Changing China

Giant on the move

Olympic-sized “Guanxi”

June 19, 2008

Wang waves goodbye to reporters after closing remarks for the Strategic Economic Dialogue at the Treasury Department in WashingtonIt’s not often that speeches by Chinese policy makers make you laugh, but that was certainly the case on Wednesday evening when Vice Premier Wang Qishan spoke to an audience of U.S. business leaders after two days of high-level economic talks in Washington.

Speaking off the cuff, Wang had the audience rolling as he delicately broached the subject of the negative publicity surrounding the Olympics, which reached a cresendo earlier this year when riots in Tibet sparked protests along the Olympic torch relay in cities such as London and Paris.

Rather than lecture his audience on how the Olympics should not be politicised, Wang thanked them for the support they and people around the world had given to China in the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit last month, saying he hoped that unity could be channelled into the Olympics.      

He even jokingly dangled the prospect of a little “guanxi” for anyone in the audience going to the Games themselves — those all-important connections needed to get many things done in China.      

“Whoever is coming to Beijing to watch, if you can’t get tickets, just ask me,” Wang said. 

“If you can’t find a hotel, we have the head of the tourism administration here — so put your minds at ease,” he deadpanned.

The crowd erupted in laughter.

Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  

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