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At Li Baodong's Farewell, Memories from Africa to First Ave, P3 & Pakistan

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 22 -- There are many farewells in UN-world; some are less sincere than others, and some are off the record. That for China's Li Baodong on Monday was neither: the goodbyes were genuine, and none told Inner City Press is was anything but on the record.

  The speeches were hardly earth-shaking, but the speakers' list was noteworthy. The Permanent Representatives of France and UK, both there, did not speak. After Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who joked about Li Baodong's able wife Lu Hailin having the ultimate veto and wished they soon have a grandchild, a son, the line-up included the US and Russia - then Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

  Pakistan's Masood Khan was introduced by Li's also able Deputy Wang as a Chinese speaker, and he ended in that language. Before that, he told consummate diplomat's diplomat stories, of how posting overlapped, and a single praise led to being treated like a VIP for four years.

  Rosemary DiCarlo of the US joked about soccer; Russia's Vitaly Churkin reminisced about the bonds build through double vetoes. He was energetic, but not as intentionally funny as at another recent comparable setting. But that was off the record, as the Mission at issue took pains to point out to Inner City Press but apparently not others not visible at Li's farewell.

  Kazakhstan's speech and silver plaque was on behalf of the International Association of Permanent Representatives -- who knew? -- and its 176 members. Who's not a member? Afterward over dumplings, watermelon and shrimp (not in that order), Burundi's Permanent Representative Hermengilde Niyonzima explained his morning Security Council speech to Inner City Press (click here for earlier story). Herve Ladsous quickly disappeared. Deputy SG Jan Eliasson was in the house.

  Newsy, Inner City Press remembers hearing Li Baodong's stories of nitty gritty diplomacy in Africa, while standing in a line in an airport covering a Council trip in Africa.

  Also sitting on a bus while Susan Rice gave a rah-rah speech to South Sudan army recruits in an induction camp closed soon thereafter for corruption. That night, while the Press stayed in the Beijing Juba, the rest of the Council was in a fancier place with George Clooney. But Li Baodong was in the Beijing Juba. Where else should he be?

  What Inner City Press is most left with is the memory of Li Baodong strolling up First Avenue in the dead zone north of the Chinese mission, in a short sleeved shirt looking at the river. He told Inner City Press that he likes to take a walk after dinner. He was alone, without security.

  He was, as he said in his farewell speech, just a regular New Yorker, a resident of First Avenue. And for a diplomat, that is saying a lot. We wish him well. Watch this site.


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