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Chinese protester: World Bank will 'ruin China'

A Chinese protester disrupts World Bank President Robert Zoellick during a press conference in Beijing Tuesday shouting, "this report from the World Bank is poison!" NBC's Ed Flanagan reports.

BEIJING – These days it seems everyone has an opinion about what China’s economy needs to do to continue to prosper.

Yesterday was the World Bank’s turn to give its two cents as it released a new joint-report with the Chinese Development Research Center entitled, “China 2030: Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative High-Income Society.”

The ambitious report attempts to lay out a new development strategy for China that emphasizes a gradual transition to a market economy, serious economic and labor reform and an eventual shift from an economy powered by state-owned businesses to private enterprise.

It was that latter condition that appeared to be a step too far for Du Jianguo who created a stir during a press conference by World Bank President Robert Zoellick at the bank’s Beijing headquarters Tuesday.

Du, a self-described “independent scholar of politics and economics,” stood up as Zoellick was talking and began to shout slogans like, “state-owned industry should not be privatized!” and “this report from the World Bank is poison!” 

He also handed out an essay he had written, aptly titled, “WB [World Bank] Go home with your poison!”

Privatization debate
Du was pulled from the room by staff, but continued his protest outside where he claimed that the World Bank was corrupting China’s banking sector so much that it was beginning to resemble what he deemed a terrible role model: Wall Street.

“The World Bank wants Chinese banks to become like Wall Street,” said Du. “Do they want Chinese banks to turn into liars and parasites?”

Back inside the conference room, Zoellick acknowledged the intense debate that his bank’s report had generated in China between nationalists and economic liberalizers on the mainland, but defended it by saying that was “the point of any good research report.”

The debate comes at a sensitive time in China as it gears up for a leadership change later this year and a possible change in economic strategy under presumed future-President Xi Jinping.

The drive for greater economic liberalization and an increased focus on private enterprise by supporters of the study would come at the expense of expansive governmental support for state-owned enterprises that have become economic titans in China due to access to low-cost credit from state banks and protection from foreign competitors.

Proponents of the state-driven model argue that state-owned enterprises are a source of national strength and pride and should be protected.

Not so say others, who argue that private enterprise actually creates more jobs in China and should be nurtured to spur renewed growth.

Such proponents of economic liberalization will face a tough slog against men like Du, who are unabashed skeptics of the World Bank and made it a point to say so.

"We have no reason to accept their poison,” said Du later of the World Bank. “After they ruin China, they will ruin the whole world."