Chen Xinggong, a Suzhouese and Director of the United States and Oceania Department of the Municipal Foreign Affairs Office, was once a diplomat serving in the Chinese Embassy in Brunei.
“I was recruited into the Chinese Foreign Ministry after graduation. Then I was appointed to the Chinese Embassy in Brunei for two years as an attaché. It was a most unforgettable experience,” said Chen.
Chen started working in the diplomatic service in March, 2006 as a secretary. The job description included a series of detailed and busy tasks: arranging the ambassador’s schedule, management of employees, and the daily operation of the embassy. Six months later he was moved to the core department of the embassy, and was responsible for promoting bilateral relations.
2006 was the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and ASEAN and the 15th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue and partnership between China and ASEAN. This caused the workload at the embassy to soar at that time, and Chen often worked overtime. “Once there was a reception task, and I was responsible for delivering documents between the embassy and the delegation. I drove between the embassy and where the delegation lived seven times in one night, traveling about 30km each way. In two days I only got eight hours sleep. The embassy received over 100 Chinese delegations in 2006,” said Chen Xinggong. The heavy workload and intense working pressure laid a great challenge before this then-freshman of the workforce. “I felt I turned into another person after that year,” said Chen.
Chen Xinggong said there is a profound tie between China and Brunei. Zhen He’s voyage passed Brunei and there were still tombstones of ministers from the Ming Dynasty. Brunei is a rich country, blessed with vast oil and natural gas resources. It is hot in Brunei: a long-sleeve shirt would be enough even for the coldest day there. Chen remembered local people were hospitable, they would smile at him in the streets all the time. The Sultan is the head of state and head of the Brunei government. Every Eid al-Fitr, the Sultan would lead the royal family members to “open the palace door in welcome”, and shake hands with the people who visited. “I was lucky to have been to the site once. It was impressive,” said Chen Xinggong.
“The ambassador, the counselors and other colleagues were strict with me at work, urging me to devote myself to work and pay attention to details. In daily life, they looked after me warmly. When I was first there, I lived on bread and butter for two meals a day. Many colleagues then cooked for me. They are all good at cooking,” recalled Chen.
After work Chen usually read, practiced Tai Chi and did some writing. As Chen had practiced martial arts since he was a teenager, he taught officials in the Brunei Ministry of Foreign Affairs how to perform Tai Chi, bringing the two sides even closer.
“I made many Brunei friends when I was there.” When the 2013 ASEAN and China senior officials meeting was held in Suzhou, as a local staffer, Chen met an old friend, Jokhizwan Jaafar, Deputy Director of the ASEAN Department, Bruneian Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade.
“It was a more realistic feeling about the diplomatic sense of mission and sense of honor when I served abroad. Each action of mine was serving my country. I was truly proud of this,” said Chen Xinggong. He said he will never forget the core value of diplomats—“loyalty, mission and dedication”. Working in the foreign affairs office now, Chen Xinggong hopes to devote his effort to promote the intercommunication and cooperation between Suzhou and Brunei, and ASEAN. (Suzhou Daily)