Wu Yi: Forthright negotiator makes her mark

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 July, 2017, 8:59am

Named the second-most powerful woman this year by Forbes magazine, Vice-Premier Wu Yi has proved herself in the male-dominated world of mainland politics with her unique personality and tough working style.

Ms Wu, 68, has been praised for her forcefulness in international trade negotiations as Beijing's top negotiator and her contribution to the nation's rising influence on the global economy.

For almost 20 years she has impressed the world with her inspiring confidence, courage and troubleshooting skills. She has coped with various tough issues, from foreign trade to panic after the outbreak of Sars and recent international pressure on the mainland over food safety standards.

Always elegantly dressed, Ms Wu keeps her private life under wraps and deliberately avoids interviews.

She was also reported to have picked up the nickname 'little woman', though this little woman showed excellent potential as a leader from her youth.

Born into a poor family in 1938 in Wuhan , Hubei province , Ms Wu joined the Communist Party in 1962 after graduating from the Beijing Petroleum Institute.

Her first job was as a technician in the Lanzhou Oil Refinery in Gansu province . She stayed in the petroleum industry for 18 years and rose to deputy director of the Beijing Dongfanghong Oil Refinery.

From 1983 to 1988 she was deputy manager of the Yanshan Petroleum Corp and, through hard work and a good rapport with her staff, was soon promoted to party secretary of the giant national company.

Her political career took off in 1988 when she was appointed vice-mayor of Beijing responsible for economic and trade affairs, and an alternate member of the 13th party central committee.

In 1990, as representative of the China Council for Promotion of International Trade, Ms Wu made two visits to the US and met business leaders to try to improve ties after the 1989 Tiananmen student protests.

In 1991 she was promoted to vice-minister of the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade and became the top negotiator.

She displayed excellent crisis-management skills and a forcefulness that helped her hammer out trade agreements with the United States, European Union and Russia, and negotiations for accession to the World Trade Organisation.

From 1993 to 1998 she was party secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade. She was made a vice-premier in March 2003 and oversaw the nation's fight against Sars while heading the Ministry of Health from 2003 to 2005. She was an alternate Politburo member from 1997 and a full member from 2002.