• Tue
  • Oct 21, 2014
  • Updated: 6:45am

Classic-quoting former foreign minister makes rare blunder

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 March, 2009, 12:00am
 

After two years away from the world stage, former foreign minister Li Zhaoxing is back in the spotlight as the National People's Congress spokesman.

Mr Li fielded questions from reporters around the world yesterday with his trademark Shandong-accented eloquence and sense of humour.

In line with Chinese leaders' penchant for classical literature, Mr Li drew on historical anecdotes and traditional sayings to answer some questions.

But the former face of Chinese diplomacy made a rare but minor blunder as he misquoted an old saying when answering a question from a China Central Television reporter.

In response to the query on how challenging his new job was compared with his responsibilities as foreign minister, Mr Li said this question was very much like 'opening the lid of a kettle that one shouldn't open'.

'I have a lot to say regarding this,' he said.

The Peking University professor of international relations was probably using the phrase to suggest that he was in danger of unleashing a torrent of words. But in fact, the sentence means it is inappropriate to ask what one has just asked.

As a newcomer, Mr Li said he was still learning from his role as a member of the NPC's Foreign Affairs Bureau.

Mr Li also slipped up in a response to a Taiwanese reporter when he referred to the mythological tale of Goddess Nu Wa patching up the sky with five-coloured stones.

'There was a hole in the sky that Nu Wa forgot to patch up because she sent off the very beautiful and high-quality construction materials from two very faraway places, namely Taiwan and Hainan Island,' Mr Li said.

But according to Chinese legend, the sky was cracked when a monster bumped into Buzhou Mountain and sent rubble flying into the skies.

'I really look forward to visiting our country's beautiful island, I've never been there. In fact, it has been one of my dreams,' he said.

After a reporter from Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television peppered Mr Li with three questions, he reminded her that each reporter was only allowed one question. 'This should not happen again. But I am very willing to answer your questions,' he said.

The reporter happened to be Mr Li's niece.

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