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[Olympics] Wen Jiabao

è Wen Jiabao, il premier cinese?
La scusa era mettere questa foto
di Wen che stacca di destro e colpisce con la mano mancina. E, come
fanno notare alcuni blog cinesi, sfoggia una invidiabile coppia nera
tra calze e scarpe, molto apprezzata da chi non ama gli spesso
bianchi calzettini dei cinesi. La verità è che ho
trovato questo articolo on line su di lui, su un giornale australiano, prodotto durante una visita in Australia di Web Jiabao.

Premier is an ordinary man with an extraordinary challenge ahead of

is a story, one of many, about China’s "man of the people",
Premier Wen Jiabao. He was driving through the countryside with the
sort of entourage that always accompanies senior leaders when he
insisted on stopping the car to relieve himself. Before his minders
knew what was happening, the wily Wen was down in the village talking
to the peasants.

Fewsmith, a professor at Boston University’s department of
international relations, says he doesn’t know if the story is true,
"but whether it is or not, it certainly suggests the way he is
perceived; that he really wants to talk to the people and see what’s
happening on the ground".

habit of wearing an 11-year-old coat has also helped his proletarian
credentials. The official Xinhua newsagency has a web page devoted to
pictures of Wen wearing the dull-green winter overcoat since 1995.
Certainly, China’s second most important man, who arrives in
Australia tomorrow for a four-day visit, appears a little more
willing than most of the country’s leaders to stray from the script.
But like all good politicians, he plays to his audience.

rural China he might dust off the old green coat, but when he
addressed an audience at Harvard a few years back, Wen — a
voracious reader with a master’s degree in geology — referred to
Descartes, Voltaire, Goethe and Kant, as well as lesser-known figures
such as Gottfried Leibniz and Enlightenment thinker Baron de
Montesquieu, throwing in American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson and
Charles Dickens for good measure.

reputation is as a talented technocrat with a populist bent,
committed to continuing economic reform and possibly moderate social
and political reforms, and more approachable than the famously wooden
Hu Jintao. Three
years after his elevation to premier, Wen’s reformist and populist
credentials remain undimmed. In
the face of a backlash from conservatives arguing for a slowdown in
China’s headlong embrace of market reforms — for example, by not
selling off any more state-owned assets — Wen has unequivocally
stated, most recently at this month’s National People’s Congress,
that there will be no turning back.

recent crackdowns on journalists, writers, academics and
non-government organisations that are deemed possible subversive
influences show that Wen does not stray too far from orthodox
Communist leadership thinking, which is to "maintain stability
at all costs". In
an interview granted to the Washington Post in 2003, Wen was asked
whether political reform should be accelerated to keep pace with
China’s massive economic reform. "In
essence, political restructuring in China aims at integrating the
leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, rule of law in the conduct
of public affairs and the people’s role as masters of their own
affairs," Wen replied. The elegance of this formula belies the
complexity of what is a herculean task.

social and political stability, China’s leaders fear, with good
reason, that economic growth will become a juggernaut propelling the
country into chaos — and the Communist Party out of a job. They
shudder at the thought of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and
the colour revolutions that toppled despotic governments in Ukraine
and Georgia. A
talented and capable technocrat who has managed to survive under
three party leaders, Wen, along with President Hu Jintao, is in
charge of steering China through its next phase of development:
moving to a market-driven economy in which consumer demand drives
future growth, rather than massive injections of government funds
into building factories, steel mills and the like.

massive growth — averaging almost 10 per cent a year for the past
25 years — has been almost entirely due to investment, but this is
not sustainable in the longer term, hence the painful structural
changes under which China has privatised most of its state-owned
enterprises, making millions of previously secure workers redundant. A
metaphor Wen has used several times publicly describes the
development challenge presented by China’s size. Any small problem
multiplied by 1.3 billion (China’s population) becomes a big, big
problem. And any wealth generated by growth, when divided by 1.3
billion, becomes very, very small per capita. David
Kelly, senior research fellow at the East Asian Institute at the
National University of Singapore, says Hu and Wen inherited a
political time bomb from former president Jiang Zemin because all the
problems in the countryside had been allowed to fester while China’s
urban masses grew wealthy. "Jiang
Zemin built a big following with the urban middle classes, who were
well served with new roads and apartments blossoming. Meanwhile, even
in the cities, the gap between rich and poor doubled, so the net
result is that Jiang and Co. really saw the countryside go down the
tube," Kelly says. Vowing
to create a "new socialist countryside”, Wen has gone around
the country, drinking cups of tea with miners and shaking hands with
farmers and little old ladies, reassuring them that the Government
understands the rural distress and is going to do something about
health, education and corruption issues such as illegal land
seizures. In
December, Wen warned rural officials against making the "historical
mistake" of failing to protect farmers and their lands — much
of it seized for development without adequate compensation — which
he predicted would lead to more violence. Official
statistics showing incidents of social unrest soared last year to
87,000 illustrates the depth of unhappiness. It also, it could be
said, helps strengthen Wen’s and Hu’s hand in forcing through the
reallocation of resources from the wealthier eastern provinces to the
impoverished hinterland and west. The
economic growth of the past two decades has been built on the back of
cheap but relatively well-educated labour. But when state-owned
enterprises — which provided Mao’s famous "iron ricebowl"
of housing, education, health and pensions — were abolished, no
national social security network was created to replace it.

has massively deinvested in education and health, and China’s next
generation of workers may not be as well educated or trained as they
need to be to keep up with a global economy. Kelly
says the question now is whether Hu and Wen will just throw money at
the countryside or tackle those difficult structural issues,
including rampant corruption and inefficiency. "They do deserve
credit for marketing these policies (of reducing rural poverty), but
we’ve yet to see if it’s more than just marketing," Kelly says. Wu
Guoguang was a policy adviser and speechwriter to former premier and
Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang when Zhao made his famous visit to
the Tiananmen Square protesters in 1989. Now
holding the chair in China and Asia-Pacific relations at Canada’s
University of Victoria, Wu says Wen and Hu are serious about tackling
the problems facing China.

… they don’t want and are not able, I guess, to tackle the problems
with any systematic, institutional reforms," Wu says. "As
the problems do have their institutional roots in the current
political system, you may conclude that they are not really serious —
my speculation is that they are just … (trying to) postpone the
outbreak of those problems into crises to the date after their
tenure." Kelly
says while much is made of Wen’s "man of the people" style,
in reality he is just the least wooden of the current leadership:
"You don’t go to China expecting to meet Jackie Chan running the
Communist Party. It just doesn’t happen … but you’re actually
better off with someone sensible and dull in charge because China is
now in the situation when the one thing we don’t want is for China to
have a major hiccup, because we will feel it. China’s
voracious appetite for Australian iron ore, liquid natural gas,
uranium and other raw materials has underpinned Australia’s recent
prosperity. Wen’s
visit is an affirmation of the warmth of bilateral relations,
notwithstanding recent tensions over a Chinese-imposed cap on iron
ore prices. Wen is expecting to sign a long-term agreement on
uranium, including not only buying Australian uranium but its
exploration and mining.

Wen is a highpowered delegation including foreign affairs, commerce
and planning ministers. Wen
will spend half of his eight-day, four-nation visit in Australia. He
will also attend the inaugural China-Pacific Island Countries
Economic Development and Co-operation Forum in Fiji and visit New
Zealand, which is also negotiating a free trade agreement with China. Wen
will want reassurances that Australia will continue to respect
Chinese sensitivity over Taiwan, Tibet and Falun Gong, while
Australia will want some commitment to hastening the pace of free
trade agreement negotiations, which, after more than a year and four
rounds of talks, have yet to begin in earnest.

Posted in Pizi Wenxue.