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Ding Xuesong, new China's first ambassadress

People's Daily Overseas Edition

Ding Xuesong, new China's first ambassadress
Ding Xuesong, the first Chinese ambassadress[Photo/People's Daily Overseas Edition]

(Originally published on April 8, 2009)

Ding Xuesong in a silver grey brocade cheongsam, pearls and white evening accessories.

The appearance of the first Chinese ambassadress to the Netherlands 30 years ago (in 1979) created quite a stir. The media remarked on the contrast in diplomatic apparel since the reform and opening up policy: "The old style wool uniform has been replaced by delicate silk..."

I visited Ambassadress Ding at the end of 2008. Aged 90, she sat erect in her wheelchair but looked frail as she offered me her hand. When I asked her, "Ambassadress Ding, how are you?" she just shook her head with a wry smile.

Beer Ambassadress

Ding Xuesong, new China's first ambassadress

Ding Xuesong (R), China's ambassadress to the Netherlands, poses for a photo with Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (C) and Chinese vice Premier Wang Renzhong, in 1979.  [Photo/People's Daily Overseas Edition]

Ding Xuesong was ambassadress to the Netherlands and Denmark from 1979 to 1984, in the early years of the reform and opening up policy. Her appointed mission, explicitly defined by the government, was to introduce foreign capital and technology that would strengthen domestic economic construction. Ambassadress Ding's focus was thus on both political and economic issues. Although Denmark did not make many foreign capital loans it was nonetheless a source of urgently needed capital for China's factories. The embassy was instrumental in negotiating the first interest-free loan for the milk plant set up in Anda county, Heilongjiang Province. Anda Milk Powder entered the market two years later to a warm consumer response. Ding's good work elicited the written comment from the late Chairman Hu Yaobang: "You have done a good job. There are many approaches to foreign capital cooperation, and I am sure you will do your best to open up new prospects."

Ding Xuesong, new China's first ambassadress
Ding Xuesong (C), China's ambassadress to the Netherlands, greets Dutch guests at the Chinese embassy in the Netherlands in an event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1979. [Photo/People's Daily Overseas Edition]

An article she read in a Beijing newspaper about government concern sparked by long lines of Chinese people waiting in line to buy beer on hot summer days defined for Ambassadress Ding her next project. She approached the Danish Carlsberg Brewery, and after long and careful negotiations was able to obtain concessional loans and the technology needed to build a 100,000-ton annual output brewery in Beijing. Denmark also provided an interest-free loan to build a food research center. The Beijing Huadu Brewery, China's most modern, thus came into being. Huadu beer entered the market three years later, ending the country's beer shortage. Ding Xuesong was thereafter known, courtesy of the Denmark brewery manager, as the "Beer Ambassadress".

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