Leung Chun-ying

Former premier Zhu Rongji lifts lid on talks with CY Leung

Former premier reveals meetings with chief executive over 20 years ago as book on his time as mayor of Shanghai is launched in Beijing

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 8:49am

A book by former premier Zhu Rongji launched with a huge fanfare in Beijing yesterday gives a rare insight into events during his time as mayor of Shanghai between 1987 and 1991.

It reveals how conciliatory talks with student leaders in June 1989 defused tensions after the crackdown in Beijing.

And it detailed two meetings in 1988 and 1990 when he sought the advice of Leung Chun-ying, now Hong Kong's chief executive, on the core reform issues of land ownership and housing.

Leung, then a young surveyor at British real estate firm Jones Lang Wootton, is the only Hong Kong politician mentioned in the book, but it is an indication of his close ties with the mainland.

Zhu (pictured) has kept a low profile since he retired a decade ago and avoided making public remarks on the new generation of leaders or their policies.

But he is still fondly remembered by many at home and overseas as one of China's boldest, most charismatic reformists.

The book, was released as the central leadership were believed to be gathering at the resort of Beidaihe to hammer out policy ahead of formal meetings in the autumn. There has been speculation the book's release was timed to coincide with the leadership gathering, but the publisher yesterday said the project had long been in the works.

The book collects 106 of Zhu's speeches, letters and commentaries, from his time as the mayor of Shanghai and party secretary between December 1987 and April 1991.

Editors selected the items from a draft about three million characters long, editing it to a tenth that size. Zhu then approved the final revision. Most of the pieces are being published for the first time.

The publisher said the current leadership provided "valuable suggestions" about the content.

The book reveals how Zhu returned a city falling far behind Hong Kong and Singapore to the front of the international stage within a decade.

Zhu served as a deputy minister in Beijing before becoming Shanghai mayor. After 1991, he became vice-premier and then premier in 1998, under former president Jiang Zemin .

During his time in office, China launched key economic reforms. Zhu also started the probe into the US$6 billion Yuan Hua smuggling case in Xiamen , Fujian province.

"The biggest challenge Zhu faced was reform, as is the case now," said Xin Guangwei, acting editor in chief at People's Press, one of book's publishers.

"Zhu is a courageous man. Even now, Shanghai people still feel gratitude towards him," said Zhao Ping, a professor at the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University.