August 21, 2021 at 8:27 a.m.
The White House said on Friday (August 21) that President Biden intends to nominate senior US diplomat Nicholas Burns as the US ambassador to China, a position that began at the end of Trump’s term in October last year. vacancy.
Under the tense relations between China and the United States, this appointment has attracted much attention. It is different from the past tendency to appoint politicians as ambassadors. Diplomacy is the top agenda.
Burns said that he looks forward to returning to public service and said that work will start after the appointment is confirmed to deal with “the strategic competition between the United States and China, as well as other difficulties and complex challenges faced by the relationship between the two countries at an important intersection.” .
The White House announced on the same day that Biden plans to nominate former White House chief of staff and former Chicago Mayor Ram Emanuel as the US ambassador to Japan.
Who is Burns?
Biden took office for 8 months and finally decided to nominate Burns as the new ambassador to China. After approval by the Senate of Congress, he can go to Beijing to take office.
Burns, 65, served as Deputy Secretary of State during the George Bush era from 2005 to 2008. He also served as a representative to NATO and an ambassador to Greece. He also served as a spokesperson for the State Council. Before that, he was in charge of the Soviet Union in the National Security Council. And Russian affairs. The White House statement described him as a “respected” former diplomat.
He is fluent in French, Arabic and Greek, but does not understand Chinese.
After retiring from the government, he served as a professor in the Department of Diplomacy and International Relations Practice at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. )Work.
The White House statement stated that when Burns worked at the Aspen Strategic Group, he had cooperated with the Central Party School of the Chinese Government to organize policy dialogues. He taught US-China relations and published articles and comments on this topic. During the period of Deputy Secretary of State, he cooperated with the Chinese government on a number of issues, including the US’s Indo-Pacific policy, UN sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and the issue of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has recently encountered the biggest political crisis in 20 years. With the withdrawal of US troops, Taliban forces moved into the capital to control Afghanistan in a short time, causing a large number of people to flee, making the outside world question Biden’s diplomatic decision. At the same time, China and the Taliban are communicating, making Afghanistan another battleground between China and the United States, and the regional situation is full of uncertainty.
Burns is “not an expert in China”
Although the White House emphasized Burns’s background with China, Reuters analyzed that Burns was not regarded as an expert on Chinese policy, and the previous four US ambassadors to China were not experts in this area.
Trump’s ambassador to China, Terry Branstad (Terry Branstad) met Xi Jinping early in his career and jointly promoted the formation of sister states between Iowa and Hebei in the 1980s. He originally hoped to improve trade relations between the two sides. However, during his tenure, US-China relations fell to the lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic relations due to the epidemic, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and other issues.
Analysts pointed out that Burns has a close relationship with Biden, served as his campaign adviser, and has cooperated with Biden’s staff for many years. The two have similar views on China policy.
In February of this year, the American media speculated that Burns had the opportunity to serve as ambassador to China. In an interview with CNN, he stated that the US-China relationship is “the most important and most challenging” for the United States. He Describes that the relations between the two countries have changed a lot in the past four or five years. China has become aggressive and is almost a near competitor of the United States. The Democratic and Republican parties in the United States have the same position on China. The United States does not It is able to cede the military dominance in the Indo-Pacific region since World War II to China, and to protect American companies in terms of intellectual property rights and trade.
Burns believes that in addition to trade and military competition, the United States and China are also confrontations between democracy and authoritarian regimes. Therefore, he agrees with Biden’s China policy and believes that the United States should work closely with allies to counter China and make China follow the rules. In April this year, he criticized Europe and China for reaching an investment agreement as a “strategic error” that caused the division of the United States and Europe.
Georgetown University scholar Evan Medeiros was once an Asian expert for former President Barack Obama. He told Reuters that it is more difficult for the United States and China to engage in high-level dialogue amid intensified ideological competition. The appointment of Burns reflects that Deng is seeking a new mode of communication with Beijing.
“We need a horse that can work, not just a horse for display,” he said. “We want the ambassador to become an important member of U.S.-China relations. We need him to understand the politics of big powers.”
James Green, a senior researcher at Georgetown University’s US-China Global Issues Dialogue Project, told Reuters that the Biden administration will benefit from Burns’s in-depth understanding of the diplomatic bureaucracy and can clearly communicate messages between the United States and China.
Chinese officials also confirmed at the end of last month that Qin Gang, the former deputy foreign minister, succeeded Cui Tiankai as China’s ambassador to the United States.
Some media have noticed that Burns and Qin Gang, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, have similar backgrounds. Both have close relations with their current leaders, have rich diplomatic experience, and have been spokespersons for diplomatic agencies, but at the same time they are regarded as Not an expert in the other country.
The Chinese state media “Global Times” quoted experts as saying that after the Chinese ambassador to the United States took office, the United States announced its nomination of its ambassador to China, which is a manifestation of “diplomatic reciprocity.” If Burns’ nomination is passed smoothly in the Senate, ” It will have a positive meaning for the relationship between the two countries.” However, given the complex status of Sino-US relations, there should be “no high expectations” for this role. “If the function of quickly and effectively conveying information between the high-levels of the two countries can be achieved, it will be enough. Quite positive.”