Li Keqiang

Li Keqiang engages the public in unscripted exchanges

I dreamed of Grandpa Wen Jiabao and the Diaoyus when I was still in my mum's belly, girl tells Premier

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 6:00pm

Perhaps taking a cue from a Western politician's playbook, Premier Li Keqiang has shown a fondness for unscripted exchanges with the public during his visit to Vietnam.

Li, who was in Hanoi to boost ties, stopped to talk with a family of Chinese tourists on Monday when he was returning to his hotel after meeting members of the local Chinese community.

One of the tourists, who learned of Li's trip from relatives in Hanoi, flew from Guangzhou with her five-year-old daughter and waited in the hotel lobby just to get a glimpse of the leader.

Li turned to the girl, Xie Yufei, who said she was actually from Hainan as her family owned a house there. But she said she was also from the Diaoyu Islands - the cluster of islets in the East China Sea that are claimed by China and Japan, which calls them the Senkakus.

The girl told Li she admired him and his predecessor, Wen Jiabao, and hoped to become the premier one day. Li replied: "Good, our future premier" and broke out in laughter.

When asked by reporters how she could be from the uninhabited Diaoyus, the girl said: "I dreamed of Grandpa Wen [Jiabao] and the Diaoyus when I was still in my mum's belly."

The charm offensive continued yesterday when Li attended a session with Vietnamese university students. One of the students asked him how the two nations could step up people-to-people exchanges, and Li recalled his experience visiting a small shop on Monday night.

Li and his delegation had gone on a nighttime walk without informing Vietnamese officials.

Li asked the shop owner whether she was about to close, and the woman said she would stay open because of him.

"She recognised I am the Chinese premier as she has watched television," Li told the students. "I asked her how she felt about Sino-Vietnam relations.

"She said, 'It is better to remain peaceful and friendly', and this touched my heart."

Li bought tea from her shop and asked the shop owner not to give him a discount because "we are making a fair trade".

"These packs of tea are invaluable because it is a symbol of the friendship between China and Vietnam," Li said.

"This accidental encounter lets me experience the friendly attitudes towards Chinese by Vietnamese people."