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Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 19:30

The Human Bridge Built by Premier Zhou Enlai: The Life Journey of Sirin Phathanothai, the adopted daughter of Zhou Enlai

Sirin Phathanothai

Residence of the US Ambassador
17 Guanghua Road Chaoyang District

朝阳区 光华路17号 美国大使馆住宅

The deadline for registration is noon(12.00pm) on Thursday 15 November. We cannot accept RSVPs after this time.

It is necessary to register before each event by writing to info [at]

BIS events are open to foreign passport holders only and please remember to bring your passport. Reservations are valid only upon receipt of a confirmation email from BIS.

All BIS events are off the record; photography, filming  and recording are not permitted. 

Non-member and guests are welcome for a single lecture the fee is 60 RMB or 30 RMB for students with valid ID. 

Special Notice: Regulations for the Residence of the US Ambassador

  • There is a very strict ban on bringing in laptops. (This includes iPads and other tablets. Furthermore, the security guards will not store laptops in the security booth. Therefore, if anyone shows up with a laptop or tablet, they will need to figure out a place to store it off-site. This is the most serious security measure we have and we cannot waive this precaution for anyone.)
  • Guests are free to carry their cell phones and cameras with them. Photos are allowed to be taken, but only on the interior parts of the residence. 
  • All guests must come with a photo ID.

Sirin Phathanothai’s unexpected involvement with China began more than 70 years ago when, as a child, she was sent to China as a diplomatic offering at the height of the Cold War. At the time, Thailand was a close ally of the United States against Communism, particularly China. Yet Sirin’s father, Sang Phathanothai, chief advisor to the Thai Prime Minister, felt insecure with China as its enemy next door. While pursuing pro-US policies against China, Sang also secretly looked for a way to reduce the animosity with China by offering up two of his own children to become the wards of Zhou Enlai. And so 8-year-old Sirin and her 12-year-old brother Warnwai were sent to China to be raised by the Chinese Premier in his house. Sirin ended up spending the next 13 years of her life in China, and even more time would pass before she would be reunited with her parents. 

Arriving in Beijing, Sirin and Warnwai were the only foreign children growing up with the governing elite in Zhong Nan Hai, alongside the first generation of Communist leaders and their children. They lived a reclusive and privileged life until the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

Like many elites, Sirin fell victim to the Red Guards; she changed her name and was hided in the remote countryside by Premier Zhou. In 1970, Zhou Enlai helped her to leave China for the UK.

Yet Sirin’s involvement in China did not end there. By arranging secret high-level meetings between Zhou Enlai and the then Thai secret envoy, Sirin was pivotal in establishing diplomatic relations between China and Thailand in 1975.

She has remained involved with China in every turn of its development. Acting as a bridge between the political and business leaders of China and Thailand, as well as those of Europe, and the rest of the world, Sirin has paved the way for many high-level state visits, and introduced many foreign banks and businesses to China since the late 1970s. 

Sirin resides in Beijing, Bangkok and Paris. Her book ‘The Dragon’s Pearl’ depicts her life behind the bamboo curtain and has been translated into several languages. Her two grown-up sons also maintain a close relationship with China through their international careers.

We look forward to seeing you then!

Warm regards,
BIS Committee 


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