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The diplomatic “veteran” of the US ambassador to China

  After 10 months of vacancy, the important position of US ambassador to China finally has a certain candidate.
  At the end of August this year, the White House issued a statement stating that U.S. President Biden had decided to nominate Nicholas Burns as the new ambassador to China, and introduced that Burns is a “respected and retired professional diplomat.” Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
  Burns has a wealth of diplomatic experience. He has traveled abroad to Africa, the Middle East, Europe and other places, but as early as 2008, he faded out of politics and joined academia. After the Biden administration hesitated again and again, the choice of such a diplomatic veteran who is not a “China Master” and who has been “leaving” for many years as the ambassador to China seems to have profound meaning.
“Donkey and Elephant Take All” professional diplomat

  Burns, 65, looks young, and it is easy for outsiders to think that he is a newcomer to politics. In fact, as early as the Reagan administration, Burns had already worked in the U.S. federal government and served in four administrations from Reagan to Bush Jr., which can be regarded as a “familiar face” in American politics.
  Burns’ official career began with diplomacy, and it has always revolved around diplomacy. He studied at the School of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University at the master’s level. After graduation, he entered the U.S. Embassy in Mauritania for an internship and started his diplomatic career.
  After that, Burns spent a long period of time abroad in the Middle East, working successively in the diplomatic agencies of the United States in Egypt and Israel. During this period, Burns not only mastered Arabic, but also developed an intuitive perception of the political situation in the Middle East.
  After Bush took office, Burns was recalled to Washington and entered the National Security Council to handle Soviet-related work. His main field of attack began to shift from the Middle East to Europe. During this period, he attended almost all summits held between the United States and the Soviet Union, and participated in many political and economic affairs between Western countries and the Soviet Union (Russia) before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  Obviously, Burns’s work results have been recognized by his colleagues. Entering the Clinton administration, Burns continued to “shine and shine” as the spokesperson of the US State Department, and then went to the front line of diplomacy, serving as the US ambassador to Greece from 1997 to 2001.
  In 2001, the war in Afghanistan broke out. The man in the middle of this war needs to coordinate the actions of NATO countries on the premise of accurately grasping the situation in Afghanistan. Burns, who has been cultivating in Europe and the Middle East for many years, is obviously a suitable candidate. In the same year, Burns was transferred to the permanent representative of the United States to NATO.
  During his tenure in NATO, Burns gave full play to his own advantages: on the one hand, he coordinated and supervised the NATO allies’ operations in Afghanistan; on the other hand, he promoted the “NATO eastward expansion”. During his tenure, NATO recruited seven members in one go. The territory expanded to the western border of Russia.
  In 2005, after Bush Jr. began his second term, Burns left NATO and returned to the US State Department as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, where he worked until 2008.
  After retiring, Burns joined academia and became a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. During the 2020 US presidential election, he appeared in politics as a foreign policy adviser to the Biden team.
  Years of overseas experience and in-depth knowledge of the situation in the Middle East and Europe have allowed Burns to accumulate a large number of contacts at home and abroad, while also winning the recognition of the U.S. Democrats and Republicans for his diplomatic professionalism. The ability to be reused makes him one of the few people in the US political arena who can “eat all the donkeys and elephants”.
Not just a “poster”

  Ben Steyer, director of international economics at the Foreign Relations Association of the US think tank, once stated that Burns was nominated as “a man who is qualified to be secretary of state” as ambassador to China, which shows that the Biden administration has an “extremely serious and prudent” attitude towards this position. .
  Counting the four previous U.S. ambassadors to China, it is not difficult to find that none of them came from a professional diplomatic field. Branstad was the governor of Iowa for a long time. Box was the chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. Locke was the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Although Huntsman had diplomatic experience, he served more often in the United States.

  According to a report in Lianhe Zaobao, the appointment of the U.S. ambassador to China in the past 30 years has been regarded as a political reward for those who have contributed to the election. Politicians who support Sino-US business relations.
  The appointment of Burns, who has decades of diplomatic work experience, as the ambassador to China may mean that the United States has undergone a change in its perception of China’s diplomacy. According to Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs of Renmin University of China, Biden has clearly realized that there are many diplomatic technical problems between China and the United States, and these problems must be handled by professional diplomats.
  At the same time, Burns’s past experience actually overlaps with Chinese affairs.
  When serving as Deputy Secretary of State, Burns was directly involved in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the US State Department and other China-related affairs. The experience of serving in the US State Department and his rich experience in the implementation of foreign policy have enabled Burns to understand and master US strategy toward China beyond most of his colleagues. In February 2021, Burns publicly stated that in today’s global environment, the US-China relationship is the most challenging and most important one.
  As early as when he was a diplomat, Burns had repeatedly emphasized that “diplomacy is not just about dialogue with friends, but dialogue with opponents.” He spoke of a conversation in 2019 with the Ambassador Cui Tiankai: “we can not simply put China as an enemy …… China is the most important for the next half-century United States, and even the next 100 years by the US-dominated global affairs.”
  Although Burns believes in “dialogue is better than war”, but he is not a “good gentleman”. This can be seen from his involvement in the operation of NATO’s seven eastward expansion.
  Before the White House announced the candidate for the ambassador to China, former U.S. Senator Max Box pointed out that the Biden administration needs to appoint a person who can “wow” and “show the world the importance of Sino-US relations.” “And this person must be able to negotiate on behalf of the President of the United States, not just a “poster.”
  Fumiko Sasaki, an alumnus of Burns and the current Assistant Professor of International Relations at Columbia University, commented that Burns is a typical “professional ambassador”. Compared with diplomats from politicians, “professional ambassadors” generally do not value ideology or the individual president. Will, know the value of compromise and how to compromise, understand that diplomacy requires a win-win situation.
Rare ambassador “empty window period”

  Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States, it is extremely rare that the position of ambassador has been vacant for nearly one year during the transition of the previous 12 US ambassadors to China.
  In terms of appointment time, before that, the longest time between the transfer of the US ambassador to China was close to 7 months. Huntsman was appointed as the US ambassador to China on August 11, 2009, to succeed Reid, who left office on January 20, 2009. The following ambassadors took a short time interval, the longest was no more than 6 months, and the shortest was Bowks. He was appointed in advance, and almost his predecessor had just left his post and took office.
  In fact, looking at the situation in recent years, many US ambassadors abroad are facing long-term vacancies. For example, in Japan, the post has been vacant since Haggerty, the former US ambassador to Japan, left in July 2019 to run for the Senate.
  On the same day that Biden nominated Burns as the new U.S. ambassador to China, he also nominated Ram Emanuel, who served as the Chief of Staff of the White House during the Obama administration, as the new U.S. ambassador to Japan.
  The postponement of the appointment of the U.S. ambassador to China has not only been affected by the domestic political climate in the United States, the Biden administration had to carefully arrange diplomatic personnel in China and China’s neighboring countries; but also because of the complicated appointment procedures for important U.S. government officials, many personnel appointments are subject to politics. Confrontation and balance of power.
  At the regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held on August 23 this year, a reporter asked questions about Burns’s nomination. In this regard, spokesman Wang Wenbin said that China hopes that the new US ambassador to China will work to promote friendly cooperation between China and the United States and play a constructive role in promoting the healthy and stable development of Sino-US relations.
  If Burns successfully becomes the new US ambassador to China, what changes he will bring to Sino-US relations requires long-term observation.

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