Chinese Parliament's First Spokeswoman Charms Media, But Web Unconvinced

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.

NPC's new spokeswoman Fu Ying chaired the news conference on March 5, 2013. (A screenshot from youku)

NPC's new spokeswoman Fu Ying chaired the news conference on March 5, 2013. (A screenshot from youku)

Finance magazine Caijing praised [zh] her:

比较傅莹和前几任发言人的风格,会发现傅莹多了亲切柔和,少了严肃说教;多了推心置腹,少了针锋相对;多了答问的话,少了精粹精炼。 很难绝对说谁好谁不好,傅莹开创了柔性外交的“傅莹模式”,她到人大再弄出一个发言人的柔性风格,也未尝不是有益的探索。如果多几个傅莹,多以心香之诚将心比心,多纪其实存其真,只会有助于中国和西方打交道。

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]:

郑洪升: 人大发言人傅莹,首次亮相便赢得中外媒体喝彩。为什么?其实原因很简单,如她的那头银发一样:不假,真诚。她迟到五分钟真诚向大家说明原因;她回答问题有自己的语言灬她面带微笑,而不板着面孔;她表明我们也是有血有肉的人,决非冷血动物。各位发言人,应向傅莹学习。

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]:

涨势如鸿 :看傅莹女士作为人大新闻发言人的首秀,我觉得可以打80分。形象很优雅,言谈颇从容。通过大会堂迷路、探亲说反腐、出门备口罩等桥段,把个人感受融入到严肃的话题之中,拉近了与听众的距离。最后亲自指定CNN的老朋友提问,颇有人情味。而对这个问题的回答也成为整场记者会上最精彩的部分。

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:

赵士林微博 :怎能指望发言人嘴里讲出有价值的东西?傅莹云政治体制改革是制度的自我完善,这一句话,已经封死了政改的路。所谓政改,看来最多是部委调整调整,做点加减法。导致腐败和集权的一党独大看来碰都不能碰。一千零一次的期望,一千零一次的的失望。

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]:

赵晓 :傅莹说:”很多中国人的意见是希望中国面对挑衅的时候,有更加强硬的姿态”。此乃外交。那对待内政问题:如奶粉品管、污染治理,官员财产申报、新闻自由乃至政治改革等方面,是不是也会如此顺应民意,积极回应呢?还是因为人们对这些问题的意见表达得还不够多呢?

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.

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