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Seeing Xi makes for special day for Chinese at UN

By Hezi Jiang | China Daily USA | Updated: 2015-09-27 14:00

'I'd never guessed President Xi's hand was so warm and soft," Lang Lang, 33, the Chinese superstar pianist, told me over the phone on Saturday morning, half an hour after he shook hands with Xi at United Nations headquarters.

Lang got up at 7 am. "I was so excited that I barely slept," he said. He was accompanied by his mom, who went to bed much earlier than usual. "She dressed up this morning."

In 2013, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon designated Lang a United Nations Messenger of Peace with a focus on global education. He is the youngest of the 13 messengers, whose ranks include Leonardo Di Caprio, Michael Douglas and Yo-Yo Ma.

Lang's job on Saturday was to welcome the Chinese president in his first UN appearance. He and his mom arrived early. Joined by Mogens Lykketoft, the General Assembly president, they waited in a meeting room.

In the media room overlooking the General Assembly Hall where the Sustainable Development Summit was unfolding, my colleagues and I also were waiting. (When we talk in Chinese, we mostly call him "Uncle Xi".)

Among all those telescopic cameras, an Asian lady taking pictures stood out.

"Chinese?" I asked. "Yes," she replied. Of course, we started to talk in Chinese.

She has worked at the UN for more than a decade as an interpreter. There are a couple of hundreds of Chinese nationals working at the UN.

She was supposed to be in another meeting then, but switched her shift so she could catch a glimpse of the president. "It's a pretty big thing for us Chinese working here," she said.

We waited. Lang and his mom were among the first who met Xi. He shook hands with Lang and then with his mother, Zhou Xiulan. "His hand is like a pianist's hand," said Lang, who was surprised how easygoing the Chinese leader was though they hardly talked. "He's the most gentle and kind top leader I've met. Like a real uncle. I felt close to him."

Lang, who has met many world leaders, spoke like an excited fan. And when I saw the president, albeit from a bird's-eye view about 150 feet away, I felt the same. It's a weird feeling of closeness when you see a world leader that you've seen only on TV in real life.

Xi sat down, put on the headphones and listened to other heads of state. He looked a little tired.

The UN lady took dozens of photos of him. I did too with my iPhone, and even a distant selfie with him in the frame.

Lang waved from his seat and cheered, "Go President Xi!"

"He looked at me, and smiled," Lang laughed. "Cuban President Raul Castro, he was waiting in the line."

It's a proud day.

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President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Chinese pianist Lang Lang's mother, Zhou Xiulan, before Xi delivered a speech at the UN headquarters in New York on Saturday morning. provided to china daily

(China Daily USA 09/27/2015 page3)

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