Book review: Meeting the Challenges - Speeches by Wen Jiabao at the World Economic Forum Events

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 February, 2014, 3:49pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 February, 2014, 3:49pm

Meeting the Challenges
edited by the World Economic Forum
Chinese University of Hong Kong Press
4 stars

Cary Huang

For decades the great and good of business and politics have gathered every winter in the Swiss ski resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum to swap ideas about global development.

Since 2007, when the "summer Davos" began to hold its annual meeting in China, former premier Wen Jiabao has attended every gathering. He has used the occasion as a platform to deliver the message of confidence and hope amid the ongoing global financial crisis and economic slump.

Meeting the Challenges - A Historical Record of China's Development is a collection of speeches delivered by Wen at the six successive summer forums held in China from 2007 to 2012, and his address at the 2009 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.

The book also contains the transcripts of his question and answer sessions held at these seven events.

In the preface, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, says that under Wen's full patronage, the "summer Davos", also known as the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, has become a regular fixture on the calendars of global political and business leaders.

Offering important insights not only into China's development challenges during this period and beyond, the book also reveals the strength and purpose of the Chinese leadership that steered the country through the most testing period for the global economy since the Great Depression, Schwab says.

In his speeches, the former Chinese leader (Wen was premier between 2003 and 2013) shared his candid views on the Chinese economy as well as political and social development in the country. He even used the occasion to call for political reform on the mainland.

With the global economy being hit by one crisis after another, from the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States to the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, the overwhelming hope in the global market was that China - the world's second largest economy - could help pull the global economy out of the slowdown. And Wen spared no effort to offer a note of confidence every time that he appeared at the forums.

In 2008 he spoke in Tianjin in the aftermath of the snow and sleet storms in the southern region, the disastrous Sichuan earthquake, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the consequent slump in global financial markets. Wen promised participants at the second Annual Meeting of the New Champions that China would do all that was necessary to defend its growth and to contribute to a global recovery.

In January 2009, his presence at Davos was especially significant since the international community was looking to China and other rapidly growing and emerging economies to spearhead a recovery amid the turmoil in the global economy.

In 2010, at the fourth Annual Meeting of the New Champions, Wen reviewed the impact of China's unprecedented stimulus package. He announced that China had been one of the first countries to rebound from the crisis and to return to high growth.

Returning to Dalian in 2011, Wen gave a comprehensive overview of China's goals and strategic tasks during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015).

In his final address as premier to the sixth meeting in Tianjin in 2012, Wen presented a notable summary of China's development over the past decade under his stewardship and defended his policies, including his controversial four trillion yuan (HK$5.08 trillion) stimulus package.

One can glean from his speeches here a feeling for the fast-growing clout of China's economy as well as its impact on global growth in such a short period of time.

And the world is becoming increasingly keen to hear from Chinese leaders.