OPINION

The significance of Biden picking Burns for China ambassador

the-significance-of-biden-picking-burns-for-china-ambassador

US President Joe Biden has chosen former senior State Department official and ex-ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns to serve as his ambassador to China – Washington’s most important diplomatic mission in the world.

One of the most experienced American diplomats, Burns has served in key posts during both Democratic and Republican presidencies. He will be a key piece in the puzzle of the complex relationship between the US and China, a very important part of US diplomacy as Biden sees China as America’s main strategic rival.

At the same time, notwithstanding their tough competition in terms of trade and geopolitics, Washington and Beijing will need to cooperate on major issues such as climate change and North Korea, and Burns seems the right choice for the task.

With respect to Greece, as Chinese investments have become an increasingly important factor for the Greek economy, Burns’ choice cam prove useful. The US makes no secret of its skepticism regarding Beijing’s influence among Western countries – most evidently, China’s technological infiltration through 5G networks.

In light of this, the presence of an experienced professional with deep knowledge of Greek reality and the role of Greece, as head of the US Embassy in Beijing and an important voice in the planning and execution of the Administration’s diplomatic strategy, should mark a positive development for Athens.

Managing the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies requires knowledge as well as broad political backing. Burns appears to possess both. His skills and connections are well known. He is well respected in the area of foreign policy and has access to both parties, which should make his daunting task a bit more manageable.

The 65-year-old professor at the Harvard Kennedy School was a spokesman for the State Department and had close cooperation with Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright in the 1990s. He subsequently served as US ambassador to NATO and as under secretary of state for political affairs. He also was the lead US negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program, under Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

All the above suggest that Burns’ Senate confirmation should be smooth and swift.