Obituary: Ji Chaozhu, 1929 – 2020

The following info is based on informal or possibly semi-official obituaries and should be taken with a bit of salt.

Ji Chaozhu was born in Fenyang City, Shanxi Province, in July 1929. Reportedly at times an overseas student in America, he “gave up his studies without hesitation and, overcoming one difficulty after another, returned to the motherland” after the establishment of “New China” (新中国成立后,他追随父亲冀贡泉、兄长冀朝鼎足迹,毅然放弃在美国哈佛大学的学业,克服重重困难,回到祖国). He became a member of the Communist Youth League of China as a Tsinghua University student in May 1951, joined the “People’s Volunteer Army”, and was commended both by China and North Korea for his role in the Korean Armistice negotiations in Kaesong. Beijing Daily (北京日报)*) quotes from his reminiscence:

At times when a breakthrough in the negotiations was impossible, an American artillery shell would fall into our side of the demilitarized zone near Panmunjom or even Kaesong. At such times, there would be a bilateral investigation, usually with one military officer from each side, plus an interpreter and a stenographer. Our side usually dispatched Colonel Chai Chengwen, and I would be the stenographer. A stenographer didn’t only have to keep records of what both sides said, but also to minute all signs and letters on the artillery shells in the place, so as to show that the Demilitarized Zone Agreement had been broken. At a time, an American shell was lying in its crater without having detonated. I jumped into the crater to write down all letters and notations before climbing out again. Comrade Li Kenong, who later became deputy foreign minister and who worked at the Panmunjom negotiations at the time, told my brother Chao Dingshuo: “Your younger brother is unusually brave. He doesn’t fear death, and dares to jump into a crater with an undetonated shell.”

“有时在谈判无法突破时,一发美国炮弹就会落到非军事区我方一边,板门店附近,甚至开城。这时就有一个双方联合调查,一般双方各派一名军官,还配备一名翻译和一名速记员。我方一般派出柴成文上校,我是速记员。速记员的职责不光是记录双方说的话,还要记录落下炮弹上所有的标志和文字,以证明非军事区的协议被破坏了。有一次,一枚美国炸弹落在弹坑里,没有引爆。我跳到弹坑里把炸弹上的所有文字和记号都记下来才爬出弹坑。当时在板门店主持谈判工作、后来的外交部副部长李克农同志有次对我大哥朝鼎说:‘你弟弟非常勇敢,不怕死,敢跳进没有引爆的弹坑里。’”

Also according to Beijing Daily, Ji became chief state councillor Zhou Enlai’s English translator in 1957, and kept the job for 17 years. A year earlier, in March 1956, he had become a member of the Chinese Communist Party. He became a diplomat in March 1973, with a focus on Sino-American relations. Having served as an ambassador to Fiji and Kiribati concurrently in the 1980s, he became ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1987, and was one of the UN deputy secretary generals from January 1991 to 1996.

According to Taiwan’s China Post, “The Paper”, a Shanghai website, was informed by friends and relatives of Ji’s that the diplomatic veteran had died.

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Note

*) Beijing Daily quotes from one of its publishing house’s new media channels, “长安街知事”, which may loosely be translated as “familiar with what’s going on Chang’an Road”.
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