Beijing. The man tasked with navigating the world’s second largest economy through the defining struggle of our time set foot on American soil on Wednesday. Before saying goodbye to his 14-day quarantine, Qin Gang, the future Chinese ambassador to Washington, made a conciliatory statement: the two countries should treat each other with “mutual respect” and strive for “peaceful coexistence.”
But the charitable discourse will soon be over. The 55-year-old with a stylish side parting and always elegant suits ultimately takes not only the most important position in the embassy, but also the most challenging.
Qin Gang’s role will be to embody China’s new self-respect against the United States. With Joe Biden, there is a president in the White House that Beijing considers at least as hostile as his predecessor Donald Trump.
Giving Chen this role comes as a huge surprise. Since the position in Washington has become vacant, his name has not even appeared on the sidelines in the hearsay mill. This mainly relates to the fact that Chen does not have significant American experience or a wealthy network in Washington.
On the other hand, his predecessor Cui Tiankai was not only China’s ambassador to the US, but he was also seen as a moderating factor despite the highly polarized relations. In this regard, Chen is now walking in a very great stride.
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Above all, he can be described as a classic professional diplomat. Born in 1966 in the eastern coastal city of Tianjin, he graduated from the University of International Relations in Beijing. As early as 1988, Chen appointed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which quickly ascended its hierarchical levels.
His great strength lies in close contact with President Xi Jinping, who has accompanied him on several state visits. Just how good the chemistry between the two can be can be seen in a number of official photo documents.
Qin Gang’s appointment is, to some extent, a sort of compromise: He’s not a classic “wolf warrior,” as the ultra-nationalist diplomats from China are called, who, in Trump’s fashion, don’t shy away from verbal equivocations and targeted disinformation campaigns.
But Chen isn’t a blank slate either: As a former foreign ministry spokesman, he’s made a name for himself as a “hard bone” among Beijing reporters. Because his answers to the daily briefings were direct and difficult.
When the United States of America published its annual Human Rights Report in 2006, Chen Gang presented his current host country as a symbolic “gift” with a Confucian text in English translation – with the following phrase: You must first keep your heart straight and refine your soul before you can make a country good can control. Such a gesture reveals a great deal of insolence associated with the fight.
His first official actions after quarantine will not be easy. Because Chen has to work through the long list of complaints that Foreign Minister Wang Yi made to a US government delegation this week during his visit to Tianjin: the visa exemption for Chinese doctoral students and journalists is one of the most obvious.
When it comes to questions about Xinjiang and Hong Kong, the two sides likely won’t find common ground anyway, despite greater diplomatic skill.
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There is different information about whether Chen appears self-confident or narrow-minded. In 2008, American rock band Guns n’ Roses sparked controversy after calling their album “Chinese Democracy.” Chen replied that “a lot of people do not like this kind of music.” It’s way too “loud and noisy”.
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