Voice of confidence in Foreign Ministry
Hua Chunying gives her first news briefing
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying is widely expected to balance and complement Beijing's customarily masculine tone in the complicated diplomatic environment of China, observers and acquaintances said after her appointment was announced last week.
On Monday, Hua's confident appearance during her debut news conference proved to be what one foreign journalist called "a good start" as she stood before a large contingent of reporters eager to know more about China and the veteran diplomat.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying speaks during her debut news conference on Nov 19, 2012. [Photo/Asianewsphoto]
More than 50 members of the media filled the Blue Room, the ministry's regular site for news conferences. They raised more questions during the meeting, which also lasted longer than usual.
"This was her first experience of addressing a news conference, but she looked confident and well prepared. She got off to a good start," said K.J.M Varma, Press Trust of India news agency's correspondent in China.
Hua, 42, who is also deputy director of the information department of the ministry, is only the fifth spokeswoman to have been appointed since the post was created in 1983. She and spokesman Hong Lei will rotate their duties to address the ministry's daily news conferences on weekdays.
"It is necessary for China to understand the world more. It is also necessary for the world to understand China," Hua told reporters on Nov 16 when she was introduced to reporters.
Cha Dae-woon, a reporter from South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, said Hua is a very suitable spokeswoman. "She looks modest and gentle, but is capable of sending clear messages."
Sun Shanshan, a reporter for US newspaper The Clayton Tribune, said she was looking forward to hearing more "individual responses" from Hua in the future rather than listening to her recite the usual phrases.
Hua's teachers and friends were not surprised to learn that "winter jasmine" had stepped to the front stage of Chinese diplomacy, and they are confident she will become a top member of the team.
"Winter jasmine" was Hua's nickname in college because it sounds like Hua's full name, and both the flower's blossom and Hua's birthday fall in April, according to Zhou Dandan, 42, one of Hua's roommates at Nanjing University from 1988 to 1992.
"The nickname also showed the popularity Hua enjoyed at college because she was quiet but eloquent, simple but mature," said Zhou, who was helped by Hua in 1988 when she broke an arm.
Hua's smile does not mean she is soft or has no ideas, said Jin Zhuyun, Hua's English teacher at the university.
Hua, who comes from a small city, was not particularly good at English, speaking or listening, when she first enrolled, but her impressive learning capability and diligence enabled her to make huge progress later, said Jin.
"China's foreign policy faces many new challenges now, while the world is increasingly hungry for information about China. So I hope Hua will make a fitting contribution to the country, using her skills to confront complicated international situations, and deal with foreign affairs in a flexible way," the 73-year-old English teacher said.
According to official information, Hua's diplomatic career spans almost 20 years. She began by joining the former department of West European affairs in the Foreign Ministry in 1993.
She worked for the ministry in the European Union, Singapore and in the department of European affairs before coming to the information department this year.
Qin Gang, director-general of the information department, said on Nov 17 that Hua has rich diplomatic experience and good communication skills.
Many former classmates sent e-mails congratulating Hua over the weekend, said Zhou.
"I am very grateful for the warmth of their encouragement and I will keep making a great effort," Hua replied on Nov 17.
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Song Wenwei in Nanjiing and Wang Kaihao in Beijing contributed to this story.