Is this the final curtain call for commerce chief?

Updated: 2013-03-09 07:41

By Ding Qingfen (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Is this the final curtain call for commerce chief?

He is a ministerial head, unfailingly polite and always finds time to answer journalists' questions, no matter how difficult.

But Friday's news conference by the Ministry of Commerce will probably be the last such one for the minister, Chen Deming.

There has been speculation that the 64-year-old will step down soon after the two sessions.

And Chen's performance on Friday seemed to indicate this. As a major part of his introductory remarks, he gave his assessment of China's achievements and setbacks in the five years since the global financial crisis, a departure from his previous media conferences.

But he didn't forget it was International Women's Day, extending his wishes to all female staff members and journalists present, before taking questions.

If the speculation proves true, I believe many journalists, no matter if they are female or male, will be sorry the open and affable minister is going.

As a journalist who has covered the nation's trade and investment issues and followed the Ministry of Commerce for years, I have witnessed key events and major policies adopted by the agency under Chen's leadership.

China's foreign trade and outbound direct investment have risen significantly in the past five years, but Chen, who took up the post in 2007, has also experienced the global financial crisis right from the start, and the ongoing European debt crisis.

In 2009, China surpassed Germany to become the largest exporter. And the nation accelerated its "go abroad" strategy, climbing to sixth place in the world in terms of its overseas direct investment in 2011.

But it could, by no means, cast off the shadow of the global financial crisis, and even worse, the debt problems in Europe, its largest trade partner.

Chinese manufacturers are facing unprecedented challenges as global demand shrinks increasingly. Slackened exports have led to a slowdown in the nation's economic growth, which, together with the fragile global economy, has led to a drop in China's foreign direct investment.

Internationally, China has had to fight against intensified trade protectionism from developed and developing economies.

Amid this complicated and severe situation, the ministry has taken a wide range of measures to stabilize the nation's exports, expand imports, encourage manufacturers to upgrade industries and sharpen competitiveness, and stimulate domestic consumption. It is also furthering its opening-up policy by prioritizing "going abroad", while welcoming foreign investment.

With the ministry covering a wide range of trade issues, Chen has a hard job, and he always has to be cautious. He once said he has visited more than 100 countries and regions worldwide but does not sleep well.

As part of his work, he has often made solo trips abroad and has also tried to shop on, China's largest e-commerce platform.

But we journalists always see him wearing a smile and remaining calm in public, preferring to speak in a humorous manner, even on sensitive topics.

He once told an international forum the United States should lift a ban on high-tech exports to China, urging it to take action, rather than resort to words. "In the past, the stairs creaked but no one came down them, but recently, even the stairs don't creak," he said.

He has performed like a true gentleman in front of the media, and his news conferences during the annual two sessions have always been crowded.

Very soon, Chen's future will become clear. For us, this may not be good news, but for him, who knows? Probably, at least, he will have more time with his family.

(China Daily 03/09/2013 page2)