New Ambassador hopes to improve US-China relations

Rich in experience in US-China relations, new Ambassador Ta Phong came to Washington with high hopes of improving the already tense bilateral relations.

"I want to strengthen China-US relations in a time of great difficulties and challenges. We hope that the US will work with China to strengthen dialogue, handle differences and expand cooperation to aim put the two countries' relations back on the right track," said new Chinese Ambassador Ta Phong after arriving at JFK airport in New York on May 23 to receive a job.

Mr. Ta Phong was born in Jiangsu province in April 1964. After graduating from the Chinese Diplomatic Academy in 1986, he began working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China. Three years later, he was sent to the Chinese embassy in Malta.

Ta Phong's experience in US-China relations began when he was appointed to the Department of North American and Oceanic Affairs of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1993. He worked there for seven years, before being appointed sent to the Chinese embassy in Washington in 2000.

Mr. Ta worked at the Chinese embassy in the US for nearly three years and mainly focused on US congressional affairs. He later moved into communications manager for the embassy and became the agency's spokesman.

Ta Phong speaks at a press conference in Hong Kong in February 2020. Photo: AFP

Mr. Xie Feng returned to Beijing in 2003, continued to work in the Department of North American and Oceania Affairs as deputy director, before returning to the US as a counselor for the Chinese embassy in Washington. In October 2010, he returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and assumed the position of head of the Department of North American and Oceania Affairs.

In 2014, Mr. Ta was appointed as China's ambassador to Indonesia. During his three-year term in Jakarta, he worked hard to promote Beijing's relations with the Southeast Asian country, helping to reverse Indonesia 's position on China, helping the two countries become close partners.

From June 2017 to January 2021, Mr. Ta was promoted to the position of Deputy Foreign Minister in charge of Hong Kong affairs, then participated in the reconciliation effort between the Americas and China. In May 2021, he escorted a large delegation of Latin American diplomats to visit Xinjiang.

Two months later, Mr. Ta met US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman during her visit to China . He presented Ms. Sherman with a list of issues that Beijing wanted Washington to address to reduce bilateral tensions.

The list includes requests for the US to drop its defamatory rhetoric and sanctions against China. Beijing also asked Washington to drop the charges against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was then under house arrest in Canada awaiting extradition to the US.

In August 2022, when China was angry with the visit to Taiwan by then US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mr. Xie twice summoned the US ambassador to Beijing Nicholas Burns.

He was also present in the Chinese delegation when President Xi Jinping met US President Joe Biden in Bali in November 2022. Deputy Minister Ta also participated in discussions with senior US diplomats about the expected visit to Beijing of Foreign Minister Antony Blinken.

Mr. Ta was sent to the US to assume the position of ambassador at a time when the relationship between the two countries reached a 50-year low due to tensions related to trade, Taiwan, and the shooting down of a hot air balloon .

In a speech in March, President Xi Jinping accused the United States and Western countries of trying to counter China, "posing unprecedented serious challenges to our country's development." .

However, observers say that the appointment of new Ambassador Ta Phong shows that Beijing may want to ease tensions in bilateral relations with the US.

Wang Yiwei, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said that recent developments show that tensions are "decreasing" between the two countries. He said China recognizes the need to "appropriately reduce" the level of confrontation with the US to ensure a favorable environment for development.

The seat of China's ambassador to the US has been vacant since late last year, when Ambassador Qin Gang was appointed as China's foreign minister. This is the longest period of ambassadorial vacancies since the US and China normalized relations in 1979.

The decision to send Mr. Ta to the US follows a two-day "frank, substantive and constructive" meeting earlier this month in Vienna between US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and the top diplomat. China's head Wang Yi. Before Mr. Ta left for the US, President Biden at a press conference on May 21 in Hiroshima, Japan said that US-China relations will "soon thaw".

"US-China cooperation brings bilateral and global benefits, while conflict leads to harm for both and consequences for the whole world," Xie said in a speech at a forum in Beijing. in January. "Ensuring a stable and healthy trajectory for US-China relations is a responsibility that we must take seriously for the benefit of both countries and the whole world."

Such statements by Mr. Ta ignite the hope that US-China relations will warm up after a long period of tension. During his time at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Xie pursued a wolf-dog diplomacy style, but when he arrives in the US, he may have to rethink this approach, according to Phelim Kine, an analyst at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Politico .

"Wolfwolf diplomacy doesn't seem to work in Washington, and I would be surprised if he continues to pursue this style, rather than becoming a problem solver," said Susan Shirk, a former deputy assistant secretary of state. during the Bill Clinton administration, said.

Observers believe that US-China relations have a chance to improve after Ta Phong presented his credentials to President Biden, but the strategic competition between the two superpowers will not cool down.

"Mr. Ta's experience or style is unlikely to help reverse or prevent the policy of increasing competition and reducing interdependence that both sides have chosen," said Ivan Kanapathy, former China director. Taiwan, Mongolia at the US National Security Council, commented.

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