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Debater becomes spokesman for Foreign Ministry
By Li Aoxue and Li Xiaokun (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-01-16 08:57

Once Asia's best debater, Ma Zhaoxu took a new job Thursday that is sure to put his skills to the test: spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

The winner of a debating competition for Asian college students 22 years ago, Ma has all the makings of a good spokesman, with his clear mind, precise speech and ability to think on his feet.

An undated file photo of Ma Zhaoxu.

As a debating champion he was something of a star among Chinese students, but when asked about his former fame at a New Year reception hosted by the ministry on Wednesday, the 46-year-old appeared shy.

Instead he told guests he was new and that he hoped to "win support from all of you".

The Heilongjiang native replaces Liu Jianchao as head of the ministry's information department.

Liu, who is reported to be ambassador to the Philippines, spoke highly of his successor.

"Ma is a good diplomat, he is a great thinker and good at communicating," he said.

After graduating from Peking University with a degree in international relations, Ma joined the ministry in 1987 and worked in various departments and embassies before being appointed director of the policy planning department.

Comparing his new job with his old one, he said: "Previously, I had to use my brain a lot. Now, I will have to practice my speaking ability."