Yang, 62, and Cui, 60, are both well known in U.S. diplomatic circles. Yang served as ambassador to the United States during a period of tension after a midair collision between an American spy plane and Chinese fighter jet in 2001. He was also a host and counterpart to former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton during her visits to China.
Cui, meanwhile, helped negotiate the joint U.S.-China statement during Hu’s last visit to Washington. And he was the point man in last year’s high-stakes crisis negotiation between the United States and China over the fate of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng after he took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Negotiations in that case grew so tense that at one point Cui refused to look at the face of his counterpart, then-Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, saying he no longer wished to talk to him, Obama administration officials have said. Cui has since met repeatedly with Campbell and other U.S. diplomats and said in recent interviews that he has a good relationship with them.
Wang, 59, the incoming foreign minister, is less well known in Western circles. He has spent his career in Asia-focused diplomacy, including as China’s representative to the six-party talks on North Korea. A fluent Japanese speaker, Wang is described by many experts and diplomats as studious and detail-
oriented with a gentle diplomatic touch.
His college education was delayed by the Cultural Revolution, and he did not begin his focus on foreign studies and language until he was 25, said a college classmate and friend, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“To start learning Japanese, not to mention mastering it, at that stage in life took great effort,” the friend said.
Wang rose quickly in the Foreign Ministry ranks and became known for his writing, penning speeches for some leaders during their visits abroad, according to those who knew him early in his career.
Wang Juan contributed to this report.