Wen Jiabao

Quick-witted premier makes light of blackout

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 May, 2004, 12:00am

Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday discovered that China is not the only country with power problems after telling his European hosts about the shortage of electricity back home.

As he was in the middle of an address at a hi-tech forum in Berlin, the lights suddenly went out. For several seconds, an audience of Germany's leading entrepreneurs in cutting-edge industries remained in darkness. When the lights came back on, the unflappable Mr Wen was calm and wearing a broad smile.

After a brief pause, he said: 'There are times when hi-tech runs into trouble, but this will by no means stop the development of high technology.' The comments drew long applause.

A cautious man known for mastering statistics and Chinese poetry, Mr Wen rarely misses an opportunity to turn on the charm.

The premier waited for the applause to die down and indicated to his audience that he would return to his carefully scripted presentation: 'So let me continue with this speech.'

Mr Wen's quick wit was also on display at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

When asked by a Xinhua reporter whether it was a coincidence that he visited Europe the day after the EU's historical enlargement, Mr Wen said: 'The EU enlargement took place on May 1 and I visited Europe on May 2. Many people have been discussing whether this was a coincidence or whether it was intentional.

'But I can only tell you, it is a fact,' he said, smiling calmly.

'Luckily you guys did not ask me whether it was coincidental or intentional that I visited Germany in the first leg.

'But I have also prepared an answer: it is a fact.'