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China's new spokesman turns on the charm
Publication Date : 05-03-2013
"Sorry, everyone, I'm a bit late... The passageways in the Great Hall of The People are full of twists. It's not that easy for a newbie like me to find the way."
With these words, Fu Ying, 60, the Vice-Foreign Minister overseeing areas including Asia, made her debut yesterday as the first female spokesman for the National People's Congress (NPC).
Observers say the career diplomat, who has had stints in places such as the Philippines and Britain, is well-suited to help improve China's image in her new role.
Her appointment also means she will likely be transferred to the NPC to helm its foreign affairs committee, said Beijing-based military analyst Wang Xiangsui.
The seventh NPC spokesman since 1983, she takes over from Li Zhaoxing, a former foreign minister known for his wit.
While Fu had fewer quotable quotes compared to Li, she won praise for striking a gracious tone in her maiden outing, even defusing a somewhat unfriendly question from a reporter from Japan's Kyodo News agency.
He had asked in Mandarin how China would ease tensions with its neighbours and whether China will become more duo duo bi ren, an idiom translated by the interpreter as "assertive" but which can also mean "threatening".
Some reporters laughed, but Fu handled the query with ease, responding with a smile that many of her foreigner friends had asked her the same.
"Just now when you raised the question, you noticed that many Chinese reporters laughed," she said, before going on to make the point that China has to strike a balance as its people believe that Beijing is not tough enough.
Fu also tried to be personable.
Asked about air pollution, she said she has two masks: one for her and one for her daughter. But she doesn't wear hers as she doesn't want to be pictured in the media with a mask, she said.
But there were some grumbles among journalists that her answers, though masterly and philosophical, were short on details - like how much China is budgeting for defence this year.
Fu's husband Hao Shiyuangave her the thumbs-up, though. "Fu Ying is already gracious and wise usually. She did quite well this time," he told overseas Chinese newspaper US China Press.