For the first time in its history, China's parliament has a spokeswoman.
While the world focused on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as he gave his farewell address before the National People's Congress on March 5, 2013, mainland media were charmed by the legislature's new spokeswoman Fu Ying as she made her debut chairing a news conference the same day.
Fu, foreign minister and former ambassador to the U.K., is the first woman to hold the role. Mainland media were impressed by Fu's elegant manner and approachable personality, and most importantly, her strong stance on Japan and her sharp replies to tough questions.
But Web users reading between the lines of her remarks suspected that Fu, despite breaking the role's traditional gender boundaries, is peddling more of the same.
“Fu Ying, diplomacy's ‘iron lady', turns on the style”, wrote newspaper China Daily:
Fu was concerned whether reporters were familiar with [fully-covered budget management] and explained it to them. She also allowed an old friend from CNN to ask a question but jokingly told him to pose “a mild one”. She did not avoid talking about problems. Asked about China's environmental pollution, Fu said that every morning she draws the curtains to check whether there is haze.
Finance magazine Caijing praised [zh] her:
Compared with the former spokesman, you will find Fu Ying more friendly and soft, less serious and preaching; more heart-to-heart, less tit-for-tat; more answers to the questions, less essence. It's hard to say which is good and which is not good, but Fu Ying has created her own style of diplomacy — “Fu Ying mode”, it's something helpful and worth exploring. Frankly, if we had a few more Fu Ying types, it would only help China to communicate with the west.
Popular Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo was flooded with favorable comments of Fu. One user “Zheng Hongshen” wrote [zh]:
National People's Congress spokeswoman Fu Ying's debut has won international and local media's praise. Why? In fact, the reason is very simple, just like her silver hair, she was not faking it, she was very sincere. She explained why she was five minutes late; she used her own words when she answered the questions, and she always wears a smile instead of keeping a straight face; she shows that we are people of flesh and blood, not cold-blooded animals. Speakers should learn from Fu Ying.
Veteran journalist Zhang Shuhong commented [zh]:
After watching Ms. Fu Ying's debut at the National People's Congress conference, I think I can give her 80 points. She is very elegant and calm. She talked about getting lost in the hall, visiting relatives, and wearing masks when she goes out, she injected personal feelings into serious topics, which has pulled the audience closer. She gave the last question to her old friend from CNN, which has showed her impersonal side. The answer to this question [about China's political system] has also become the highlight of the entire press conference.
Fu's comment on China's political system has triggered controversy online as users dissected the answer. Fu says China has already found its path of political reform and that it is “unfair and inaccurate” to say China will go nowhere if it does not copy other countries’ models. Writer Zhao Shilin expressed [zh] his disappointment:
How can we expect anything valuable from a spokesperson? Fu Ying says reform of the political system is a system of self-improvement. This sentence alone has sealed the road to political reform. The so-called political reform seems to be about governmental adjustments. Anything affecting one-party dominance that has led to corruption and totalization seems untouchable. A thousand and one times expectations, and a thousand and one times disappointment.
Professor from Beijing Science and Technology University Zhao Xiao wrote [zh]:
Fu Ying said: “The view of many Chinese, including the media, is that they want China to be tougher, especially in the face of provocation.” This is diplomacy. How about dealing with domestic issues? Milk quality control, pollution control, official property declaration, freedom of the press, and even political reform… is the government going to follow public opinion, and actively respond to them? Or we haven't expressed our views enough on these issues?
Journalist Yang Hengjun wrote regarding Fu's last answer:
If I were a reporter, I would give Fu Ying an opportunity, and also give China a chance, I will ask a question, I want her to introduce clearly the people's congress system. Obviously, the two sessions form is a bit similar to the parliament in (the) West, but different in nature. Any country should be able to, and must explain its own system clearly, you have to make it clear how our system operates and whether it's effective.