China's newly appointed ambassador to the United States, Xie Feng, landed on U.S. soil on Tuesday, acknowledging the arduous road ahead in fostering improved Sino-U.S. relations amidst a minefield of diplomatic challenges.
Stepping foot on American ground at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Xie emphasized his dual responsibilities. "I have come here to safeguard China's interest. This is my sacred responsibility," he expressed. He further added, "I'm also the envoy of Chinese people, so I've come here to enhance China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation."
Xie, aged 59, has established a reputation for candid critiques of U.S. maneuvers, as the two superpowers have seen their ties fray over a raft of disputes from Taiwan to trade. His recent tenure as a vice foreign minister involved handling policy regarding the U.S.
Xie, while acknowledging the "serious difficulties and challenges" facing Sino-U.S. relations, made no further comment before departing for Washington. Known for his command of English, Xie has twice been posted to China's embassy in Washington before his current assignment.
Earlier this year, Xie lodged a formal complaint against the U.S. for allegedly shooting down a Chinese balloon, suspected of espionage, an incident which ignited a diplomatic furor. Beijing insists that the downed airship was civilian.
The U.S. has signaled its willingness to collaborate with the new Chinese envoy. Matthew Miller, State Department spokesperson, extended a warm welcome to Xie and reiterated U.S. commitment to preserving communication channels with China to responsibly handle competition.
Despite his confrontational approach towards U.S. officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Xie's presence in the vacant embassy position can potentially counter criticisms that Beijing is neglecting the Biden administration's overtures for increased engagement.
U.S. President Joe Biden hinted at further dialogue with China "very shortly," mirroring comments by Qin Gang, Xie's predecessor who recently ascended to the position of foreign minister, about the importance of stabilizing relations.
Bonnie Glaser, a seasoned Asia analyst at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, sees Xie as well-positioned to facilitate improved communication, owing to his diplomatic experience and familiarity with U.S. policymakers. She asserted, "The decision to finally send Xie Feng appears to be part of this effort to prevent a spiraling deterioration of bilateral ties."