CHINA> China Visit
Clinton takes diplomacy to the people
By Zhang Haizhou and Cui Xiaohuo (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-02-23 07:32


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enters the hall to deliver a speech during a visit to the Taiyanggong Geothermal Power Plant in Beijing on Saturday. Xu Jingxing

Despite a grueling schedule that involved traveling to four countries in just seven days, Hillary Clinton looked as sprightly as ever when she addressed Chinese students in Beijing at the weekend.

Dressed in a smart black suit, the United States secretary of state raised her index finger and said: "I'm pleased I have a chance to see some of the young people who are going to make a difference in the future."

But the 10-minute speech at China's biggest thermo-energy plant on Saturday was not Clinton's first chance to meet the public on her week-long maiden overseas trip.

Apart from singing on a television show in Indonesia, she also chatted with Japanese students during a visit to Tokyo University last Tuesday, with topics ranging from her conversation with the Japanese empress to baseball and robots.

"This is what diplomacy is about," Clinton said. "It doesn't just operate government to government. It operates people to people."

Furthering public diplomacy and meeting ordinary people was a "key part" of Clinton's tour, explained Professor Pang Zhongying, of Renmin University of China.

Pang, who described Clinton's approach as post-modern, added: "Diplomacy has extended far beyond state level. Today, statesmen need to go public."

Clinton was indeed going public in Beijing.

After getting her audience's full attention with Chinese proverbs and a warning for China not to repeat the mistakes made by the US industrialization, she left the podium to shake hands with the students from Tsinghua University, some of whom clutched her autobiography Living History in the hope to have it signed.

"She's very attractive. Her eyes were deep and sincere as they looked straight at me," said Yao Yao, a journalism researcher who was in the US last year when Barack Obama romped to victory in the race to the White House.

"She asked me whether I am optimistic about China-US relations. I replied, I am," added an undergraduate in international relations who chatted with Clinton at the event.

Clinton attended a service at Haidian Christian Church in Beijing yesterday morning before wrapping up her 40-hour visit to the capital by talking with readers in an exclusive live webchat broadcast on the China Daily website.

"By exercising public diplomacy she is attempting to restore an American image tarnished by the war on terror," added Pang, who referred to Clinton's visit to Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, as an example.

While there, the former First Lady walked through a poverty-stricken neighborhood in the capital Jakarta to visit development projects funded by Washington. They include water purification and recycling schemes, as well as health projects for mothers and children. "I want to listen to the voices of the people as well," she said.

(China Daily 02/23/2009 page3)