Finnegan's Take

Zhe Song, China’s main man in the EU, is every bit the modern Chinese diplomat: he knows the official line inside out and offers polite frustration in the face of what he sees as the West’s frequent misunderstanding of China. But he’s pragmatic and outward-looking; he talks of progress and consensus-building.

Indeed, as evidenced by this detailed interview with EurActiv, Ambassador Song proves far more approachable and open in person than his stern official photo suggests. I was left wondering whether one would get such detailed responses on such a range of topics from a media-wary European diplomat.

Granted, the Chinese Mission requested a list of topics in advance (an EU official made an identical request when I sought an interview yesterday) but nothing was off limits. He was asked about China’s controversial internet filtering software, the threat of social unrest in the wake of economic crisis, graduate unemployment, and China’s plans for nuclear power.

He went into great detail on climate change targets and funding mechanisms, and was frank about the need to address growing inequality in China.

Proof, if proof were needed, that China continues to change at a pace that continues to defy expectation.

(p.s. It should be noted that the interview took place just before news broke of unrest in China’s western Xinjiang Province so this issue is not addressed directly)

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