Zhu Rongji, the recently appointed premier of China, is a rising star in Chinese politics. Deng Xiaoping, he paramount leader who died in February last year, praised Zhu as "one )f the very few top ranking officials who actually understands how to r_un an ?conomv". He also said that Zhu's talent ,ould only be utilised fully if he was the ,on.ductor instead of first violin.
The Western world's enthusiasm. for hu Rongji has warmed since he was First dubbed China's Gorbachev. Vobody in China, not even Zhu himself, ,would feel particularly comfortable n ith he comparison. But his popularity over-was certainly played a vital role in )eng's decision to use him to rebuild nternational relations following con-.iemnation of the Chinese government 'ollowing the events of June 4, 1989.
The public regard him as a doer, not a )ureaucrat. His legendary fierce temper as made him political enemies but is nterpreted by most members of the pubic as proof of his sense of responsibility and dedication to the nation.
A sense of debt
?hu's father died of tuberculosis in. 1928 shortly before his son was born in i hangsha, Hunan provincce. His mother lied just 11) years later. Zhu was consei,uently entrusted to an uncle who had -hree daughters and a son of his own. Phis uncle treated Zhu as his own child tnd-sent him to school at the expense of 1is daughters. This was a formative 'xperience, instilling in Zhu a sense of debt and. a determination to study hard; le. managed to repay part of this debt by 'arning a school scholarship.
In his spare time, Zhu loved reading 2hinese classics, especially l7ic Wester Vlargin. His knowledge of Chinese literature later helped him find a common anguage with the intelligentsia.
I-iis fondness for Beijing Opera, alsoacquired during his childhood, proved useful in. earning good press when he became Shanghai mayor in 1988. When asked to perform at public gatherings during the Spring Festival, he would readily go up on stage to sing. He was seen by the public as easy-going and approachable.
I.n 1947, when his uncle managed to secure a loan, Zhu and his cousin were sent to Shanghai to sit university examinations. Zhu was awarded scholarships both to Tongji University i.n Shanghai (where Jiang Zemin and Qiao Shi were educated) and Qinghua University in Beijing. He chose the latter, the top science school in the country, to study electrical.machinery and engineering.
Zhu. joined the Chinese Communist Party in October 1949 but started working as a communist sympathiser a year earlier when he was still a university student. He turned. 21 on the day the People's Republic was founded.
After graduating with distinctions in 1951, Zhu was assigned to work as a. deputy director of planning in the Industrial Planning Commission under the Government of the Northeast Region, prior to the region's division. into three provinces.
He soon caught the attention of Chairman Gao Gang and Vice Chairman Li Fuchun of the local government. In November 1952, when Gao was promoted to the position of Vice Chairman of the Central Government and Director of the State Planning Commission .in Beijing, Zhu was assigned to work in a department sander the commission. In September 1954 Li replaced Gao as Vice Premier and Director of the State Planning Commission. Zhu became his secretary.
In June 1957 Mao Zedong and his sup-porters, including Deng Xiaoping, started an anti-rightist movement to suppress opposition from intellectuals. Within amonth, the People's Dailey published an. article which made a target of ordinary communist members with contrary opinions. The article concluded that rightists within the Communist Party were collaborating with those outside the party in an attempt to overthrow the government.
AlI work units were exhorted to 'dig deep' and their performance was measured by the number of rightists they could expose; the more, the better. It was under such circumstances that Zhu was alleged to have become 'too conceited because of his talent' and his opposition to aggressive and unrealistic planning was 'against the party and government'. He was labelled a rightist and then expelled from the party in early 1958, after nine years of membership.
Another report attributed Zhu's misfortune to one of his patrons, Gao Gang. Gao was denounced as anti-Mao and anti-party in a nationwide purge, and committed suicide. Zhu. was heard to have expressed a more balanced opinion about Gao and was reported by opponents.
When the verdict was announced, Zhu allegedly cried, claiming that he wasn't anti-party. However, he was asked to accept the decision. to help the work unit reach the necessary quota of rightists, and was sent to a labour camp for 'physical and. spiritual reforms'.
Even today there is dispute about how many fell victim to the purge between. the second half of 1.957 and 1959. According to a report in 1980, the number of labelled rightists was 552,973, although mash more were regarded as rightists without being denounced. It was not until 1978 that Zhu was declared one of the people who had been. wronged. by the party and his party membership was restored.
For the 2t) years leading up to 1978, Zhu performed a variety of menial tasks ?feeding pigs, cleaning toilets and cooking for those in the labour camps. When he returned periodically to the paralysed government departments, he was under strict political control.. But he worked hard as an engineer and continued to study macro-economics.
Between 1979 and 1987, he worked his way up from being a junior official to deputy director of the State Economic
Commission, one of the two most important economic decision-making departments in. China.
In November J L87 he became a substitute member of the Chinese Communist Central Committee. In the following month he was sent to Shanghai as the deputy party secretary, becoming Shanghai mayor upon approval of the local congress in April 1988.
The fortunes of Shanghai and Zhu became intertwined, the reforms which were being extended to the city providing him with an important opportunity to display his talents to the full.
China's largest industrial city had lagged behind in the economic reforms which were flourishing in the south of the country. One important reason for this was the fact it had. been controlled by the conservative Chen Yun, widely regarded as Deng's major opponent. Probable because of Zhu's experience in the planning commission and the opposition to aggressive and unrealistic planning which had earlier brought hiria under suspicion of rightist sympathies, Chen consented to his appointment in Shanghai..
Zhu brought momentum to the process of reforming the poorly man-aged state-run enterprises in. the city. Particularly after the choice in April 1990 of Pudong as the.country's largest spe Ministerial moves the recent meeting of the National People's Congress in.
Beijing, important changes nere announced- which ti, i ll affect the future management of the media, writes Andrew Green of Zenith Media. In a radical streamlining exercise designed to equip the collntrs political and bureaucratic bodies to manage more effectively growing 'econonaic challenges, 11 out of 40 government ministries have now been eliminated.
The Ministry of Radio, Film. and Television (MRFT), the Ministry of Electronics Industry and the Ministry of Posts and Telc'commcuaications have been brought together into a super structure to be known as the Ministry of Information Industry. Until now, the MRFT has been responsible for regulating television stations at the national level and at each respective regional level. It has also usually been. the owner of the stations and. has therefore benefited from. the commercial success of televicial economic zone, Zhu's-name became synonymous with the dynamism now restored to Shanghai.
His popularity among the public was enhanced during and after the I iananmen demonstrations in 1989. Zhu made an emotional speech on television, vowing to defend Shanghai with his own blood. This was the first time since 1949 that an official of Zhu's high ranking had made such an impassioned plea to the public.
He then organised thousands of ss orkers to clear away road. blocks and managed to restore stability in the lives of ordinary Shanghai citizens. During this period, when he was seen to act positively and sensitively, Zhu's became a household name across the country.
The challenges ahead
In. April 1991, Zhu became a vice-premier of the central government. Since then, he has managed to slow down the overheated economy through a nationwide austerity programme, in the process slashing inflation from a peak of 25 per cent in October 1994 to single figures. He is the driving force behind the current massive project to revamp the debt-ridden and poorly managed state-owned sector.
At last month's National People's
many other economic sectors have been explicit. First, they will separate more clearly the regulatory authorities from those whose commercial. activities lie in the same field; for example, CAAC, the airline regulatory' agency, also owns the country's largest airline.
Second, specific to the communications industry, there was felt to be a need to help the government better manage the regulatory implications of the global convergence of technologies in the telecommunications, media and electronics industries.
A need for tranparency
With this move, China has now embarked on a new phase of reform and growth in the management of the television and. radio industries. For the first 20 years of its history after being launched in China in May 1958, television was run very much as an arm of the state. Politics, in Mao Zedong's words, was in command. Programming was oriented exclusively towards state propaganda and funding was sparse. By 1978 just 40 stations existed. throughout the country, broadcasting to three million homes.
Over the next 20 years, up until 1998, control was partially de-centralised from Beijing, allowing local authorities to set
Congress (N PC) Zhu was endorsed overuhelialingly as China's new prime minis-ter. Ot the 2,950 delegates, only 60
decided not to endorse him 'Li Peng's appointment as Chairman of the NPC and Jiang Zemin's reappointment as president, both attracted more opposition. from a normally docile congress. The high level of support given to Zhu was particularly impressive given his open desire to reduce bureaucracy and cut government lobs.
As Li Peng's successor, Premier Zhu faces a series of difficult balancing acts ahead: how to continue the market economy reforms in the state-owned sec-tor -without risking social instability from rising unemployment; how to stimulate the currently sluggish level of consumer demand to avoid possible deflation, while at the same time preventing over-heating; heating; how to reform the technically bankrupt banking sector while maintaining a tight grip on the country's monetary policies; and, above all, ho.w to keep up the momentum of improving living standards without committing to radical political reforms.
Zhu has two children. .His daughter emigrated. to Canada with her husband. His son is living and lsorking in the US. His wife Works in a department under the State Planning Commission.
up and manage their own stations. Advertising was re-introduced in 1979 and has grown at an average rate of 46 per cent a year since 1.981. Commercial practices have seeped gradually into the bureaucratic structure of station management. Now, 2,700 stations broadcast to 300 million homes.
It was clear, however, that the tension between the centre and the local authorities and the contradiction involved in the same people both regulating stations and benefiting from their commercial success could not continue forever.
From the perspective of the advertising industry, What needs to happen at the station level is clear. We need to see more and better audience research so we know what We are buying. We need to have proper contracts and invoices. We need transparent rate cards and dealing. And, most of all we need greater trust to be developed between buyers and sellers of airtime from the smallest to the largest stations.
The moves announced by the congress should be another step in the right direction for China's television and. radio industries. Now it will all he in the execution of the vision.
Andrew Green is Director of Strategic Media Resources at Zenith Media Asia.sion ,in recent years.
The final shape of the regulatory rind ownership structure for television and radio is not yet clear. However., the objectives of the reforms which coyer