China's New Ambassador To The United States Vows To Fix Broken Ties

In his first news conference after arriving in Washington, DC on Wednesday, China's new envoy to the US, Qin Gang, struck a conciliatory tone. “I believe that the already open door of China-US ties cannot be shut. I would work to re-establish [bilateral] relations, transforming the prospect of the two nations getting along into a reality," Qin said.

“China and the US are beginning a new phase of mutual exploration, understanding, and adaptation, attempting to figure out how to get along in the new era,” he continued, signaling Beijing's perspective on the present status of the relationship and evoking memories of former US national security advisor Henry Kissinger's groundbreaking cold war-era tour to Beijing.

Qin is regarded as one of Xi Jinping's most dependable senior diplomats. The 55-year-old has accompanied the Chinese president on his international tours and talks with foreign leaders in recent years.

Qin, a former news assistant at United Press International's Beijing office, became a diplomat in 1992 and has worked in the Chinese embassy in London three times in various roles.

Qin's appointment to Washington comes at a time when the United States foreign policy elite is rethinking its relationship with Beijing. Since its inception in 1979, the bilateral relationship has been at its lowest ebb.

Joe Biden, like his predecessor Donald Trump, has promised to deal with China "from a position of strength" in what he considers the century's "greatest geopolitical challenge." In a statement to Wendy Sherman, the visiting US deputy secretary of state, Chinese vice-foreign minister Xie Feng accused the US of treating China as an "imaginary opponent."

Observers of Chinese diplomacy have been discussing whether Qin will bring Beijing's infamous "wolf warrior" approach to its most important diplomatic post since his nomination. Cui Tiankai, an old-school Chinese diplomat, was his predecessor, and he has generally distanced himself from his host country's inflammatory rhetoric.

Yet, as a former foreign ministry spokesperson, Qin is known for his uncompromising handling of foreign media and defending China’s image.

In 2009, in response to a query on China's "Green Dam" internet filtering system, he chastised a BBC journalist. He questioned the reporter, "Do you know what this software is about?" “Do you have children?” he inquired. In 2010, he was praised for the discussion in a Chinese-language publication

In 2013, Qin stated that China's diplomacy cannot be judged solely in terms of "soft" and "hard" diplomacy. “How to better defend national interests as well as international peace and prosperity is the essential starting point for our diplomatic work,” he added. “Diplomacy is a difficult and methodical process. It might be firm with some softness, or soft with some firmness. It's also possible for it to be both firm and soft. The two may morph into each other as time and circumstance change.”

Qin served as China's vice-minister of foreign affairs from 2018 and as the director-general of the ministry's protocol department from 2014.

He accompanied Xi to the United States in 2015. According to Ryan Hass, former China director of the US national security council under Obama, during Xi's visit, Qin made an impression as someone who is "prepared to ruffle feathers without hesitation when he believed it was essential."