The new US Ambassador Nicholas Burns has arrived to take up his post in Beijing amid heightened tensions between China and the US over Taiwan, trade, human rights and the war in Ukraine.
Burns arrived Friday with his wife, Libby, and a group of other U.S. diplomats and their families and will undergo a three-week quarantine in his official residence required by China, according to a U.S. embassy spokesman.
During his quarantine, the ambassador will virtually meet with U.S. Mission personnel, the spokesman said.
The post had been empty since Terry Branstad left in October 2020.
Burns is one career diplomatFormer State Department spokesman, NATO ambassador and leading academic, most recently taught at Harvard Kennedy School and served as foreign policy adviser to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
He has framed the United States’ relations with China as manageable, saying that Americans should “trust our strength” when dealing with China’s progress.
The United States and China are considered leading geopolitical rivals, especially in terms of influence in the Indo-Pacific region, where China’s growing military and economic influence is challenging US dominance.
While the Biden administration professes a desire for a more stable and predictable relationship, it has maintained higher tariffs on Chinese imports imposed by former President Donald Trump and continued a trend toward closer ties with Taiwan, the autonomous island of China claims as a breakaway province.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a telephone conversation Saturday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expressed “serious concern about the latest words and deeds from the U.S. side,” a statement from the Chinese State Department said. Wang called on the United States to stop encouraging Taiwan’s independence and intervene in China’s internal affairs.
Most recently, China got annoyed with one US-led diplomatic boycott last month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing in protest of human rights violations, in particular mass imprisonment and mistreatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
China has also refused to condemn Russia for its brutal invasion of Ukraine, and blames the United States for instigating the conflict by encouraging NATO enlargement and refusing to consider Moscow’s security concerns.
In their phone call, Blinken told Wang that the world is reacting in unison to the invasion, keeping an eye on which nations stand up for the principles of freedom and sovereignty, a statement from the US State Department said.
Burns’ own appointment was caught up in disagreements between the United States and China when Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida announced in November that he had suspended the nomination in an attempt to pressure Biden to sign the two-part law, which he was co-author to ban products made with Uighur forced labor in western China.