Chinese diplomat apologizes for baiting U.N. secretary-general in drunken anti-American rant

Rachel Rose Hartman
Sha Zukang speaks at a 2001 press briefing.
Sha Zukang speaks at a 2001 press briefing.

Last week's contretemps between Chinese diplomat Sha Zukang and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brought to mind any number of ill-advised wedding reception toasts.

Sha rose at a U.N. retreat to offer a toast to Ban Ki-moon, but Sha had been in his cups already, and was therefore in no position to be toasting anyone.

Nevertheless, he began with gusto -- and things went rapidly downhill from there. "I know you never liked me, Mr. Secretary-General -- well, I never liked you, either," Sha told Ban Ki-Moon, according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail.

Sha then laid into American U.N. official Bob Orr -- and all of Orr's fellow Americans, for good measure. "I really don't like him: He's an American and I really don't like Americans," he said, according to Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay.

In an entirely predictable follow-up development, news reports today reveal that Sha woke up the next morning -- presumably with a rather fearsome hangover -- and quickly ran to apologize to the secretary-general.

Sha told Ban that his speech, "'coming as it did after he had had a few drinks, was inappropriate, as it went too far," spokesman Farhan Haq told the Daily Mail. "He was also aware that his statements had embarrassed and irritated other senior advisers."

It's not clear whether Sha has also approached Orr, much less the American public at large, with similar shamefaced sentiments. Then again, he's on record giving Americans the back of his hand in far more sober situations. In a 2006 BBC interview, he addressed American concerns over China's arms spending thusly: "It's better for the U.S. to shut up. Keep quiet. It's much, much better."

(Photo of Sha: AP/Greg Baker)