Yuan   Nangsheng
China

Yuan Nangsheng

Former Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe

After Mao Zedong completed his first Soviet-style Five Year Plan in 1954, China's economic problems deteriorated sharply. That year, China's Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Yuan Nansheng, was born, and his life reflects the vicissitudes of a childhood in Mao's China.

Twelve years-old when the Cultural Revolution shut down China's educational system, Yuan went to work at the Hunan Yiyang Medicine Company, a job he held until he was 26. From there, he became a teacher at Hunan Arts and Crafts Vocational College, but it was not until he was 33 that he was able to attend Beijing University. After that, with a PhD in international relations, Yuan has carved out a career that encompasses academia, industry, party work and civil service.

Yuan returned to Hunan, working for the Second Light Industry Group, and began to make a name as a writer, publishing on the hot topic of the time: foreign trade. When the government called for talented cadres to join the diplomatic corps, the Hunan branch of the Communist Party sponsored him. By 2000, he was Attaché at the Embassy in Egypt. As Ambassador to Zimbabwe since December 2006, he has had to manage Harare's expectations that China would always be there to rescue President Robert Mugabe's regime, although the China veto was used to block more serious sanctions against political leaders. During the 2008 electoral crisis, Yuan stuck to the party line that Zimbabwe could sort out its problems on its own.