President's posture tells symbolic tale of unease

Much of what President Jiang thought about his Japanese tour was evident from his body language and the symbolism surrounding the visit.

Chinese journalists and diplomats who often accompany the President on overseas trips said he was unusually subdued in Tokyo.

Mr Jiang rarely smiled and often assumed a sombre expression when giving speeches, particularly on the 'lessons of history'.

There was a noticeable lack of warmth between him and his host, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. After finishing his speech at Waseda University on Saturday, Mr Jiang nearly forgot to shake hands with Mr Obuchi, who was also on the podium.

'Jiang was much more outgoing, even jovial, when talking with [US President] Bill Clinton in Washington last year and Beijing this year,' a Chinese source said.

Mr Jiang looked solemn when he met members of the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo on Friday.

In contrast, he was in a happy mood during a get-together with members of the Chinese Embassy in Moscow just before embarking on his Japan tour. Then, the President sang songs and even danced with embassy staff.

The body language was not lost on the Japanese media, which made much of the fact Mr Jiang wore a Mao suit for the welcoming banquet hosted by Emperor Akihito, even though the President had worn the same attire during state banquets in other countries.

The Tokyo press also remarked on the 'pontifical' tone of his addresses on history. On Japanese television in particular, there was much less reporting of Mr Jiang's activities after Thursday's summit with Mr Obuchi.

Some pundits even saw portents in the weather, although there has been sunshine throughout most of the trip.

Mr Jiang's arrival at Haneda airport last Wednesday coincided with biting winds, which some local commentators called the 'Jiang hurricane'. There was a mild earthquake on Friday night in Tokyo.

The Jiang team was unhappy over the incident in which two right-wing students disrupted Mr Jiang's speech at Waseda University.

But Japanese commentators pointed out it was impossible for the university to screen all students who applied to attend.