Xiong Xianghui, a veteran Chinese diplomat who participated in almost every major diplomatic breakthrough in the early years of New China, died of lung cancer at the age of 86 in Beijing late last Friday.
As assistant to late Premier Zhou Enlai, Xiong was involved in the preparations for the secret trip to Beijing made by Dr Henry Kissinger, then National Security Adviser to US President Richard Nixon, in July 1971.
He was also on the Chinese side for Nixon's ice-breaking visit to China in February 1972, participating in important discussions between Zhou and Nixon.
Before he joined the work on Sino-US relations, Xiong, who graduated with a major in political science from Western Reserve University in the late 1940s, served as the Chinese charges of affaires to UK between 1962 and 1971.
He was also the first ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Mexico between 1972 and 1973.
Apart from his splendid diplomatic career, Xiong led a legendary life as a youth. When the Japanese imperialist army started its all-out invasion in China in 1937, Xiong joined the nation's resistance war.
A young Communist, he hid his Party affiliation and was hand-picked by Hu Zongnan, the commander-in-chief of the First Route Army led by the Kuomintang, to work as His assistant.
A colorful character, Xiong was held in high esteem not only by his contemporaries, but also by people from his children and grandchildren's generations who only knew him by name.
Judy Polumbaum, professor of journalism from University of Iowa, remembers him as "a lively, interesting, spunky person."
Hao Xin, a Chinese scholar living in Seattle, US, says she saw him as "a person of high integrity and great wisdom" even though she never got to know him well.
"These remarks from young people, many of whom my father did not even meet, were out of heart-felt respect and deep understanding of his character, even though some of them may not agree with my father's faith," Xiong Lei, Xiong's daughter and a senior editor with Xinhua News Agency, wrote in an email to China Daily.
Xiong is survived by two children and one grandchild. His wife, Chen Xiaohua, died in 2001.
(China Daily September 14, 2005)