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Rice brings warm front to ice rink
By Jiao Qize (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-22 07:32

US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, after a busy schedule on a visit to China, brought warm smiles to a Beijing ice rink, where she admired skaters as they manipulated the slippery stuff for a career.

With the diplomatic necessities out of the way for a while, Rice, a big fan of figure skating, met with a group of young skaters from the Chinese Skating Association yesterday afternoon before she finished the last leg of her Asian tour.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chats with world figure skating champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo in Beijing March 21, 2005. [newsphoto]
Looking relaxed, she appeared less like the revered "iron-lady" who controls America's foreign affairs.

"Figure skating is the most beautiful sport, but it is very, very hard," acknowledged the most important woman in the current US administration.

Rice, born in 1954 in Birmingham, Alabama, said she had no idea of what skating was until her family moved to the snowy mountains of Denver, Colorado. Figure skating turned out to be her passion of a lifetime.

From the age of 12, she skated seriously for six years, she said.

But her busy schedule as a top diplomat has prevented her from skating, even as a hobby.

"I have not skated for the past six or seven years," she lamented.

But she appeared delighted to meet with Chinese world skating champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo yesterday.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice poses for a photo with Peking University students in Beijing March 21, 2005. Rice had an in-depth discussion with Peking University students and faculties about China-US relations. [newsphoto]
"She's such a fantastic woman. She is capable of dealing with foreign policy stuff while knowing how to enjoy the nice things in life," said Peng Xinyao, who happened to pass by the skating court.

Although she had to give up skating, Rice has kept her other hobby piano playing.

"I started to play the piano at three and I still play twice or three times a week now," she revealed.

When young, Rice had a dream of becoming a concert pianist but now her career has taken her not to Carnage Hall, but to the White House.

Before meeting the skaters, Rice held a forum with students in Peking University. She elaborated on topics ranging from China-US relations to reform inside the US.

"She used to be working behind the scene as the national security adviser, but now she's at the centre of the diplomatic arena. I'd love to watch her up close," said a young woman, who was kept outside the forum hall by heavy security. The media was also barred from entering.

"My home is in Fujian Province, which is across the Straits from Taiwan. I'm concerned with US policies on Taiwan and their reaction towards our new anti-secession legislation," said Chen Yun, another student waiting to see Rice outside the forum hall.

"But I found Rice's rhetoric on Taiwan ambiguous as usual," added Chen.

Chinese Vice-Premier Wu Yi (L) meets U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (L) at the Zhongnanhai in Beijing March 21, 2005. [newsphoto]
"She's somewhat of a mystery and has the charisma of a pop star," said Wang Pei, a graduate student of economics at Peking University.

Whirlwind trip

Away from the skaters, revelations about piano playing and student Q and As, the main purpose of Rice's trip to China was to seek help to break the deadlock of the nuclear-related negotiations on the Korean Peninsula.

"We are committed to the Six-Party Talks because we believe it is the best way to solve the issue," she said at a news conference before her departure.

The Six-Party Talks, which also involve the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Russia, Japan and the Republic of Korea, provide "a framework in which we can bring the neighbours together," she said, adding the mechanism is "potentially effective."

She also said "the United States has no intention to invade the DPRK," and called on Pyongyang to return to the negotiation table.

Xu Zhihong, president of Peking University, presents a gift to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice March 21, 2005. [newsphoto]
During her two-day visit to Beijing, Rice held separated meetings with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice-Premier Wu Yi, State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.

Presidents may meet this year

While committing to keeping up high-level contacts with China, she hinted yesterday that President Hu Jintao would meet US President George W. Bush later this year.

Rice said the US Congress and the American people pay great attention to the US trade deficit with China. Vice-Premier Wu Yi responded, saying China attaches importance to the issue and vowed to make joint efforts with the US, which will include the promotion of US exports of high technologies and related products to China so that a further trade balance can be attained.

Wu said the two economies are complementary rather than competitive. She stressed Sino-US economic and trade co-operation is a strong driving force for the steady growth of bilateral relations and conforms with the common interests of both sides.

"Ninety per cent of US imports from China do not compete with locally made products," said Wang Yusheng, a former senior APEC official.

"China's exports to the United States are mainly labour-intensive products which American firms have transferred production overseas years ago," he said.

Rice said yesterday during talks with Wu Yi the US side also expects to continuously expand bilateral economic and trade relations through concrete measures taken by the two sides.

"China's economy, with its soaring growth, expanding scale and every country hoping to benefit from it, has increasing impact on the world economy," Rice said.

In her talks with Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Rice said the two countries should cope with their disputes in compliance with the principle of mutual respect.

On the Taiwan question, Li said China hopes the US side will avoid any words or deeds that may aggravate the existing tension in the cross-Straits situation.

Expressing US concern on the issue, Rice maintained the Taiwan question should deserve a peaceful solution and she said the US Government will not change its stance of pursuing a one-China policy and will abide by the three US-China joint communiques.

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