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PacNet #14A – China’s New Foreign Minister Faces New Challenges

While the United States prepared for war with Iraq, China quietly completed a smooth transition from the "third generation" to the "fourth generation" of leaders. Among the personnel changes at the 10th National People’s Congress was the selection of Li Zhaoxing, a veteran "America hand" and former ambassador to the United States, as China’s foreign minister. Li’s election signifies that Sino-U.S. relations are still the "key within key" in the new leadership’s foreign policy. Li has experienced both ups and downs in this turbulent relationship. People still remember his stern criticism of Washington in the U.S. media during the crisis triggered by the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade during the Yugoslav war. Li, nicknamed by some the "Red Guard ambassador," is known by others as the "poetic diplomat." He likes to write poems during his leisure time and has even published a collection of his work. These two dimensions of his personality may well reflect his diplomatic style: frank and firm, but not without subtlety and imagination.