New Chinese ambassador to US acknowledges ‘serious difficulties’ in relations

New Chinese ambassador to US acknowledges 'serious difficulties' in relations

A fluent English speaker who was previously posted twice to China’s Washington embassy, Xie lodged China’s formal denunciation in February accusing Washington of “obstinately” shooting down what it suspected was a Chinese spy balloon after its flight over the United States spurred a diplomatic crisis.

Beijing has said it was a civilian airship.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the US welcomed Xie’s arrival.

“We look forward to working with the ambassador designate and his team. We remain committed, as we said on a number of occasions, to maintain channels of communication with the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to responsibly manage competition,” Miller said.

Xie has taken a confrontational tone in past meetings with Biden administration officials, including when hosting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in 2021 in Tianjin, where he issued a long list of demands for the US to improve ties while accusing Washington of creating an “imaginary enemy” in China.

Nonetheless, Xie’s arrival at the embassy post, which has been vacant since his predecessor Qin Gang was elevated to foreign minister late last year, could help Beijing parry criticism that it has ignored the Biden administration’s calls for increased engagement.

Qin told Washington’s envoy to Beijing this month that it was essential to stabilize relations, and US President Joe Biden – who expressed a desire to speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping after the downing of the balloon – said on Sunday that he expected more US-China talks “very shortly”.

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said Xie, as an experienced diplomat well-acquainted with US policymakers, was capable of facilitating better communication “if he chooses to do so”.

“The decision to finally send Xie Feng appears to be part of this effort to prevent a spiralling deterioration of bilateral ties,” Glaser said.