Iron Lady leaves her mark

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 August, 2011, 12:00am


Unlike much of Beijing's powerful elite, the woman known as China's 'Iron Lady', Wu Yi, rose to acclaim on her own merits.

Born in Wuhan in 1938, Wu studied engineering at the Beijing Petroleum Institute and started out in the refineries of Gansu province in western China. After becoming a top refining industry official, she set off to make it into the close-door world of the Chinese Communist Party and went on to become the deputy mayor of Beijing in 1988. She was appointed one of four vice-premiers in 2003.

Wu impressed by deftly hammering out trade agreements and overseeing delicate negotiations leading to China's accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2001.

Following a wave of food and health scares after the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2003, Wu was appointed health minister. She is open, honest and has a sense of humour when dealing with foreign dignitaries. She has been called a 'force of nature' by former United States secretary for the treasury Henry Paulson, whom she was known to hug affectionately before sitting down at the negotiating table.

Wu also took on one of the nation's most challenging problems - fighting counterfeiting and product piracy.

She never married, but Wu remains devoted to the nation following her retirement in 2008.