Foreign press a tough crowd for debutant

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 March, 2008, 12:00am


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It is never easy to impress the press, especially when you have big shoes to fill.

That was the case for Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi as he made his maiden appearance yesterday at the foreign minister's annual press conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress meeting.

The press conference is a rare chance for reporters around the world to question the foreign minister and had been a highlight over the past five years thanks to Mr Yang's predecessor, Li Zhaoxing .

Known for his sharp tongue and delight in cracking jokes, Mr Li made the event an entertaining affair.

But at yesterday's two-hour session, a scholarly looking Mr Yang faced a rather subdued crowd.

Either that, or his jokes failed to strike a chord with the audience.

As he tried to promote a Chinese-language year to be held in Russia in 2010, Mr Yang said he believed Chinese was one of the easiest languages in the world.

'Otherwise, it would be hard to explain why 1.3 billion people in the world choose Chinese as their mother tongue,' he said.

As he tried to assuage concerns over Beijing's dirty air, Mr Yang said Chinese athletes had been able to break records in competitions held in the capital.

'If athletes from other countries have not been able to break world records, they might have more chances when they come to Beijing.'

The 58-year-old said he enjoyed playing table tennis, but that spare time had been scarce since taking up the top job last year.