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Premier Wen's travels

I found this cable really interesting -- it's from 2003, and details a conversation with a Chinese official about the details of Wen Jiabao's travel habits.

There is much debate among China watchers about the extent to which Wen is a force for political reform in the government. And, as some Weibo accounts will attest, conversation by activists/critics in China about whether Wen is as much a man of the people as is advertised. This account of Wen in his first year as premier, relayed by a cable from the U.S. embassy in Beijing, suggests that he does not stand on ceremony or seek the sort of .... benefits available to those in public office in China. (Of course, this is all according to a Chinese official.) 

For anyone who's travelled in provincial China, where the distance between local officials and the locals can be striking, this sentence in particular telegraphs a strong message: "Wen's personal requirements were very simple.  He preferred to eat modestly and alone in his hotel room rather than take part in fancy banquets, which provincial officials would have gladly hosted." 

And I liked this scene:

"To illustrate Wen's distaste for the common practice among Chinese officials of woodenly reading their work reports, (the official) recounted an incident from Wen's travel to several central provinces last winter, while he was still a Vice Premier.  During this trip ... Wen listened to a local mayor drone on and on about his city's successful handling of emergencies ... Wen became so frustrated with the mayor's monotone presentation that the following exchange took place: "Mr. Mayor, can you deliver your report without referring to your text," Wen asked.  "Mr. Vice Premier, I refer to my manuscript because it contains a lot of statistics," the mayor replied.  "Mr. Mayor, you have been an official in this city for several years now.  Surely you must have a command of the statistics that reflect how life is for the city's residents," Wen chastised.  "I'll make you a deal," Wen continued. "If you put away your text, then I'll put away mine when it is my turn to speak." 

(Although unredacted versions of the WikiLeaks cables have been now been posted publicly, I'm not sure what I think about posting them. But they ARE on the web, so if you want to see this one in its full form, you can click here.)

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There is much debate among China watchers about the extent to which Wen is a force for political reform in the government. InterestingI layout on your blog.

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