Wen Jiabao

Speech shows Wen far from losing power

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 August, 2002, 12:00am

Xinhua yesterday released a long speech by Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao, apparently to highlight that his political fortune is on the rise.

The release of the speech - made by Mr Wen last month - comes as the top echelon of the Communist Party wrapped up the annual summit in the seaside resort Beidaihe to discuss the new leadership line-up to be endorsed at the 16th Communist Party Congress later this year.

It was not the first time official media had published a speech by Mr Wen, but the latest one discussed the sensitive issue of cash-crop farming.

The choice of the topic indicated that the 60-year-old Tianjin native, who is tipped to become the next premier, was far from losing power, as had been suggested by overseas Chinese and Japanese media.

Early this summer, reports started to appear in the Hong Kong and Japanese press that Mr Wen had tendered his resignation after he was criticised by President Jiang Zemin for failures in the agricultural sector.

But the Xinhua report yesterday showed that even on the eve of the Beidaihe summit, Mr Wen remained a principal player in drafting China's agricultural policies.

In the speech, the vice-premier highlighted the importance of promoting cash-crop farming, or what officials call the 'vegetable-basket project'.

Cash-crop farming has become crucial because Chinese farmers are expected to lose out to foreign competition in areas such as wheat and grains once China starts to lower its tariffs on imports as part of its concessions for joining the World Trade Organisation.

Chinese cash-crops such as vegetables, flowers and fruits enjoy an advantage over foreign imports because of their lower overall costs and access to markets.