'Forget me and the good I did when I die'
Wisdom may have dictated that Premier Wen Jiabao use his last all-important annual news conference to laud his government's economic achievements during the past decade.
Instead, the 69-year-old premier adopted a humble approach, apologising to his people for failing to accomplish some of his duties and asking them to forget him after he dies.
The once-a-year event was Wen's last, as he will step down from his party post in about six months and retire from the premiership next March. 'They have been nine difficult but momentous years,' he said.
The once-a-year press conference offers reporters a rare chance to direct questions at a top Chinese leader. When they were allowed to enter the conference room at 8.30am, they all rushed for a prominent seat.
Some Japanese reporters said they were the first to arrive at the Great Hall of the People, as early as 2am yesterday. The event started at 10.50am.
It took Wen three hours to finish the 15-question session, compared with the two hours he spent answering the same number of questions in 2003, when he hosted his first annual press session as premier.
'I feel truly sorry,' Wen said with a sad expression on his face when he was asked to summarise his achievements during his tenure. 'Due to my limited abilities, and institutional and other factors, there is still much room for improvement in my work.
'As the leader of the country's supreme administrative organ, I should assume responsibility for the problems that have occurred in China's economy and society in my tenure.'
Critics have accused Wen of failing to live up to his promises, such as curbing property prices, narrowing the income gap and making banking reforms.
'I often feel that much work remains to be finished; many things have yet to be properly addressed, and there are many regrets,' said Wen, who took over the premiership in 2003 from Zhu Rongji .
CPPCC delegate Huang Chuangui, who is also a major general, said: 'Zhu was more capable than Wen, but both premiers did the best according to their abilities.'
Analysts said Wen used the occasion yesterday to help cultivate his image as the 'people's premier' and to burnish his legacy.
'I sincerely hope that the people will forget me and all the good things that I have done for them, and they will consign me to oblivion as one day I shall be laid to my eternal rest,' Wen said in an apparently self-deprecating comment.
Wen said he had never intentionally committed an error in his work because of dereliction of duty.
In his last year in office, Wen plans to be as committed as ever and continue serving the people as best he can, to make up for shortfalls in his work with new achievements and to win the people's understanding and forgiveness.
He said he placed hope in the next generation and had full confidence that they would do better than he had.
The premier said that, in his 45 years in office, he has had 'the courage to face the people, and to face history', but he added that, 'ultimately, history will have the final say'.