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Banking

China's Zhu Rongji: The man who gets things done

The key figure in China's financial reform process is Zhu Rongji, vice-premier in charge of the economy and a 68-year-old often described in western media as China's economic tsar. Though keeping a somewhat lower profile over the past year, his role as overseer of the financial reforms thus far implemented has been crucial.

Without Zhu Rongji's forceful personality, it probably would have been impossible to push through the legislation which in 1995 set China's state-owned banks free to become commercial entities and which established an autonomous central bank.

Zhu was also the critical figure in China's austerity programme, launched in 1993 to bring inflation under control and highly unpopular among China's state-owned enterprises, which bore the brunt of the credit squeeze. As inflation now is about 6%, compared with 21% in December 1994, the programme appears to have succeeded.

As such achievements suggest, Zhu Rongji is one Chinese leader who gets things done, whatever the obstacles. According to a Chinese banker: "He has no tolerance for bureaucratic nonsense. He is regarded as someone who has the courage to make decisions and take responsibility ­ a very rare quality among China's leadership."

In a society which thrives on building consensus and avoiding confrontation, such a forceful approach allied to a quick temper have not made Zhu popular.

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