Wu Xueqian, China's new foreign minister, was catapulted into the key post after only six months inside the government hierarchy, but he is considered well versed in foreign affairs.
His meteoric rise was based on experience in the international affairs of the Chinese Communist Party and on relationships extending to the party chief, Hu Yaobang.
'He has extensive experience (in international affairs) through the party,' said one diplomatic analyst, who called him 'very qualified' for the new appointment.
At 60, Wu is young compared with other senior officials, making him an example of China's new emphasis on relatively younger men.
His predecessor, Huang Hua, 69, represented a generation of foreign affairs officials who made their name in the army during World War II and adopted a hard line toward the United States.
Wu was born in Shanghai in 1922. Little is known about his family or early years except for the time he spent in central China and the Shanghai region, where he acquired some fluency in English.
His association with Hu dates back to the end of World War II and in the early 1950s he held a senior position in the Communist Youth League led by the Communist Party chief.
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Wu traveled extensively and directed Communist youth delegations, giving him an opportunity to cultivate contacts in the Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia.
His travels included visits to Poland, Austria, African states and Moscow, where he attended the Conference on Disarmament and World Peace in 1962.
By the early 1960s, Wu was regarded as an Asian-African specialist. But like many former Chinese Youth League members, he was purged in 1967 at the most violent point of the 1966-67 cultural revolution.
After an 11-year hiatus, Wu reappeared in February 1978, when he became deputy director of the international liaison department of the Communist Party Central Committee.
With Huang preparing to retire, Wu was given the post of vice foreign minister in May, placing him in the ranks of government for the first time.
Despite his lack of experience inside Chinese bureaucracy, he was listed ahead of five other vice ministers, a sign that he was Huang's heir apparent.
During his six months as a vice foreign minister, Wu distinguished himself in the handling of China's protests against new Japanese textbooks. He orchestrated Peking's position and statements charging Japan with attempting to whitewash World War II atrocities committed by the Japanese army.