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Premier Zhu Rongji of the People's Republic of China manages a national economy that is the world's largest in terms of people. Before he became prime minister in 1998, he was for five years the head of the central bank of China.
So when it was time to exchange gifts, in a brief ceremony in Rehearsal Room B of Kresge Auditorium, President Charles Vest presented him with books by MIT's three Nobel Prize-winning economists -- Professors Paul Samuelson, Franco Modigliani and Robert Solow. The Samuelson book was a special 50th-anniversary edition of his best-selling textbook Economics.
Premier Zhu, in presenting Dr. Vest with his gift, said jokingly, "This is not china [plates], this is a book about China."
Madame Lao An, the Premier's wife, presented Mrs. Rebecca Vest with a gift of silk. Mrs. Vest gave Madame Lao an oval box with a scene of Killian Court in scrimshaw, the art of fine line engraving that is done today on polymer but was done in the 19th century by sailors on whale and walrus bone.
The ceremony began with Premier Zhu signing the guest book with a Chinese brush, writing his name and that of his wife Lao An in Chinese characters. Members of the MIT community who met with Premier Zhu included President Vest and Rebecca Vest; Chancellor Lawrence Bacow; Professor Samuel Ting of Physics, a native of China and winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in physics; Chairman Alex d'Arbeloff and Brit d'Arbeloff; Provost Robert Brown; Dean Richard Schmalensee of the Sloan School of Management, which has a relationship with Tsinghua University where Premier Zhu is the dean of its management school; Professor Lotte Bailyn, chair of the Faculty; Emeritus Professor of Mathematics Chia Chiao Lin, also a native of China; Professor Suzanne Berger, head of the MIT Science and Technology Initiative (MISTI) which includes many projects with China; and two student representatives, Brian Schneider, president of the Graduate Student Council, and Paul Oppold, president of the Undergraduate Association.
A version of this article appeared in the April 21, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 27).