No claws in sight when the tiger met the dragon

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2007, 12:00am

Vice-Premier Wu Yi showed her softer side by joking about her meeting with members of the US Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, during an address to American business leaders.

'Very difficult,' Ms Wu said in English, with a smile, when asked her about her encounters with senators and members of Congress. Business leaders responded with laughter.

The gatherings in Congress were part of this week's Strategic Economic Dialogue meetings and were intended to give Ms Wu and her delegation of 17 senior officials a taste of the growing anti-China sentiment brewing in the American legislature.

Ms Wu jested that the sessions were her 'assigned tasks' from US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. She also described her Wednesday meeting with Mrs Pelosi, one of Beijing's most vociferous critics and third in line to the US Presidency.

'I had read in the newspaper that Madame Wu's meeting with Nancy Pelosi was like entering the mouth of a tiger. However, I was not worried because I was born in the Year of the Tiger, so it was no problem for me,' Ms Wu said.

She added that when she told Mrs Pelosi the story, the Speaker responded that she felt the same way about meeting Ms Wu, known as China's 'iron lady'. Mrs Pelosi then told Ms Wu that she was born in the Year of the Dragon.

Ms Wu jokingly pointed out that in the Chinese zodiac a tiger and dragon do not get along.

'We had a wonderful meeting. She is very kind and friendly. A lot of American friends told me that they never had the opportunity to see Nancy Pelosi smile,' Ms Wu said, adding that Mrs Pelosi had expressed her desire to visit China soon.

Ms Wu drew more laughs when she described how her delegation reacted when meeting members of US Congress for the first time. During the encounters, many of the American lawmakers had to leave their visitors abruptly to vote on legislative bills.

'I have been to the Capitol many times so I am familiar with the flow of people entering and leaving meetings. But for some of my ministers it was their first time. They found it difficult to understand why the members had been so impolite,' Ms Wu said. 'I told my colleagues that is the very nature of the US Congress!'