Over the course of his European tour of China’s trading partners, Premier Wen Jiabao frequently found himself playing defense. While delivering a speech at Cambridge University on February 2, he was interrupted by human rights protestor Martin Jahnke. The 27-year-old German national decried Wen as a dictator before throwing a shoe at the premier.
The shoe landed a meter from Wen, who was able to stay on message. He denounced the incident as "despicable" while also insisting it would not affect relations between China and the UK. China’s Foreign Ministry condemned the protest, which was reported in full on state-run television, and Wen later called for leniency for the protestor.
Throughout his trip, which he inaugurated by addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wen defended China’s role in the economic crisis. He told forum attendees that China had acted in an "active and responsible way in this crisis."
He blamed the current economic turmoil on the "inappropriate macroeconomic policies of some economies," profligate spending, inadequate regulation, and a lack of self-discipline among financial institutions.
In addition to paying the obligatory lip service to China’s oft-stressed desire for a "peaceful and harmonious" relationship with the US, Wen stuck to the party line on a litany of subjects ranging from climate change to China’s economic growth in 2009.
Regarding the latter, he struck a positive note, saying the country was maintaining "fast and sustainable" growth even though GDP growth wilted to 6.8% in the fourth quarter of 2008. Despite many economists predicting that China’s GDP growth will fall short of the 8% full-year government growth target, Wen said the target would be "attainable through hard work."