China’s new ambassador to US arrives to ‘safeguard’ Beijing’s interests

Xie Feng, China’s new ambassador to the United States, speaks to the media upon his arrival at JFK airport in New York, May 23, 2023.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

China’s new ambassador to the United States arrived in New York on Tuesday with a call to “safeguard China’s interests”, according to a statement from the country’s embassy in the United States.

Xie Feng takes office after a period of about six months during which China did not have an ambassador to the United States. He was most recently Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Xie said on Tuesday that bilateral relations faced “serious difficulties and challenges,” and that his mission was to “strengthen China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation,” according to the statement in English.

The US State Department did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

The former ambassador, Qin Gang, was promoted in December to become China’s new foreign minister. Earlier this month, Qin met US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns in Beijing for the first time.

Tensions between the two countries escalated in February after the United States shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon over American airspace. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had planned to visit Beijing around this time, but decided to postpone the trip after the balloon incident.

Over the weekend, US President Joe Biden said those tensions “would start to unfreeze very soon”.

“We are not looking to dissociate ourselves from China, we are looking to reduce risk and diversify our relationship with China,” Biden told reporters after the Group of Seven meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, according to a transcript of the White House.

The most optimistic scenario for a “thaw” is simply a halt in the decline of relations.

He did not discuss potential new rules limiting U.S. corporate investment in cutting-edge Chinese technology.

“The most optimistic scenario for a ‘thaw’ is simply a halt in the decline of relations,” Gabriel Wildau, chief executive of consultancy Teneo, said in a note. “For financial markets and multinationals operating in China, however, such a shutdown would be significant.”

“Even in the absence of concrete policy changes, a general sense that the downward spiral has stopped could reduce risk perceptions and unlock new investment.”

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