So it’s farewell to Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, who is to be pensioned off at the age of 66 (a year beyond the official ministerial-level retirement age of 65).
Obviously, Li has been at the focal point of a number of controversial incidents relating to Chinese foreign policy over the years and his successor will likely face similar challenges. Given the current state of US-China relations, it’s no surprise that the new man will be Yang Jiechi, a former ambassador to the US and a long-time friend of the Bush family (he was George H.W.’s translator for a China visit in 1977).
As Li shuffles off towards a tree-lined compound probably somewhere on Beijing’s west side, how should we remember him (apart from the fact he is the current administration’s best known amateur poet)?
How about this discussion he had on an internet chatroom in 2003. It was the first time a senior government official had taken part in an interactive chat and, while most of the questions focused on foreign policy, a SCMP report highlighted some more personal exchanges…
Participant 1: “People are not too keen about your looks. What do you say?”
Li: “My mother would not agree with this view. She is an ordinary woman in a village in Shandong province who once made shoes for the communist army. She is quite proud of the way I look.”
Other participants rushed to his defense…
Participant 2: “Although some people have not said anything flattering about your looks, to us women you are a very special and charming man. In the arena of foreign policy you have made us see the beauty of the Chinese man.”