Economic spotlight on Zhu

THE forthcoming National People's Congress (NPC) will enshrine the position of Executive Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji as economic czar and possibly the most important member of the cabinet.

Chinese sources said barring last minute changes, Mr Zhu would replace premier Li Peng as the host of the press conference to be given to the domestic and international press when the plenary legislative session ends around March 25.

Joining Mr Zhu at the press event will be vice-premiers Zou Jiahua and Li Lanqing.

Mr Zhu, who has been the major economic policy maker since late 1992, will present Beijing's case for boosting macro-level adjustments and controls.

Informed sources said premier Li would this year drop his annual practice of hosting a press conference after each NPC session, which he began when he became head of the Government in 1988.

They said the spotlight on Mr Zhu reflected the fact that he had recovered from his relatively weak position at the height of the austerity programme late last year, when he was under attack from regional cadres and liberal economists.


The sources added it was very likely Mr Zhu would hold on to his concurrent position of Governor of the People's Bank of China until later this year.

While upon assuming the post last July, Mr Zhu had indicated it would be a temporary arrangement, it is understood he recently decided he had to hang on to the position to ensure the success of banking and fiscal reforms.

No major personnel changes are expected to take place during this NPC, analysts in Beijing said.

Two other major press conferences, to be hosted by Vice-Premier Qian Qichen and First Vice-Chairman of the NPC, Tian Jiyun would be organised in the course of the fortnight-long congress.


Mr Qian, who as Foreign Minister heads the Preliminary Working Committee handling the transition of Hong Kong to Chinese control, will take questions on Hong Kong. He will also discuss Macau and other international affairs.

Mr Tian will elaborate on the legislative agenda and put emphasis on the NPC's growing powers of supervision over the Government.


In addition, journalists will be able to meet ministers, provincial and non-communist party leaders and entrepreneurs.