(1942– ) Chinese politician
Wen Jiabao was born in Tianjin, China, and attended Nankai High School. He graduated from the Beijing Geological Institute, joined the Communist Party in 1965, and began his career in the Gansu provincial geological bureau.
Wen moved to Beijing in the 1980s and advanced through the ranks of the General Office of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party. He worked closely with Zhao Ziyang in the late 1980s and was demoted after Zhao’s fall from grace following the Tiananmen Square massacre. Unlike Zhao’s, Wen’s career recovered quickly, and he was able to continue to work under Jiang Zemin, becoming an alternate member of the Politburo in 1992. In 1998 premier Zhu Rongji entrusted him with oversight of agriculture, finance, and environment policies.
Wen became premier of China in 2003, succeeding Zhu Rongji. He is noted for his encyclopedic knowledge, practical approach, and consensual management style. He has proven himself to be a political survivor and has built up a network of influential friends during his political career. Wen has shifted the focus of China’s economic policies from growth and development at all costs to consideration of social goals such as public health and education, more egalitarian development, and an awareness of the costs of development such as pollution and workers’ illness and injury.
Wen has not been afraid to deal publicly with controversial matters involving public health and safety. In 2003 he ended public silence over the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, which began in Guangdong Province in November 2002. He was also the first Chinese official to address the AIDS problem in China. AIDS is already a serious and growing problem in China, and some experts estimate that there will be 10–20 million cases by 2010 if the problem is not addressed aggressively. In his efforts to address rural poverty Wen indicated the seriousness of his concern by making numerous unannounced visits to rural areas, thus avoiding elaborate preparations by local officials to cover up problems that exist.