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Spokeswoman figures in pageant poll
By Li Xiaokun and Wang Linyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-03-27 07:37

She dresses smart, answers sharp and is pulling votes away from Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

At least that is what voters in an ongoing online poll run by Spain's 20 Minutos newspaper are saying about China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

Jiang, 44, is in the running for the paper's pageant of the world's most beautiful woman in politics and government.

By 9:30 pm yesterday, she was ranked 45th among 64 candidates from more than 30 countries, with 5,048 votes.

Photos of the 64 contenders were posted on the newspaper's website (http://listas.20minutos.es) for online users to cast their votes in the poll that started on Dec 10.

Peruvian politician Luciana Leon, 30, was in first place, while compatriot Mercedes Araoz, 47, followed in second.

Palin, 44, the governor of Alaska and former US vice-presidential candidate, was ranked 27th while US Secretary of State Clinton was in 43th place as well as the poll's most senior pick at 61.

As expected with her line of work, some of the votes from Jiang inevitably came from the reporters she meets frequently in press conferences.

Konstantin Shepin is one such admirer.

The 28-year-old Russian reporter working for Russia News Agency's Beijing bureau was over the moon when he learned from Chinese websites that his favorite Chinese woman official got selected.

"I got very excited and immediately called my colleagues," Shepin said. "Personally, I find her a very charming symbol of Chinese diplomacy," he said.

Jiang - who could not be reached for comment - was born in Beijing and graduated from the China Foreign Affairs University, widely considered to be the cradle of Chinese diplomats, in 1986. She has worked for the Foreign Ministry for more than 20 years and has been posted around the world, including the United Nations headquarters in New York.

She was designated the ministry's spokeswoman and deputy head of its information department in 2003, becoming the country's fourth Foreign Ministry spokeswoman since the spokesperson system was introduced in 1983.

Shepin, who has worked in Beijing for five years, was there when Jiang made her debut as spokeswoman.

"At that time, she was a little bit shy ... It's a huge responsibility to be a spokeswoman but she's always smiling. It's easy for people to get along with her," he said. The reporter especially appreciated Jiang's help during the Beijing Olympics last summer. "She was kind-hearted and open-minded, that's why I really like her," he said.

Maria Chaplygina, Shepin's colleague, said Jiang deserves her latest accolade.

"When I first saw her, I felt Jiang was the kind of person who could represent a country. It's not easy for a woman as she always has to deal with tough questions, but she's always confident and careful," said Chaplygina, who has known Jiang for two years.

"She's a pretty woman with taste," Chaplygina said.

One of Jiang's colleagues at the information department, who declined to be named, told China Daily yesterday that Jiang seldom wears the same clothes to the regular press briefings.

"She picks and matches the clothes herself. My female colleagues often talk about the way she is dressed," he said.

Qi Bin, a diplomatic correspondent of China News Agency, said Jiang is a symbol of Eastern beauty.

"But sometimes she also shows up in modern style at unofficial occasions," he said.

"China is famous for its lady politicians," Shepin said. "After vice-premier Wu Yi retired, people are talking more and more about Jiang Yu," he said.

(China Daily 03/27/2009 page1)