Deng's aide seen as the architect of SEZs

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 November, 2009, 12:00am

If Deng Xiaoping was the chief architect of China's reform and opening up, his aide Gu Mu was the architect of China's special economic zones (SEZs).

The former vice-premier, who died on Friday aged 96, was in charge of establishing China's four SEZs as the mainland began to open up.

In 1979, Gu led a task force to investigate the economic potential of Guangdong and Fujian. Gu decided that more policy flexibility should be given to the two provinces, while economic incentives should be introduced in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou and Xiamen to attract foreign investment and to encourage manufactured exports. A report was then sent to the central government suggesting that the two provinces be given more leeway to diverge from the planned economy.

'Guangdong is in the vicinity of Hong Kong, and is home to a lot of overseas Chinese,' Gu was quoted as saying in a central government meeting by the Nanfang Daily. 'We should make full use of this advantage.'

On July 15 that year, the government approved Gu's suggestions, resulting in the establishment of the four SEZs.

The same year, Gu nailed down China's first loan from a foreign government on a trip to Japan, paving the way for more government loans from other countries.

Born into a peasant family in 1914, Gu was well versed in traditional classics, as his grandfather believed that proper education could help him avoid oppression by the rich.

Gu, whose original name was Liu Jiayu , adopted his new name after joining the Communist Party in 1931, for fear of bringing trouble on his family.

After the foundation of the People's Republic, Gu helped premier Zhou Enlai and Deng on economic issues. He was heavily involved in the drafting and execution of economic policies in the economic reform and opening up.

He also served as a state councillor and as vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the mainland's top advisory body.

He is survived by three children.