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World - Asia/Pacific

Zhu Rongji


A calming influence after Tiananmen

June 3, 1999
Web posted at: 10:10 a.m. EDT (1410 GMT)

Known as "Boss Zhu" to colleagues for his frank talk and results-oriented manner, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji is widely respected as a pragmatic leader who kept China's overheating economy under control in the mid-1990s.

Forced to spend years working on farms after criticizing party economic policy under Mao Tse-tung in 1956, Zhu slowly rehabilitated his career when new Communist leader Deng Xiaoping came to power in the late 1970s.

He gained national attention in 1988 when he was named mayor of Shanghai, where he developed a reputation for efficiency by reducing bureaucracy and routing out corruption.

Zhu distinguished himself from other Chinese Communist leaders during the 1989 government crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.

After the army crushed the protests in Tiananmen Square, outraged students and workers in Shanghai threatened to launch a general strike.

Zhu appeared on television to calm the rising tensions, surprising many by not branding the demonstrations a "counterrevolutionary rebellion" that was necessary to squash.

"The event that occurred recently in Beijing is a historical fact," Zhu said. "Historical facts cannot be covered up by anybody. The truth will always come out."

Hard-line Communists were angered by Zhu's statements, but the words soothed the angry protesters in Shanghai, who dispersed without violence.

Zhu was made deputy premier by Deng in 1991 and then named Chinese prime minister in March 1998 under President Jiang Zemin.

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