China’s new foreign minister.. a headache in Biden’s head

China’s new foreign minister.. a headache in Biden’s head
China’s new foreign minister.. a headache in Biden’s head

The Biden administration did not respond to Chen Gangjin, the Chinese ambassador to Washington, D.C., during his tenure of more than 500 days. But all this changed a few days ago when Chinese President Xi Jinping appointed Chen as the country’s new foreign minister, creating a headache for the US administration at a time of intense tension between Washington and Beijing.

Problems will be at the fore during the coming period when US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visits China at a time when countries clash over trade, the Taiwan file and access to technology. “I think there are probably people within the administration who feel resentful that they haven’t reached out for pleasantries,” said Craig Allen, president of the US-China Business Council. [مع تشين] Which is usually communicated with ambassadors ».

Chen did not get all the meetings he requested with senior administration officials over the past 17 months, though the administration eased its restrictions on communication with Chen in the run-up to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan last August. But Chen returned to Beijing to lead China’s foreign ministry, overwhelmed by failed efforts to reach out to the Biden administration. Chen’s promotion underscores that he has Xi’s trust, something the Chinese president noted last October by appointing Chen to the CPC Central Committee. Chen replaced Wang Yi, who was appointed by Xi to lead the bureau of the Central Committee for Foreign Affairs.

Months after arriving in Washington, D.C., in July 2021, Chen limited himself to meetings with a handful of US officials, according to two people familiar with the interactions. The narrow access came despite repeated requests to meet with more senior administration officials, said the people, who were not identified.

The White House rejected this characterization. “Senior White House officials — along with senior officials from across the administration — have communicated regularly with Ambassador Chen since his arrival in Washington,” White House spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a written statement. The statement included a list of eight senior officials, including Blinken, Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell and US Trade Representative Catherine Tai, who met with Chen while he was ambassador. The Chinese embassy did not respond to a request for comment about Chen’s access to US officials during his tenure.

Chen dealt with the limitations of communicating with those in high-ranking positions by relying on low-level interactions with other foreign ambassadors and officials at the municipal level. He even went out with the “Washington Wizards” team in the American Professional League. This experience may work in his favor as Secretary of State. Ryan Haass, the former director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia at the National Security Council, said Chen’s “extensive knowledge of the United States … will give him an appreciation for the broader forces that direct America’s foreign policy.” And if Chen resented his treatment in Washington, his farewell letters did not show that. He expressed “sincere gratitude” for the great support and help from all sectors of the American people in a tweet he posted a few days ago.

Chen’s position will be tested by his handling of Blinken’s trip to China. “Our understanding is that Secretary Blinken will travel to Beijing in February, immediately after the Chinese New Year,” Allen said. If Chen wants to satisfy his ego — and if the visit comes after a promised trip to Taiwan by GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, Linkin may hit a diplomatic brick wall in Beijing.

Blinken has not yet released an agenda for that trip. But he will need Chen’s help to tackle a growing list of issues, including anti-drug cooperation and China’s growing nuclear weapons arsenal. Chen noted that such cooperation is possible. In a tweet, Chen thanked Blinken for his “constructive meetings” and said he looked forward to “continuing close relations” with Blinken.

Blinken tweeted about Chen’s promotion that the two men discussed “keeping lines of communication open” in a farewell phone conversation. A State Department spokesperson said, “Blinken expects to continue a productive working relationship with Secretary of State Chen in his new role.”

Not everyone believes that Chen’s rise to the position of foreign minister causes problems for the relationship between the United States and China. Bonnie Glaser, managing director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said: “Chen didn’t get all the meetings he wanted with senior US officials in the first months of his tenure… [لكن] I doubt there was any ill will that would prevent their interaction from moving forward.

Chen’s history of fending off foreign criticism of China may have worked against his success in Washington. He warned against violating Beijing’s “red line” regarding core interests in areas including the South China Sea, Taiwan and Xinjiang. He sparked the comments with an ominous reference to China’s nuclear weapons capability, and warned of “serious consequences” if the United States sought to suppress China using “Cold War evidence”.

Time did not limit these acute situations. A year later, Chen used a nearly 90-minute press briefing to denounce US encroachments on Chinese sovereignty. He also expressed frustration that his best efforts to engage with the Biden administration failed to prevent Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. But the structure of China’s diplomatic corps may limit Qin’s influence on bilateral relations. “Obviously, Chen Gang remains an important figure globally, but I’m not sure how important he is to managing the relationship between the United States and China,” said Zack Cooper, former assistant to the deputy national security advisor for counterterrorism. He added, “For the past two years at least when we had to actually have some serious negotiation, they tended to be between Yang Jiechi and [دبلوماسى كبير سابق بالخارجية الصينية] and Jake Sullivan [مستشار الأمن القومى الأمريكي] I see no reason to change that in the next two years.”

Chen’s success as foreign minister will largely depend on the degree to which the CPC is willing to adjust its foreign policy that includes a more aggressive military stance in the Indo-Pacific, economic coercion and espionage on new technologies. “If Xi Jinping embraces genuine opening-up and reform, Chen Gang may enjoy his new mission,” said Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute for China and the United States at the Wilson Center. “If Xi does not change his positions, Chen will be the international face of an unwelcome force.” growing”.

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