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A soldier embarks on a media mission

By Zhang Yunbi ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-10-05 08:32:47

A soldier embarks on a media mission

Wu Qian, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, addresses a news conference held on Sept 24. [Photo by Li Xiaowei / For China Daily]

New Defense Ministry spokesman highlights importance of 'utmost sincerity' in key role

After his successful debut as spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, Wu Qian was both focused and modest: "I expect to undertake this job successfully, with no effort spared, and I hope I will not bring disgrace to this mission."

The 42-year-old colonel made headlines on July 10, when the ministry's official website updated information on its spokespersons.

This followed the retirement of Geng Yansheng as the chief spokesman of the Information Office of the Ministry. The information showed that spokesman Yang Yujun was promoted from deputy to the chief of the bureau, and Wu was unveiled as the new spokesman and the bureau's deputy.

The official and brief version of Wu's resume shows that he is married and has a daughter.

"It is a brand-new job and is also very challenging. Behind the actual position is a remarkable duty to be shouldered," Wu told China Daily in a brief interview following his Sept 24 debut at the monthly press conference.

He added that he and his team will conduct his mission with the utmost professionalism and give a broader introduction of the Chinese military to the outside world.

His background is impressive.

Born in Beijing in 1973, Wu entered The People's Liberation Army's University of International Relations in 1991. After graduation in 1995, he served as an assistant engineer at an equipment technology institute of the PLA.

Then he served at the Ministry's Foreign Affairs Office and was a Deputy Defense Attach�� at the Chinese Embassy in the United States. His experience in Washington gave him an opportunity to develop his talent in military diplomacy.

After returning and entering the Information Office, Wu assumed office as the deputy in June, according to the ministry's website.

His educational background, and studying overseas, was highlighted by the media as he once studied at the University of Birmingham where he acquired an MBA.

In response to a question about the requirements needed for a defense ministry spokesperson against the backdrop of a changing era, Wu stressed the importance of "an attitude of utmost sincerity, quick responses and an approach that best lives up to the laws of journalism".

The real situation of the defense forces should be told to the public and their experiences should be recounted accurately, he said.

As for his past experience as a military diplomat, Wu noted that the diplomatic mission "was of great help" for being a spokesman.

Wu noted a number of questions proposed at his first press conference in Beijing on Sept 24 were related to the relationship between the militaries of China and the US, as well as some sensitive issues.

"During my time at the embassy in the US, I had a number of working level contacts with the US Department of Defense," he said.

The Beijing Youth Daily newspaper pinpointed similarities between Wu and Yang - both studied in the UK - as the latter once studied at Queen Mary University of London and obtained a master's degree on public policy.

Dong Guanpeng, dean of the Academy of Media and Public Affairs under the Communication University of China, noted that there has been a stereotype in the outside world about the Chinese military - "mysterious and untalkative".

The latest assignments "project a great vision of the Chinese military to display openness and its commitment to fulfilling peace through communication", said Dong, who has been training spokepersons for 15 years.

Both Wu and Yang are comparatively young and the "elite of the army", Dong said, before highlighting what they have in common.

Both have valuable experience in key departments, both have a strong international vision and both have received professional training, he noted.

The two men are also qualified because the are greatly experienced in languages and cross-cultural exchanges, Dong said.

Zhou Qing'an, a professor of public diplomacy at Tsinghua University in Beijing, observed two strengths of Wu - a rich experience in military diplomacy, and an in-depth understanding of various countries and their militaries.

Wu's long-term diplomatic mission in different posts "has helped him accumulate skills to help in liaison with foreign figures, militaries and the media, and this was an advantageous strength when Wu was being examined as a spokesman nominee", Zhou observed.

In May 2008, the Ministry Information Office kicked off its low-key operation, and the public got to know the first ministry spokesman Hu Changming following the major earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan.

On April 27, 2011, the ministry held its first regular press conference, and on July 30, 2014, eight leading international media outlets were invited to the conference.

In respect to the evolving role of briefings by the Chinese military, Zhou said it is developing quickly, and this has been accompanied by the growing strength of the defense forces as well as doubts among some sections of the global media over China's defense goals, measures and core strategies.

"As younger people with greater linguistic proficiency like Wu are becoming the backbone of information briefings, they can show accurately what is behind the Chinese military's pursuit of excellency with a limited scale of troops, and a growing transparency is being imposed upon the image of the military," Zhou said.

In Dong's eyes, one of the new job requirements for Wu is to make his comments and expressions clear over questions asked, especially by the new media.

"The new media has given rise to a fragmentation of news and they require fast reaction and efficient responses" from spokespersons, Dong said.

In past years, the spokespersons of the defense forces - including those serving in the navy and air force - have become important sources for the international media.

Zhou said the increasing capacity of information briefings is "boosting the confidence of China's military in dialogue with the world, and as for the world, China's pursuit of peace and development will sound more convincing".

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