‘China’s Most Beautiful Interpreter’ becomes an internet hit after Alaska summit

Mimi Lau, South China Morning Post

Posted at Mar 22 2021 01:25 PM | Updated as of Mar 22 2021 05:51 PM

‘China’s Most Beautiful Interpreter’ becomes an internet hit after Alaska summit 1
Chinese interpreter Zhang Jing. Handout

The popularity of a Chinese interpreter has soared because of her cool handling of State Councillor Yang Jiechi’s 15-minute opening remarks at the start of talks between senior US and Chinese officials in Alaska on Thursday.

Zhang Jing stole the show for her part in the first face-to-face talks between high-level officials from the two countries since US President Joe Biden took office in January. The two-day meeting in Anchorage concluded on Friday.

Chinese media reports referred to her as “China’s Principal Interpreter” and “China’s Most Beautiful Interpreter”.

Her name has become one of the top searches on social media platform Weibo. Videos featuring photographs of her also scored tens of millions of views online.

The Alaskan talks began with a tense exchange of criticisms and ended with an agreement to cooperate on climate change and people exchanges. But in the words of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the two countries remained “fundamentally at odds” on issues like Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan and cyberspace.

Speaking after Blinken and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Yang touted China’s success in tackling poverty and containing Covid-19 while the US was still battling the pandemic.

He also accused Washington of using its financial and military might to squeeze other countries and said that abusive US national security policies threatened the future of global trade. He also rejected criticism of Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, saying they were all inseparable parts of China and so internal affairs not open to discussion.

He also called the US the “champion” of cyberattacks and criticised its domestic policies.

“Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States,” he said, citing the killing of African-Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Because, Mr Secretary and NSA Sullivan, you have delivered some quite different opening remarks, mine will be slightly different as well,” said Yang towards the end of his opening statement.

A participant at the meeting said Yang’s lengthy speech would be “a test for the interpreter”. Blinken said:

“We’re going to give the translator a raise,” which drew a moment of laughter in the tense situation.

Zhang then delivered a near 2,000 word English translation of Yang’s remarks.

According to Chinese media reports, Zhang in 2013 worked as an interpreter during the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.

She is known for her composed posture and good translation skills, they said.

A native of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, Zhang graduated from Hangzhou Foreign Languages School in 2003 and then from the China Foreign Affairs University, where she majored in English. She was recruited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2007.

China Women News posted on its social media account that Zhang was a model of “China’s image” and was “a representation of MFA’s most competent and professional translators delivering China’s voice to the world”.