Zhu Rongji

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Zhu.
Zhu Rongji
Zhu Rongji 2001.jpg
Zhu Rongji in 2001
Premier of the People's Republic of China
In office
17 March 1998 – 16 March 2003
President Jiang Zemin
Deputy Li Lanqing
Preceded by Li Peng
Succeeded by Wen Jiabao
6th First-ranking Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
In office
29 March 1993 – 17 March 1998
Premier Li Peng
Preceded by Yao Yilin
Succeeded by Li Lanqing
Member of the 14,15th CPC Politburo Standing Committee
In office
19 October 1992 – 15 November 2002
General Secretary Jiang Zemin
9th Governor of the People's Bank of China
In office
July 1993 – June 1995
Premier Li Peng
Preceded by Li Guixian
Succeeded by Dai Xianglong
Member of the
National People's Congress
In office
25 March 1988 – 5 March 2003
Constituency Shanghai At-large (88-93)
Hunan At-large (93-03)
Personal details
Born (1928-10-01) 1 October 1928 (age 86)
Changsha, Hunan
Nationality Chinese
Political party Communist Party of China
Spouse(s) Lao An
Children Zhu Yunlai (son)
Zhu Yanlai (daughter)
Alma mater Tsinghua University
Profession Electrical engineer
Zhu Rongji
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese [1]

Zhu Rongji (pinyin: Zhū Róngjī; Wade–Giles: Chu Jung-chi; IPA: [ʈʂú ʐʊ̌ŋtɕí]; born 1 October 1928 in Changsha, Hunan) 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 the fifth 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 General Secretary Jiang Zemin, under whom he served, Zhu provided a novel pragmatism and strong 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 charisma and tasteful humour.

Purges, "rehabilitation", and Deng Xiaoping[edit]

Zhu joined the Communist Party of China in October 1949. He graduated from the prestigious Tsinghua University in 1951 where he majored in electrical engineering and became the chairman of Tsinghua Student Union in 1951. Afterwards, he worked for the Northeast China Department of Industries as deputy head of its production planning office.

From 1952 to 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 political advisors looked for like-minded economic advisors and sought out Zhu. In the spring of 1988, Deng put Zhu, who was then a senior central planner with decades of experience at the State Planning Commission in Beijing, in Shanghai for mayor position to fight for his vision of China's future.[2] The CPC formally rehabilitated Zhu on the strength of Zhu's forward-thinking and bold economic ideas. His membership in CPC was restored. Deng once said that Zhu "has his own views, dares to make decisions and knows economics."

Career in Shanghai[edit]

Zhu (second left) leading the Chinese delegation at the European Management Forum in 1986

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

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.

Vice Premiership[edit]

In 1991, Zhu became the 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 the use of credit notes 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 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.

Zhu used the term "patriotic organizations" to describe the triads on the record for their past history as secret societies in resisting foreign invaders and playing a key role in Chinese history.[3]


Zhu earned a reputation as a strong, strict administrator, intolerant of flunkeyism, nepotism, and a dilatory style of work. For his hard work ethic and relatively truthful and transparent attitude, he is generally considered one of the most popular Communist officials in mainland China.[citation needed]

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" as well as projects in transport, energy and agricultural sectors, thereby averting violent market fluctuations. He focused on strengthening industrial and agricultural sectors while continuing a moderately tight monetary policy. He also started a large privatization program which saw China's private sector grow massively.

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 1990s were a difficult time for economic management, as unemployment soared in many cities, and the bureaucracy became increasingly tainted by corruption scandals. Zhu kept things on track in the difficult years of the late 1990s as China averaged growth of 9.7% annual for the two decades leading up 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, in part, through active state intervention to stimulate demand through wage increases in the public sector among other measures. China was one of the few Asian economies 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 contend that while there are few substantial disagreements over economic policy within the CPC; tensions tend to focus on the pace of change. Zhu's economic philosophies had often triumphed over those of his colleagues, they nevertheless resulted in a testy relationship with then-General Secretary Jiang Zemin.

The PRC leadership struggled to modernize State-owned enterprises (SOEs) without inducing massive urban unemployment. As millions lost their jobs to closing state firms, Zhu demanded financial safety nets for unemployed workers, an important aim in a country of 1.3 billion. 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 also won acclaim domestically and internationally for steering the People's Republic of China into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001.

Zhu, along with his successor Wen, sought to protect farmers from indiscriminate taxation by corrupt officials by setting limits[citation needed] on taxes. Well respected by many Chinese citizens, Zhu has also garnered the respect of prominent Western political and business leaders, many of whom credit Zhu with engineering China's market-opening and ascension to the World Trade Organisation (WTO),[4] which has brought foreign capital pouring into the country.

Zhu served as Premier until March 2003, when the National People's Congress appointed then-deputy Wen Jiabao as his successor. Wen was the only Zhu ally to appear on the nine-person Politburo Standing Committee. Though Wen has since earned a reputation as a competent administrator known for his suppleness and discretion,[citation needed] similar to his fourth-generation colleague Hu Jintao, observers have cited Wen's personal opinions as difficult to discern in contrast to his relatively outspoken predecessor.

During the 2000 ROC presidential election in Taiwan, Zhu predicted "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.[5] His stance on Taiwan during his time in office was always with the Party line.[citation needed]

Contributions to State Capitalism[edit]

Zhu and Deng's vision of China's future was not just rapid growth but continuous reform. There were two major endeavors to Zhu's reformist campaign. First was to rationalize and centralize the fiscal and financial system. Second was to streamline and strengthen the state sector.[6]

As to accomplish both of his missions, his first goal was to regain central control over the country's burgeoning yet dangerously decentralized tax revenues. As a result, he went in person to each province in China to sell a new "tax sharing" idea modeled on the U.S. federal tax system. Under this new policy, revenue from provinces would go first to Beijing, and then the other portions will be returned to the provinces. Therefore, the central government's cut of total revenue increased by over 20 percent in a single year, balancing the central budget and putting Beijing's resources on track to increase dramatically in the years to come. Also, he appointed himself governor of the People's Bank of China with jurisdiction over monetary policy and financial regulations to bring the highly decentralized banking system more closely under Beijing's control.[7]

Next was to clean China's four colossal state-owned banks of billions of dollars in nonperforming loans accumulated due to profligate local lending to unprofitable SOEs. He quarantined these bad loans in newly created "asset-management companies", and recapitalized the banks through government bonds in a restructuring strategy. After his promotion to premier in 1998, Zhu saved the the biggest SOEs and allowed thousands of other small and medium-sized firms and factories to go under, assuming that new growth in the private sector could alleviate any surge of unemployment, resulting in millions of workers to lose their "iron rice bowl" guarantees of cradle-to-grave employment, health care benefits, and pensions. Instead, Zhu challenged free managers to base salaries on performance and market competitiveness and made profitability and productivity as determining factors in managerial and executive promotions.[8]

All these economic reform efforts by Zhu was not to dismantle the state sector, but to streamline it and accomplish Deng's new form of marketized socialism. Although the West may have been skeptical when Deng announced that he would pursue "socialism with Chinese characteristics," Zhu had actually proved to mean something: growing wealth and power for the nation-state under the firm grip of the Communist Party.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Zhu Rongji and his wife Lao An (1956)

Zhu Rongji is a good public speaker and has good command of foreign languages.[10] He is rarely seen speaking from a script.[citation needed] In his free time, Zhu enjoys the Peking Opera. According to some reports, Zhu is an 18th generation descendent of Zhu Bian (朱楩), titled Prince of Min (岷王), the 18th son of Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming Dynasty.[11][12][13][14][15][16] 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 (湖南第一中学) and then Tsinghua University. They have a son and a daughter. His son is Zhu Yunlai, born in 1957.[17] The daughter is Zhu Yanlai, born in 1956.[18]


Zhu Rongji was noticeably more popular than his predecessor, Li Peng, and some analysts point out that Zhu's tough administrative style in the Premier's office bore a certain resemblance to Premier Zhou Enlai.[citation needed] Zhu, a competent manager and a skilled politician,[citation needed] ran into various roadblocks during his tenure because of the attitude of General Secretary Jiang Zemin. Critics charge that Zhu made too many "big promises" that were unable to be achieved during his term in office.

Zhu is widely remembered in China for his determination to fight official corruption during his later years in office, saying: "I'll have 100 coffins prepared. Ninety-nine are for corrupt officials and the last one is for myself." Despite his efforts, the extent to which he was successful in containing official corruption during his tenure has been questioned by modern China observers. One of his proteges, Wang Qishan, later became the head of China's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the government's main office in charge of investigating internal corruption.[19]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Jiang Zemin
Secretary of the CPC Shanghai Committee
1989 – 1991
Succeeded by
Wu Bangguo
Government offices
Preceded by
Jiang Zemin
Mayor of Shanghai
1987 – 1991
Succeeded by
Huang Ju
Preceded by
Li Guixian
Governor of People's Bank of China
1993 – 1995
Succeeded by
Dai Xianglong
Preceded by
Yao Yilin, Tian Jiyun, Wu Xueqian
Vice-Premier of the State Council
Served alongside: Zou Jiahua, Qian Qichen, Li Lanqing

1993 – 1998
Succeeded by
Li Lanqing, Qian Qichen, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao
Preceded by
Yao Yilin
First-ranking Vice-Premier of the State Council
1993 – 1998
Succeeded by
Li Lanqing
Preceded by
Li Peng
Premier of the People's Republic of China
1998 – 2003
Succeeded by
Wen Jiabao


  1. ^ Due to limitations of the original GB2312 character set, his name has often appeared as 朱熔基. Zhu disapproves of this and prefers the correct version, 朱镕基.
  2. ^ Orville Schell and John Delury(2013). "Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century". Random House. p.328
  3. ^ Jonathan Manthorpe (2008). Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan (illustrated ed.). Macmillan. p. 118. ISBN 0230614248. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  4. ^ . See Paolo Farah (2006) Five Years of China’s WTO Membership. EU and US Perspectives on China’s Compliance with Transparency Commitments and the Transitional Review Mechanism, Legal Issues of Economic Integration, Kluwer Law International, Volume 33, Number 3, pp. 263-304.
  5. ^ "China and Taiwan `two countries': Zhu". Taipei Times. 6 March 2003. p. 3. 
  6. ^ Orville Schell and John Delury(2013). "Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century". Random House. p.337
  7. ^ Orville Schell and John Delury(2013). "Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century". Random House. p.g.337-340
  8. ^ Orville Schell and John Delury(2013). "Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century". Random House. p.g.340-341
  9. ^ Orville Schell and John Delury(2013). "Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century". Random House. p.g.342-343
  10. ^ For his English ability: Zhu Rongji makes rare public appearance to hawk his new book, South China Morning Post, 10 September 2013
  11. ^ "Red Star". Time (magazine). 12 April 1999. p. 3. 
  12. ^ Henry Robinson Luce (1996). Briton Hadden, ed. Time, Volume 148, Issues 21-29. Time Incorporated. p. 62. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  13. ^ Deborah Brautigam (2009). The Dragon's Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0191619760. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  14. ^ Joel Andreas (2009). Rise of the Red Engineers: The Cultural Revolution and the Origins of China's New Class. Stanford University Press. p. 244. ISBN 0804771103. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  15. ^ United States. Foreign Broadcast Information Service (1995). Daily report: People's Republic of China, Issues 133-138. Distributed by National Technical Information Service. p. 23. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  16. ^ Robert Lawrence Kuhn (2004). The man who changed China: the life and legacy of Jiang Zemin (illustrated ed.). Crown Publishers. p. 138. ISBN 1400054745. Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  17. ^ 朱鎔基儿子朱云来中金简历简介(照片)
  18. ^ Yanlai Zhu: Executive Profile & Biography - Businessweek
  19. ^ Wu Zhong. "Hu Hands China's Military Baton to Xi". Asia Times Online. November 16, 2012. Retrieved November 17, 2012.