China’s New Ambassador to US Tones Down Rhetoric Days After Testy US–China Meetings

By Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
July 29, 2021 Updated: July 29, 2021

The Chinese regime’s new envoy to the United States adopted a placating tone upon his arrival in Washington on July 28, just two days after high-ranking Chinese diplomats denounced a visiting Biden official over a range of alleged U.S. “wrongdoings.”

Qin Gang, a veteran diplomat, called for continued engagement between the two countries. The ambassador, in remarks posted on the website of the Chinese Embassy, emphasized that he would “bring China–U.S. relations back on track, turning the way for the two countries to get along with each other … from a possibility into a reality.”

Qin’s arrival comes as the United States and allies step up actions countering the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over a range of aggressions, including its state-sponsored theft of foreign technology, its human rights abuses, and its ongoing obstruction to a virus origins probe.

The ambassador’s conciliatory note stood in stark contrast with the hostile tone set by his colleagues during meetings with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman earlier this week in the Chinese port city of Tianjin.

The regime’s Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told Sherman on July 26 that the United States should “change its highly misguided mindset,” and accused the administration of treating Beijing as an “imaginary enemy.”

The Tianjin meetings mirrored a testy public confrontation earlier this year when the CCP’s top foreign affairs official lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan at a meeting in Alaska.

CCP diplomats have adopted a belligerent rhetorical style, dubbed “wolf warrior” diplomacy, in an attempt to defend Beijing and deflect attention away from swelling global criticism directed at the regime’s various predations, analysts say.

The 55-year-old Qin gained a reputation for his sharp rhetoric employed in retorts to Western criticism of the regime while serving as a spokesman of China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry from 2005 to 2010 and again from 2011 to 2014.

In 2009, in response to a question about why YouTube was being blocked in China, Qin told reporters that the internet in China was “fully opened.”

“As for what you can and cannot watch, watch what you can watch, and don’t watch what you cannot watch,” he said.

His combative style won him praise domestically, with state-run media trumpeting his comments as proof that the Chinese regime was “full of confidence” and “not afraid of other governments’ or international organizations’ criticisms.”

In February, in response to a German journalist’s question about Beijing’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy at a press briefing in Beijing, Qin struck a strident tone, saying that other countries and peoples who “blatantly smeared China” are “evil wolves.”

Before replacing his predecessor Cui Tiankai, Qin worked directly with China leader Xi Jinping while heading the Foreign Ministry’s Protocol Department. Qin has also accumulated experience by accompanying Xi on his overseas trips since 2014.

Qin served as one of China’s nine vice foreign ministers from 2018 to 2021. Since joining the foreign ministry in 1988, Qin has steadily risen from junior aide to the vice minister responsible for overseeing European affairs and protocol. But Qin doesn’t have experience in Washington.

The new envoy is on a 14-day quarantine at the embassy residence and will “get down to work soon,” according to his Twitter account on July 29.

Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li