai mayor saw tremendouschanges in the development and opening-up of Pudong, and in telecommunications,urban construction and communications. For these he won confidence insideand outside the Party and acclaim from the common people.
In 1991, Zhu was appointed vice-premier of theState Council and director of the State Council Production Office. ZhuRongji has focused his attention on tackling tough economic problems inindustry, agriculture and finance.
Soon after he came to Beijing from Shanghai, Zhulaunched a drive to untangle the "debt chains" of State enterprises.He took the lead in eliminating IOUs in the purchase of grain for the sakeof farmers. He served concurrently as governor of the central bank to straightenout the financial order. Deng Xiaoping once praised him as "havinghis own views and his own measures and being resolute and bold in tacklingproblems and knowing economics."
In 1992, investment in fixed assets was overheated,the supply of money was excessive, prices soared and raising funds by issuingstocks heated up and the whole financial order was disrupted. With thesupport of Jiang Zemin and Li Peng, Zhu, as vice-premier and head of theState Council Economic and Trade Office, enforced strict macro-economiccontrol measures to resolutely check the runaway currency issue, layingthe foundation for controlling inflation and bringing down prices. Buthe did not advocate overall entrenchment. Instead, he came down sharplyonly on duplicated projects at low levels and sectors that would resultin a "bubble economy." On the other hand, he backed projectsin communications, energy, agriculture and sectors that promised new pointsof economic growth. In so doing, he avoided big fluctuations and, at thesame time, maintained a healthy development of the economy.
Now Zhu Rongji has turned to the reforms of Stateenterprises, strengthening of agriculture and continued implementationof the moderately tight monetary policy. He faces both opportunities andchallenges, observers note. He has much room to display his talent in economicreform.
"Strict government" is the principlehe upholds. He deports himself in a calm, unhurried manner, but he is decisivein handling affairs and quick to act. He cannot tolerate the dilatory styleof work at which he lashes out without mercy. A news report once said hewas extensively hailed for criticizing some units openly at a NationalPeople's Congress.
"My criticism is too severe sometimes andthat is not good," he said. "But why do you start moving onlyafter the leaders fly into a rage? It is not that you cannot do it. Thething is that you do not want to do it." But he declared he only criticizespeople but does not fix anybody.
Zhu also shows his emotional side sometimes. Atthe 80th anniversary of the founding of Qinghua University, Zhu defiedfatigue from long European state visits and rushed to the school with hishearty greetings.
Between 1993 and 1995, Zhu served as a memberof the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee,vice-premier of the State Council and concurrently governor of the People'sBank of China. Since 1995, he has kept the positions of Standing Committeemember and vice-premier.
Zhu has a good command of English. He is rarelyseen speaking from script. His eloquent speech has always riveted the attentionof his audiences. Zhu is also a Peking Opera fan.
His wife, Lao An, is vice-chairman of the boardof the directors of China International Engineering and Consulting Corp.She and Zhu were in the same schools twice in their lives, first at HunanFirst Provincial Middle School and then Qinghua University. They have twodaughters.