Zhu Rongji is a brilliant man. Though seated in several different offices, the general consensus is that he was the man in charge of the Chinese economy from July 1993 to March 2003. Zhu had every appearance of a planner, a dictator, a market skeptic, and I criticized him for his handling of inflation in 1995. Later, I openly apologized in writing and on television: He was right; I was wrong.
We cannot evaluate a reformer based on what he says or even on what he does. The performance can only be evaluated on the basis of results. By this measure, Zhu deserves full marks. Appearing to want power, yet during his tenure central economic power was significantly reduced. Critical of the market, yet during his tenure domestic markets became so free that they were inspiring even to dyed-in-the-wool neoclassical economists. You may accuse the market of selling fakes, but the sharp improvements in product quality rival those of Japan during a similar stage of development, and market contracts, both for goods and services and for workers, exhibit a range of choice seldom seen elsewhere.