President Xi Jinping turned on his personal charm during a speech at the prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations yesterday, stressing his admiration for Russian literature and using a metaphor to describe his view on international relations.
An audience of about 1,000 - mostly students and academics of the institute - attended the speech, and Xi waved to many others waiting outside who could not get a seat.
The speech was mostly serious as Xi presented his views on the Sino-Russian relationship and foreign affairs, but there were also moments of levity that triggered laughter.
Some students yelled "Long Live" in Russian at the end of his speech.
When a Russian student asked in Putonghua how China and Russia could co-operate in tackling major global problems, Xi said the two countries shared a responsibility to promote a fair and just international order.
But, after giving his answer, Xi asked the student: "How long have you been learning Chinese? Have you got a Chinese name?"
The student replied he had not been given a Chinese name, but had been learning the language for a year.
"You have made fast progress," Xi replied. "And it is better to have a Chinese name."
In describing his views on the security of the global order, Xi said the sovereignty of each nation should be respected and that each nation had the right to choose its own development path.
"Each nation and its citizens are entitled to enjoy dignity," he said. "You can only know whether a pair of shoes fit after you put them on.
"Only the citizens of a nation know what should be their development path."
Xi also told the students that he had read many Russian authors, and was familiar with the works of Alexander Pushkin, Ivan Turgenev, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky.
He even recited a line from the revolutionary Nikolay Chernyshevsky to sum up his attitude to diplomacy: "The path of history is not paved like Nevsky Prospekt [the main street of St Petersburg]; it runs across fields, either dusty or muddy, and cuts through swamps or forest thickets.
"Anyone who fears being covered with dust or muddying his boots should not engage in social activity."