Long-serving Chinese ambassador to US to leave post

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China’s longest serving ambassador to the U.S. confirmed on Tuesday that he is leaving his post, amid one of the most tense periods in relations between Washington and Beijing.

Cui Tiankai, who has served in Washington for eight years, reportedly issued a farewell letter in which he raised concern about the future relations between the U.S. and China.

“China-US relations are at a critical crossroads, with the US engaging in a new round of restructuring in its government policy towards China, and it is facing a choice between cooperation and confrontation,” Cui wrote in the farewell letter, the South China Morning Post reported.

“At this moment, overseas Chinese in the US have to shoulder a greater responsibility and mission, and I hope you will defend your right to be in the US and to develop your own interests, with the starting point of helping to safeguard the fundamental interests of the people in China and the US,” Cui continued.  

Relations between the U.S. and China are at one of their lowest points in decades, with President Biden focusing his foreign agenda on uniting allies and strengthening the U.S. position to compete with, and confront, a Chinese government that is working to establish its dominance on the world stage. 

Yet Cui kept a low profile as tensions between the U.S. and China ratcheted up during the former Trump administration amid confrontations over China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property, trade disputes and the spread of the COVID-19 disease, the first cluster of cases of which were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. 

Cui’s tenure in Washington is considered more moderate compared to other Chinese diplomats, many of whom exemplified Beijing’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy — a tactic to confront and attack the U.S. and other Western nations over their own shortcomings in an effort to distract from criticisms of China’s transparency over the COVID-19 pandemic, its human rights abuses and democratic rollbacks. 

Cui is reportedly expected to be replaced by Chinese vice foreign minister Qin Gang, a career diplomat who has served in Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland. 

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a briefing Tuesday that he has no information to release related to Cui’s exit.

Biden has yet to name a U.S. ambassador to China but is widely expected to nominate veteran senior State Department official and Harvard professor Nicholas Burns.

Tags China Coronavirus COVID-19 Intellectual property Joe Biden trade disputes

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