Ministry 'open' but not for business

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 1997, 12:00am

Foreign Minister Qian Qichen and Beijing's Deputy Mayor, Zhang Baifa, took part in the opening ceremony yesterday for a new building to house the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The building is not ready for occupation but the Foreign Ministry was anxious to announce completion of the first phase of construction.

The curved 19-storey building at a key road intersection in western Beijing will replace a drab 1950s-style headquarters nearer the centre of old Beijing which has become grossly overcrowded.

'The curving design symbolises the characteristics of the Foreign Ministry's work 'to make friends on all five continents,' ' the Beijing Evening News said yesterday.

China had diplomatic relations with only a small number of countries during the Mao Zedong era but since the late 1970s has established diplomatic ties with all but 30 countries, requiring a fast expanding bureaucracy.

Until after the Opium War, China did not possess a foreign ministry because it did not recognise any other foreign country as its equal. Qing emperors insisted on treating emissaries including those sent by Britain and other Western powers as delegations bearing tribute from subject peoples.

The first foreign ambassadors came from France and Britain and they arrived in Beijing in March 1961.