Vice-president takes the Games critics in his stride

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2008, 12:00am

The man expected to be the nation's next president, Xi Jinping , said Beijing had adopted a cool approach to the chorus of criticism which marked the country's preparation for the Olympic Games.

On his first international trip since assuming the vice-presidency in March, Mr Xi told a group of Hong Kong reporters in Doha, Qatar - the third leg of a five-nation tour - that the leadership was never bothered by the sometimes messy situation the Olympic torch created on its world journey.

'Whether you like the Beijing Olympics or not, it's not our business,' said Mr Xi, the frontrunner to succeed President Hu Jintao in five years' time.

During its global run, the Olympic torch was greeted by protests, criticism and disruption.

'The world is a big place and you've got all sorts of people and that's why it's so colourful,' Mr Xi said.

'It's like a huge bird cage where all kinds of birds coexist. If you try to drive away those noisy ones, you would lose that wonderful variety and colour. The key is to mind our own business well.'

The trip has placed him under intense media pressure but Mr Xi said he was fine with the stress.

'Any person who has a strong sense of responsibility would feel pressure,' the 55-year-old said.

'It's actually a good thing, if you turn pressure into motivation.'

The trip has taken him to North Korea - where mainland media reported that he pushed Pyongyang to resume stalled six-party talks on nuclear disarmament - Mongolia and Saudi Arabia, where he attended an oil summit, delivered a speech and defended Beijing's energy policy. He is scheduled to visit Yemen next.

'Overall, this trip has accomplished what it was planned for,' he said.

Hu Xingdou , a political scientist based in Beijing, said Mr Xi's international debut showed the new generation of leaders had broader minds and a more liberal outlook.

'Compared to older generations, they don't have too fragile an ego and aren't easily hurt by different opinions and voices. They won't go ape over what other people say,' Professor Hu said. 'They tend to identify with some western points of view and think everybody is entitled to speak their own mind.'

At the same time, there was a stronger than ever belief among them that China's ascent to world superpower status was unstoppable.

'That's where they get the confidence. They believe that a nation that doesn't know how to handle criticism can't become a superpower, either,' he said.