Protester shouts down zoellick

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 February, 2012, 12:00am


A man disrupted a press conference by World Bank president Robert Zoellick in Beijing yesterday to protest against recommendations that the government reduce its intervention in the economy and encourage private participation.

Du Jianguo, who writes commentaries for mainland publications and calls himself an independent scholar, handed leaflets to Zoellick and journalists at the World Bank's Beijing office just a few minutes after Zoellick began speaking.

Apologising for the interruption, Du said the bank's report was poison to China.

'We don't need privatised banks like the US. Wall Street is made up of a group of liars!' he shouted to the audience before being bundled out by World Bank staff.

In his leaflet, Du criticised a number of the World Bank's recommendations for China, including the privatisation of the banking sector and the provision of preferential policies for private companies to ensure fairer competition. He accused it of deliberately trying to ruin the mainland economy with policies that had failed to work elsewhere.

'Banks in the US are mostly private, but these banks have not helped with the development and innovation of the real economy. Instead, they engaged in speculation and fraud, and finally led the US and the whole world to a crisis,' he said.

Du also criticised the bank's recommendation that the mainland's state sector be restructured, saying it was trying to create conflicts between state-owned enterprises and private ones.

Zoellick said the report, released by the bank on Monday, was open to debate and it was up to China to decide how to use it.

He said the core controversy was its call for China to adopt a new growth model for the next two decades. 'China was very successful in the past 30 years with one structural model for development,' Zoellick said. 'That model is focused on export-led and heavily investment-led growth. 'The 12th five-year plan recognises that needs to be changed to focus on domestic demand and consumption.'

The report, drafted by the World Bank and the State Council's Development Research Centre, offered six main suggestions it said would help China tackle potential challenges by 2030 - enhancing a market-based economy, accelerating the pace of innovation, going green, promoting social security for all, strengthening the fiscal system, and seeking mutually beneficial relations with the world.

Zoellick said that despite resistance from 'some of the vested interests that benefit from the current structure', he had noticed momentum towards change during meetings with local government heads on his trips to the mainland.

But he said he did not expect 'big bang reform' because 'the history of China's development process, started with Deng Xiaoping , is often to start with local areas, pilots, tests'.

Zoellick said the World Bank would be glad to help local governments with reform, such as moving Guangdong's low-value-added manufacturing industry to Africa.

He said this could be possible because Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former colleague, had been seeking co-operation opportunities in China.

Releasing the report on Monday, Zoellick said its timing was important because of China's impending leadership transition. 'It would be important if the next leadership could proceed with the reforms discussed in this report,' he said.