Zhu Rongji

Former Chinese premier Zhu Rongji breaks long silence with letter to university

Rare gesture from ex-party leader offers glimpse of his health and state of mind

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2014, 3:42am

Former premier Zhu Rongji has made a rare public gesture, writing a letter for the 30th anniversary of his alma mater, becoming the latest ex-party leader to step briefly out of low-key retirement.

Such incidents involving retired leaders are unusual and provide a glimpse into their lives after leaving official duties.

Zhu, 85, wrote the letter to the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University, according to mainland news portals. Zhu was dean of the school for nearly 17 years from 1984.

University president Cheng Jining read out the letter at a ceremony on Saturday, which Zhu was unable to attend because he was feeling unwell.

Zhu Yanlai, Zhu's daughter, told local media last month that her father was generally in good health, but that "some organs inevitably had some problems".

Retired Politburo Standing Committee members usually stay in the background. It has long been understood that a public appearance or even mention of their names in the media is a signal that they remain in good health or still have a degree of political influence.

In the letter, Zhu, who as premier from 1998 to 2003 developed a reputation for a strong work ethic and played a key role in steering the nation's economic transformation, urged students to embrace a global perspective.

But he also suggested they visit China's remote, impoverished areas to learn first-hand the state of the country and how people felt. "Only with a combination of the world's advanced theories and Chinese practice can we bring forward world-class business management talent," he said.

He hoped schools would continue to produce business leaders who pushed ahead with the revitalisation of the nation.

Zhu ended his letter with: "As a Tsinghua man, my heart will always be with you."

Mainland news portals such as Dahe.cn have previously reported the public appearance of several former leaders making "spring excursions", including former president Hu Jintao , National People's Congress ex-chairman Wu Bangguo and former propaganda tsar Li Changchun.

Ex-president Jiang Zemin, who has largely shunned the spotlight in recent years, made two public appearances last week - in Yangzhou city in Jiangsu province and then Shanghai, according to accounts on social media.