Briefly: China’s new ambassador to the US, Xie Feng, arrived in Washington on Tuesday (23 May). Xie replaces Qin Gang, who was elevated to foreign minister last December.
As tensions between the US and China ballooned earlier this year, China left its colossal Washington DC embassy without an ambassador for several months. It’s not clear whether China delayed Xie’s arrival to send an intentional message of displeasure to the US.
Xie’s a career diplomat and is well-versed in the complexities of the US-China relationship. He’s negotiated sensitive prisoner swaps with the US and Canada, and coordinated a high-profile virtual meeting between Presidents Biden and Xi in 2021.
Intrigue’s take: Xie’s arrival might be a signal that Beijing is open to ‘a reset’ just days after President Joe Biden foreshadowed a possible ‘thaw’ in relations.
Within a few hours of landing in New York, Xie released a statement in which he said there were “serious difficulties and challenges” in China-U.S. relations but the relationship was “too important for us to let it fail”.
The new ambassador’s stated good intentions notwithstanding, it’s hard to see a single career diplomat being able to influence the relationship much himself.
Also worth noting:
- Xie served as Vice Foreign Minister before his appointment as ambassador to the US.
- A State Department spokesperson welcomed Xie and signalled an interest in “maintaining channels of communication.”