Veteran Diplomat Urges Cool Heads

China Media Project translates from a Global Times interview with former ambassador Wu Jianmin, who stresses the importance of communication by officials and cool-headedness among the young.

Today, many of our leaders and cadres who go on visits to foreign countries don’t wish to see reporters and think that the more they talk the more they stand to lose. But the world really has a hunger to understand China. I believe the problem is that Chinese elites really lack the ability to engage in communication and dialogue, and there is a need for improvement.

Actually, this situation is already changing. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already raised its requirements for foreign diplomats. Every year now you must make a report home about how many journalists you met with, how many public addresses you gave. There is an expectation that they make more public appearances and interact more with the media.

After I graduated from university in 1959 I was engaged by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. By the time I retired in 2009 it had been 50 years [in this line of work]. I really hope that our youth, and Internet users, have the capacity to think for themselves. The world is changing, and there are all sorts of different agitations and incitations (煽动). Those driving these incitations would like to push our youth along in one direction [of their choosing] in order to achieve their own objectives. And so our young people need to be very mindful of this sort of inflammatory language (煽动的言论).

In 2008, Wu clashed with Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth at Davos, accusing him of attempting to impose Western values on China. He also chided a panel moderator along similar lines. From The New York Times:

“You western countries, you decide the rules, you give the grades, you say ‘you have been a bad boy,’” he said. “You have taken such a habit.”

Democracy, Mr. Wu said, took two centuries to develop in the United States and in France; China had only started its opening in 1978. The first American President was elected with only 4 percent of the popular vote and France gave women the right to vote only in 1945, he pointed out.

“Ahhhh France,” said Mr. Wu, a former ambassador to France, “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.”