The man who has become a household name for leading China into the World Trade Organisation does not expect to be famous for long and has prepared himself for obscurity. The chubby face of Long Yongtu, born in 1945 in a humble one-storey house in Changsha, the capital of Hunan, has adorned the front pages of newspapers and millions of television screens over the past week. Mr Long was deputy leader of the mainland's delegation in Doha, where China joined the WTO last weekend. 'I am very proud and happy that I was able to do something for the country,' he said. 'A person should have guts and an open heart. After entry into WTO, the value of an individual is lost. Perhaps you are a big star today but should not feel that you are anything special. 'You must accept the fact that you will soon be forgotten. This is the natural law of history. Only in this way can you progress. If you are prepared for this, you will be at peace in your heart,' he said. According to interviews on the People's Daily Web site and in the Qianxiang magazine of Hong Kong, Mr Long's is the story of a poor boy who made it to the stars. After growing up in Changsha, he went to university in Guizhou, in the southwest, one of the poorest provinces in China, where he studied English and American literature. Because of his excellence in English, he was assigned to the foreign economic liaison committee (Felc) - the forerunner of the Ministry of Foreign Trade - in Beijing in 1965. That winter he had his first encounter with foreigners, in the form of two elderly English ladies in a Beijing museum who were debating heatedly about what they were seeing. Mr Long was so nervous that he tracked them for 30 minutes before he dared to open his mouth. Finally, he plucked up the courage and said that one was right and the other wrong. The two ladies were stunned that he could speak English. That night, overwhelmed by the experience, he did not sleep a wink. He escaped lightly during the Cultural Revolution, when many Beijing officials were sent for years of hard labour in the countryside and, by the early 1970s, was putting his English skills to good use. One evening, all the interpreters at the Felc had gone home and its director, Fang Yi, was due to meet a foreigner. There was no one to translate for him, so Mr Long was brought in at the last minute. He did so well that he was employed as the director's regular interpreter. He made such a good impression that he was among the first Chinese to be chosen to study abroad, spending 1973-1974 at London University for a degree in international economics. From 1978-1985 he served at China's mission at the United Nations and from 1985 to 1986 as deputy chief of mission of the UN Development Programme in North Korea. When he returned to Beijing in 1986, he went to work at the China International Economic Construction Exchange Centre until January 1992, when he was assigned as director of the international division of the Ministry of Foreign Trade, where he began his marathon as a trade negotiator, which ended last Sunday.