China’s Wen Interrupted by Shoe Hurled at U.K. Speech

10:00, 03 February 2009
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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s speech in Cambridge, England, was interrupted briefly by a protester who blew a whistle, denounced the leader as a “dictator” and threw a shoe at him, according to Bloomberg.

The shoe didn’t hit Wen, and the protestor was quickly removed from the audience of about 200 students and university lecturers. Wen was speaking after a meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London, where two days of demonstrations greeted the premier at his every stop.

Wen shrugged off the interruption and continued with his speech, saying, “this despicable behavior cannot stand in the way of friendship between China and the U.K.” He is due to fly back to China this evening.

George W. Bush suffered the same insult during a press conference in Baghdad on Dec. 14 shortly before he finished his term as U.S. president. Police in Cambridgeshire couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Wen’s three-day trip to Britain was aimed at strengthening trade relations as economies around the world tip into recession. The premier said China’s effort to bolster its own economy, marked by a 4 trillion renminbi ($584 billion) fiscal stimulus, is one of the best contributions he can make to the recovery. He criticized the West for allowing a “dangerous” and “unregulated market” in securities.

Common Ground

While he and Brown put on a united front in warning against protectionism, his comments highlight his government’s continued antipathy to a totally free market.

“It brings disastrous consequences,” Wen said through a translator at a joint press conference in London with Brown. “Some economies, they have imbalances in their economic structure. For a long period of time they’ve had dual deficits, trade deficits and fiscal deficits.”

Brown and Wen both said that moves towards protectionism in the face of worldwide recession would make matters worse. China needs to export goods to Europe and the U.S. to sustain its growth. In Britain, Brown is facing protests from workers angry at jobs going abroad.

“The best attack on protectionism is to demonstrate the benefits of trade,” Brown said. Business Secretary Peter Mandelson and Energy Secretary Ed Miliband will visit China in April.

Growth in China

Wen said he wanted to maintain growth at home. “If China’s economy can maintain steady development, it will be the biggest contribution to the whole world,” he said.

The Chinese premier earlier promised his country will send purchasing missions to Europe soon in order to combat protectionism and help global trade.

“Confidence is the most important thing, more important than gold or currency,” Wen, speaking through a translator, told business leaders in London.

Wen said his country would send “procurement missions” to Europe “as soon as possible” to “purchase commodities and technologies that we need.” He said he hoped these would “help us restore and shore up confidence in the market.”

He reiterated many of his remarks in the speech in Cambridge, urging his audience to judge China based on the history of its development as an industrial economy and noting that his nation still felt there was a wide gap between China and rich western nations.

“Through persistent effort we will reach our goal of modernization,” Wen said in Cambridge. “Seeking hegemony goes against Chinese cultural tradition. China’s development threatens no one.”

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