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Opinion
Grit With Velvet Gloves
Chinese legislature's first woman spokesperson defends her country with firm courtesy
By Lan Xinzhen | Web Exclusive

Fu Ying, spokesperson for the fourth session of China's 12th National People's Congress (NPC), answers questions during a press conference on the session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on on March 4 (WEI YAO)

On March 5, 2013, Fu Ying, a former Chinese ambassador to the UK, created history in China by appearing as the spokesperson of the plenary sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC), the highest organ of state power.

Fu was the first woman to become a communicator for China's highest legislative body in 30 years and won accolades for her diplomatic response to questions from the media as well as elegance.

This year, Fu, still the NPC spokesperson, wowed the audiences again by showing her iron mettle in velvet gloves as she fielded queries from the foreign media.

At the NPC press conference on March 4, a correspondent of CBS of the United States raised a question on the South China Sea situation, alleging the presence of Chinese military facilities on some islets would affect the region's peace and stability.

To many observers, the question contained prejudice and hegemonic thinking. In her preamble to answering the question, Fu drew attention to biased reports on the situation by a section of the U.S. media. She said she had noticed that the U.S. media often used the word "militarization" when mentioning China in the South China Sea context. Militarization, she said, meant a hegemonic act, and inaccurate use of it was bound to mislead people.

Then Fu began to explain the South China Sea issue candidly. "It is the United States that is militarizing the South China Sea," she answered, pointing out that most of the advanced aircraft and warships currently passing through the South China Sea belonged to the United States.

"In keeping with its 'pivot to Asia' strategy, the United States has decided to deploy a larger naval contingent in this region, and is also strengthening its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region with its allies," she said. "Isn't it militarization?"

Fu explained that China's stance on the South China Sea had been expounded by Foreign Minister Wang Yi when he visited the United States recently. She also said she wanted to express the feelings of the Chinese people on the issue as well, including both lawmakers and ordinary people.

"Most Chinese are not pleased and do not approve of the United States showing off its military power by sending warships to waters close to the South China Sea islands and reefs," she said. While the United States claims that it does not take sides in the South China Sea disputes, Fu pointed out that its acts and rhetoric, however, are making people feel it is raising tension in the region.

Regarding the military or civil facilities China has built on some islands or reefs of the South China Sea, Fu said Chinese people widely feel that it is important for China to strengthen its defense capability. China has never accepted other countries' occupation of these islands. "We have suggested a policy of putting disputes aside and pursuing joint development in this water area," she stressed. "This is on the premise of safeguarding China's sovereignty over these islands and also to maintain peace and stability in the region."

She ended her reply with another reference to the United States. "If the United States is really concerned about regional stability and peace, it should support negotiations between China and neighboring countries, not go in the opposite way," she remarked.

Her answer showed her firmness when it comes to China's core interests. At the same time, she tempered it with courtesy. It reflects the typical Chinese philosophy of conduct: remain modest and unaggressive but be tough inside.

Copyedited by Sarkar Sudeshna

Comment to lanxinzhen@bjreview.com

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