Chinese diplomacy has earned a bad name for coercion and cynicism. But in Nepal, a Himalayan country sandwiched between India and China, this style of diplomacy has a pretty face. It is of Hou Yanqi, the current ambassador of the communist state in this country.
The Chinese envoy isn't the usual faceless bureaucratic official. She has become famous for some of her pictures where she has posed in such a stylish manner that even professional models would be envious. One photoshoot of hers, meant to promote tourism to Nepal, has made waves on the internet.
And if you think that she is just indulging in PR operations to bring Nepal closer to its bigger neighbour, you can't be further from the truth. In fact, Hou Yanqi has become extremely influential and powerful in Kathmandu and is reported to have easy access to top leaders of the country and Army.
Her diplomatic success
The Chinese envoy is regarded as the person behind Nepal's sudden belligerence towards India, it's neighbour to the west, with whom the country is linked by deep cultural and political bonds. Last month, the Nepalese parliament decided to officially adopt a map of their country which shows three districts in Indian territory as belonging to them.
This has soured the relationship between the two nations. How close India and Nepal traditionally have been can be gauged from the fact that Nepalese are the only foreigners allowed to serve in the Indian Army. Furthermore, the Indian Army chief happens to be the honorary chief of the Nepalese Army while the latter's chief also has an honorary high rank in the Indian Army.
Yet, it seems the polity of Nepal, currently being dominated by Communist parties, has decided to hitch its wagon with their ideological cousins in China. This is where the role of Hou Yanqi comes in. She is seen as the lady who has brought about this massive change.
Some Indian media outlets have even claimed that she has easy access to the offices of both the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and the Army Chief General Purna Chandra Thapa. Yanqi is also a regular visitor to the residence of the country's titular head, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari.
Born in 1970, the Chinese diplomat started her career in 1996 as a staff member in the Department of Asian Affairs of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She rose to occupy senior positions in this department, even becoming its deputy director general. The 50-year old has also served as a Consul in Los Angeles, USA. Yanqi is married and has a son.
She seems to have accomplished a monumental task of changing the orientation of Nepal's foreign policy from, from India to China. However, the Indian government has already issued strong statements repudiating Nepal's claims to its territory. On top of that, Oli, the PM regarded as acquiescing in this change is facing troubled times and may have to leave office.
Whether Yanqi's efforts result in a long-term change in Nepal's relations with its two big neighbours is something only time will tell.