China’s new ambassador seeks to ‘build bridges’ with US

Attribution: Xinhua

Ambassador Qin Gang recalls secret 1971 visit of Henry Kissinger to Beijing to start his innings in Washington.

ANKARA (AA) – In an apparent reconciliatory note with emphasis on “building bridges,” China’s new ambassador to the US has said “the door of China-US relations, which is already open, cannot be closed.”

Qin Gang, who landed in Washington on Wednesday to take his new role as Beijing’s top diplomat in the US, told a news conference broadcast live by Chinese state-run media: “This is the trend of the world, the call of the times, and the will of the people.”

Qin, 55, earlier served as the vice foreign minister based in Beijing.

Recalling the US’ former National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger’s “secret visit” to China in 1971, Qin said Kissinger opened the door to the normalization of China-US relations.

“It was during the Cold War; at that time there was virtually no contact between the two countries. Dr. Kissinger had to travel covertly to China via a third country,” he said.

It was in July 1971 that Kissinger visited Beijing. The trip was facilitated by Pakistan which laid the groundwork for then-US President Richard Nixon’s visit to China the following year.

“Fifty years later today, as the 11th Chinese Ambassador to the United States, I can travel most openly and fly directly to this country. How the world has changed with the passage of time,” Qin said.

The new appointment of China’s top diplomat in the US came at a time when Beijing faces tough questions over alleged human rights issues in Uyghur-dominated Xinjiang autonomous region and Hong Kong, along with issues in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. Beijing has, however, pushed back, calling such accusations as “political virus and falsehood.”

‘China-US relations kept moving despite challenges’

Born in 1966, Qin is a career diplomat who served as the vice foreign minister since 2018 before replacing Ambassador Cui Tiankai, who served in Washington for at least eight years that saw tumultuous relations between the world’s top two economies. Tiankai returned home on June 23.

A native of northeastern Tianjin city, Qin also served in the UK and managed European affairs at China’s Foreign Ministry, besides heading the ministry’s information department.

“Over the past half a century, the China-US relationship has gone through tremendous changes and kept moving forward despite twists and turns,” Qin said.

“It has not only had a profound impact on the two countries, but has also significantly changed the course of history and the world significantly. The world today is going through major changes unseen in the century,” he noted.

Qin, considered close to China’s President Xi Jinping, has accompanied the Chinese leader on multiple overseas trips.

“China and the US, the two big countries, which are different in history, culture, systems and the developmental stages are entering a new round of mutual exploration, understanding and adaptation,” the ambassador added.

‘US-China bilateral relations vital for world’

Calling the bilateral ties with Washington “vital for the world,” he said: “I will follow through on the principle of the telephone conversation between the two presidents on the Chinese New Year eve. I will seek to build bridges of communication and cooperation with all sectors of the United States. I look forward to working closely with them.”

Xi and his American counterpart Joe Biden held a detailed phone conversation early in February, and discussed bilateral relations and regional issues, with Biden saying “a free and open Indo-Pacific was a priority” and Xi “warning (that a) confrontation would be a ‘disaster’ for both nations.”

Bilateral relations between China and the United States have deteriorated, particularly under the administration of former US President Donald Trump. Though in early March, the two sides broke the ice when their top diplomats met in Alaska.

It was followed by high-level phone calls between their trade representatives in May and June. The trade volume between the US and China currently stands at around $560 billion.

Early this week, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman paid a visit to China, where she met State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng. It was the first in-person visit by an American official under the Biden administration.

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