China's former foreign minister and vice-premier Qian Qichen, who rebuilt relations with the international community after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, has died in Beijing at the age of 89, the state media said on Wednesday.
Xinhua news agency quoted a government statement as saying that Qian died on Tuesday in Beijing. It described him as "a time-tested and loyal communist soldier and proletarian revolutionist, and an outstanding leader in diplomacy of the country".
Qian, who spoke both Russian and English, served as a foreign minister from 1988-1998. He handled the diplomatic fallout from the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators which attracted international condemnation.
When China was facing international isolation and Western sanctions after the brutal 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, he was a central figure behind Beijing's efforts to repair ties with major countries.
During his tenure as foreign minister, Qian was the first Chinese diplomat to attend a meeting of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean). His presence at the 1991 Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Malaysia paved the way for future cooperation with the grouping, which had been founded in 1967 partly as a bulwark against communism.
In 1992, Qian was elected to the party's Politburo. He was the vice-premier of the State Council from 1993 until he retired in 2003. Since then, no other diplomat-turned-politician has attained such a lofty status.
"His view on 'One country, two systems' was very consistent in the hearts of many Hong Kong people," Martin Lee Chu-ming, founding chairman of the Democratic Party, told the South China Morning Post. "He was so different from the many left-leaning leaders of our time."