China's new Ambassador to the U.S. Arrives Tuesday

China's new Ambassador to the U.S. Arrives Tuesday

China’s new ambassador to the U.S, Xie Feng, will arrive in Washington as early as Tuesday to take up his post, two people familiar with his schedule who were granted anonymity because they were unauthorized to speak on the record told POLITICO on Monday.

Xie previously served as vice foreign minister and is the successor to Qin Gang, who left Washington in January to become China’s foreign minister. While Xie is a career diplomat and specialist in U.S.-China relations, he lacks Qin’s close ties to the Chinese senior leadership. His predecessor had a direct line to Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping, a relationship that propelled him to foreign minister.

Xie arrives in Washington at a time when the U.S.-China relationship has hit a 50-year low over tensions linked to trade, Taiwan and the Chinese spy balloon incident in February. Xi Jinping accused the U.S. and other Western countries of “all-round containment, encirclement and suppression against us, bringing unprecedentedly severe challenges to our country’s development” in a speech in March. That rancor has effectively frozen high-level diplomatic engagement since President Joe Biden met with Xi in Bali, Indonesia, in November.

But Xie’s arrival suggests that Beijing might want to reduce that bilateral acrimony. And it follows a two-day meeting earlier this month in Vienna between national security adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, that the two sides described as “candid, substantive, and constructive.” Xie’s dispatch from Beijing comes on the heels of Biden’s prediction during a news conference Sunday at the end of the G-7 meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, that bilateral relations will “begin to thaw very shortly.”

The timing of Xie taking up his post “points to a thaw … but will neither reverse nor stop the path of de-risking that both sides are embarked on,” said Ivan Kanapathy, former director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia at the National Security Council.

The State Department declined to comment and the Chinese embassy didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Xie was selected as ambassador over Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying, a Washington, D.C.-based diplomat with expertise in Chinese foreign policy told POLITICO in January. As a foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua has become notorious for sharp-tongued pushback against foreign critics. The Chinese leadership’s choice of Xie may signal a preference for a less-caustic interlocutor in order to ease bilateral antipathy.

But Xie has his own record of wolf warrior-style diplomacy. In his previous role as the foreign ministry’s commissioner in Hong Kong, Xie decried foreign criticism of the territory’s often brutal police response to pro-democracy protesters in 2019 and blamed that unrest on shadowy “foreign forces.” Xie led a frosty meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in July 2021 during which he scolded her for what he said was the administration’s “highly misguided mindset and dangerous policy” toward China.

Xie sent Sherman home with a “List of U.S. Wrongdoings that Must Stop” and a “List of Key Individual Cases that China Has Concerns With” to ensure she got the message.

Xie might rethink the wisdom of that approach now that he’s Xi’s point man in the U.S.

“Wolf warrior diplomacy doesn’t go over very well in Washington and I’d be very surprised if he was more of a wolf warrior rather than a problem solver,” said Susan Shirk, former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration.


By: Phelim Kine
Title: China’s new ambassador to the U.S. arrives Tuesday
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Published Date: Mon, 22 May 2023 19:14:46 EST

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