Beijing yesterday tried to distance itself from an article containing stinging criticism of US President George W. Bush written by a former vice-premier and long-time foreign minister. Qian Qichen was quoted by the China Daily on Monday as criticising Mr Bush for acting arrogantly and trying to rule the world by force. The article sparked an international media frenzy. Mr Qian's remarks, published one day before the US presidential elections, were seen as reflecting the official view of the central government and as a move to curry favour with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. 'He did not accept an interview from the China Daily or other Chinese media, nor did he write any article for the China Daily,' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said. Ms Zhang declined to endorse the criticism and said the ministry had clarified Mr Qian's remarks with the US State Department. China Daily editors said the paper did not seek Mr Qian's consent before publishing the article, as the paper often printed articles from other mainland newspapers and magazines without seeking the author's consent. They admitted that the publication of the article was bad timing and that the China Daily did not receive any specific instructions from the central government to print it. The article was originally printed in the Study Times, a weekly controlled by the Central Communist Party School, on October 18. Mainland diplomats and analysts agreed it was not intended to be provocative. 'The article was aimed at a domestic audience,' a retired diplomat said. Sources on the mainland said Mr Qian's remarks did not signal any large-scale policy change towards the US, or a preference for Mr Bush or Senator Kerry, although Beijing has made it clear it does not favour Mr Bush's unilateral approach. Beijing has been watching the US presidential race with great interest, but sources said officials were relaxed about the outcome. They believed Washington's policies towards the mainland and Taiwan would not be radically altered. Beijing will, however, be sending a new ambassador to Washington soon. Ambassador Yang Jiechi , a Bush family friend, will be replaced by Vice-Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong , who is in charge of US affairs. 'We rotate our ambassador every four years and that has nothing to do with who is in the Oval Office,' one senior Foreign Ministry source said. Many advances in Sino-US relations have occurred during the terms of Republican presidents. 'The only time that modern China was at war directly with the United States was the Korean war in the 1950s, when the sitting US president was a Democrat,' one source noted. Additional reporting by Nailene Chou Wiest in Beijing PAPER TRAIL - Mr Qian's remarks in the China Daily were translated from a longer article by him in the Study Times, a weekly newspaper in Beijing controlled by the Central Communist Party School. - The article first appeared in the Study Times on October 18, and other mainland media started to pick it up around October 25. The China Daily reprinted it without asking Mr Qian or the Study Times. - The Study Times said Mr Qian wrote the article based on the text of a speech that he made in September.