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Premier Zhu Rongji of the People's Republic of China will speak to the world from MIT on Wednesday as he concludes a nine-day tour of the United States with a visit to the Boston area.
The speech, including a question and answer session with the MIT audience, is scheduled from 10:45-11:40am. Science, technology and education are expected to be the topics. The event will be broadcast live by CNN on its national and international channels and will be webcast by Ziff-Davis TV. The main MIT web site will have a link to the webcast site today.
The speech will be in Chinese, with simultaneous English translation carried to the audience via headsets at each of the 1,200 seats in Kresge Auditorium. Mr. Zhu rarely speaks from a text.
Premier Zhu has been both blunt and humorous during exchanges with officials, news reporters and citizens during his six-city tour of Los Angeles, Washington, Denver, Chicago, New York and Boston. The New York Times wrote, "the 70-year-old Premier, with his poker face and acute timing, can be funny, especially when no one in the audience expects him to be."
In Los Angeles, he told of trade concessions China had made in its as-yet-unsuccessful effort to be admitted to the World Trade Organization. One concession, lifting a ban on citrus fruit, was particularly important to California and to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), who has known Mr. Zhu since the late 1980s when she was the mayor of San Francisco and he was the mayor of Shanghai. She has visited the Premier regularly and complained about the ban, which contributes slightly to the US trade deficit with China -- $57 billion last year.
"California," said Premier Zhu, "has a woman who comes each year to China. Every time, she raises the same old issue about citrus fruit." Pausing a beat, he added, "Thank God, from now on she will never raise it again!"
Protesters about China's handling of human rights, Tibet and Taiwan trailed the Premier at each stop. Dozens were arrested, some through negotiated settlements with local police.
Mr. Zhu, referring to the reports that China had obtained military secrets from an alleged spy at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the Chinese Army will consider stenciling on the side of its missiles the words "Made in China, not in USA."
In Washington, he participated in an extraordinary one-hour, 45-minute news conference with President Bill Clinton. In Denver, he announced lowering China's trade barriers to wheat and beef, important to farmers in Colorado and the region. He visited the Denver Broncos' training site outside Denver and "side-armed a blistering pass into a group of television cameras."
In Chicago, the Hyatt Corp. gave Chinese agriculture a boost when it presented Premier Zhu with a 1,500-pound black Angus bull, genetically engineered to produce calves that make the highest grade of beef. Ignoring high winds that kept the rest of his delegation in a bus, the Premier lobbied local farmers to call President Clinton to say how much farmers want China to join the WTO.
Former US Ambassador to China James Lilley told the Times, "He is selling himself as the intelligent, sophisticated Chou En-lai guy. He's post-Tiananmen Square, Shanghai not Beijing, economic reform, free market, MIT and science and all that. All very effective."
Attendance in Kresge Auditorium will be limited to the MIT community and invited guests. He will be introduced by MIT President Charles M. Vest, who met Premier Zhu in Beijing in 1995.
"We see China -- and US relations with China -- as major issues for American society and for the world," Dr. Vest said. "We know that China will have an increasingly important world role in the creation of new scientific, technological and industrial activities. MIT faculty and students are involved in many projects in the PRC, ranging from working with high school students to establish Internet communication to a major environmental study of coal combustion throughout that nation."
Mr. Zhu continues as the dean of the business school at Tsinghua University in Beijing. The Sloan School of Management has a substantial educational initiative with Tsinghua, with Fudan University in Shanghai, and the Lingnan (University) College of Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, southern China
Premier Zhu, an electrical engineer, has been a planner, teacher, engineer, economist, mayor of Shanghai and governor of the central bank, as well as Vice Premier. He was named the fifth Premier of the People's Republic of China in March 1998.
A version of this article appeared in the April 14, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 26).