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Photographer of Mao Zedong

As Mao Zedong's official photographer and a photojournalist for 40 years, Qian Sijie took many pictures of the country's top leaders - except for Jiang Zemin.

Qian's career was linked to the leaders. But he had already retired when Jiang became China's third-generation leader in 1993.

"You see a lot of Jiang in newspapers. He has a very busy timetable," said the 72-year-old Qian, who still loves to look at news photos.

From 1964 to 1969, Qian was posted as Mao's personal photographer.

In the eyes of many Chinese, Mao was god. But in the eyes of Qian, Mao was just a humorous old man.

"The first time I met him, he said to me, 'I'm a proletariat, but you have money (in Chinese, Qian and money is the same word). We will cooperate well."'

For the next six years, Qian followed Mao everywhere in the country and took hundreds of pictures of the great leader. The photo showing Mao in a long bathrobe, smiling and waving to people after he swam in the Yangtze River, was published in newspapers and magazines all over the world, and printed on posters and stamps.

"That was in 1966, in Wuhan," he said. "The chairman had swam in the river for an hour.

"But except pictures of Mao meeting foreign guests, I didn't take any pictures of Mao on the international stage."

From the founding of New China in 1949 to U.S. President Richard Nixon's visit in 1972, China was isolated from the world community. Mao Zedong only visited one foreign country in his life, the former Soviet Union.

"It was Deng Xiaoping that guided China back into the world community," said Qian, recalling Deng's first visit to the United States. In 1974, Deng, then vice premier, addressed a special meeting of the United Nations.

"I remember clearly that he was talking about the 'three worlds' theory and the conference hall was full of people," said Qian, who was then a Xinhua news agency correspondent at the United Nations Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Most of the pictures of Deng's 1979 visits to the United States and Japan were taken by Qian.

"While visiting a Texas ranch, Deng put on a cowboy hat, which impressed the American people greatly. "We all thought he wouldn't wear that hat."

He said that today's pictures of top leaders show richer expression.

"Jiang is an active leader and he is versatile, which gives reporters more photo opportunities."

Qian pointed to a picture of Jiang donning Brunei ethnic clothes and waving to reporters while the APEC summit meeting in the small southeast Asian country.

"I envy today's photographers, they are well-equipped and have good subjects to cover," Qian said.

(eastday.com 01/04/2001)

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