Conventional wisdom has it that Chinese officials are relatively shy in front of the camera. Unlike their Western counterparts who must fight for their positions in elections, Chinese officials have to impress their superiors rather than the general public. Such a stereotypical image, even though sometimes appropriate, could certainly not be applied to Zhu Rongji, China's Premier from 1998 to 2003.

Zhu is well known to the world for aggressively pushing economic reform in the most populous country and the largest transitional economy in the world. He, however, hates to be viewed as an ‘economic czar’ (p. 26), and he is certainly much more than an economic technocrat.

Reading through the 55 transcripts in this carefully edited volume, even an experienced researcher in the field of contemporary China can certainly learn something new. Readers will be amazed by the rich record of Zhu's views regarding China's domestic politics, its place in a globalising world and its relations with other powers. And they will also be impressed by the determination, knowledge, passion and wit of the former Premier of China.

The book starts with a helpful foreword by Henry Kissinger, followed by a useful preface from the publisher and several photos of Zhu Rongji. Its main body consists of two parts. The first and shorter part includes the transcripts of Zhu's four talks with the foreign press along with a speech to the world's economic and business leaders as China's Vice Premier, a position he held from 1993 to 1998. The second and major part covers Zhu's important speeches at home and aboard as China's Premier. This part is organised into two sections, of which the first one covers Zhu's speeches in 13 interviews, 8 press conferences and 15 engagements with the Hong Kong press corps and the second one includes Zhu's 14 addresses to economic and business leaders.

This book is translated from its original Chinese edition, which is reported to have sold over 2 million copies. While the ideas and opinions expressed by Zhu in the book may not always seem appropriate or attractive to readers in the English-speaking world, many people will certainly find it worth reading, for it illustrates how a state leader handles difficult economic and political situations with rich experience and professional skill. It portrays an official who is ‘witty, urbane, exceptionally intelligent, tough in the face of challenge, and at times disarmingly frank’ (p. xi), and it offers a very rewarding reading experience.