Minister oozes love and poetic charm

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2007, 12:00am

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing was in the mood for love at yesterday's annual press briefing on the sidelines of the National People's Congress meeting.

Largely side-stepping controversial issues about Taiwanese independence and Beijing's role in supporting a genocidal government in Sudan, Mr Li was more interested in spreading the message of China's 'harmonious' impact on the world.

Taiwan 'is always on my mind' he declared with all the ardour of an old man recalling a lost sweetheart. After nearly 10 years of diplomatic service in Africa, largely spent in Kenya and Lesotho, Mr Li was also keen to show his affection for a people he painted as smiling, hard-working and innocent, happily sweating away in the tropics.

Mr Li condemned Japan's refusal to face up to the 'mirror of history' for using 'comfort women', but was far keener to talk about a temple he had visited in Kyoto where he had read an inscription pertinent to the challenges facing China and Japan today: 'No one can block the road of advancement'.

When asked by a Swedish journalist about China's role in contributing to the greenhouse effect, he reminisced about 'starry, starry nights' in Stockholm. A question about China's border dispute with India was an opportunity to wax lyrical on cultural exchanges between the two great Asian nations.

A keen amateur poet with a penchant for quoting Tang dynasty wordsmith Du Fu, Mr Li has always had a romantic streak.

'When I was a middle school student, I dreamed that I could be a journalist like all of you, because I wished to travel in cars, on trains and especially on aeroplanes,' he revealed.

This year he could be forgiven for his reminiscent mood, as many commentators expect this to be the Shandong native's last as foreign minister.