New Delhi: In the midst of his first major foreign policy crisis vis-à-vis Afghanistan, US President Joe Biden has nominated a career diplomat, Nicholas Burns, as the country’s new envoy to China.
Obviously, the choice of Burns marks a shift in the US administration policy as, for the first time in the last decade, a choice has been made to appoint a former diplomat to Beijing. Until October last year, seasoned politicians held the post.
Experts say by the new move, President Biden is eyeing a new communication model with the Xi Jinping dispensation in Beijing.
Perhaps Biden’s move signifies a fresh attempt to normalise relations between two countries marred by major trade differences and a few sensitive diplomatic and strategic tussles.
From America’s own domestic politics, it is worth pointing out that Burns has served in key positions for both the Clinton and George Bush administrations. Burns has not handled China in senior positions, but he is not an entire greenhorn as he has served as Under Secretary of State for political affairs. He also served as US envoy to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
According to a report in ‘Global Times’, Li Xiang of US Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing has said that Burns’s opinions on China are “relatively balanced and not as extreme” as that of former US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.
Burns would take over at a time when the US is also in a major confrontation with authorities in Beijing over the spread of COVID-19 and the possibility of the leak of the virus from a Chinese lab. The US has had no envoy to Beijing since October 2020, when Trump nominee Terry Branstad had stepped down.
China’s role vis-à-vis the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban would be under closer gaze by the US and the global community, as foreign minister Wang Yi has already hosted Mullah Baradar, a top-ranking Taliban insurgent.
Kamala Harris lands in Singapore:
Meanwhile, US Vice President Kamala Harris landed in Singapore on Sunday to kick off her week-long tour of South East Asia. Harris plans to meet with US sailors aboard the USS Tulsa to visit Changi Naval Base on Monday (August 23). Harris is also likely to visit Vietnam.