Envoy tries a little soft power at the Super Bowl

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 5:27am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 5:02pm

China's top envoy to the United States took his wife to watch the Super Bowl, enjoying one of the great events in the American sporting calendar as they stayed in the US for the Lunar New Year holiday.

A photograph circulating on Twitter yesterday showed ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai and his wife, Ni Peijun , at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for the annual championship game of the national football league, or NFL.

The appearance of Cui, who has not shown a keen interest in the game before, is seen as an attempt to raise his profile with the public and show Chinese officials' appreciation of American culture.

It was the first time the ambassador had brought his wife to the Super Bowl, which has been likened by some mainland internet users to China Central Television's Spring Festival gala show - broadcast on the eve of the Lunar New Year.

Cui, a fluent English speaker with a master's degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, has already made several high-profile public appearances since arriving in Washington in April to take up his post.

On the Charlie Rose talk show last month, Cui lashed out at Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, accusing him of expanding Japan's military and denying atrocities committed during the second world war.

Cui also said Tokyo had shut the door to dialogue with Beijing by refusing to reflect on the mistakes in its history.

In an article published by The Washington Post in January, Cui said Abe's homage at the controversial Yasukuni war shrine had "deeply disturbed people in China and much of Asia".

He also said the US should not overreact to the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear programme and that the strengthening of US military alliances in Asia was not in proportion to the real threat, during a television interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour recorded in July.