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Neither the United States nor China will soon have ambassadors in their respective capitals.  Will it make a difference?


China’s longest-serving ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, has ad he retired after eight years, adding another layer of uncertainty in the relations between the two great powers.

Cui, 68, whose time in Washington covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, has witnessed a profound change in US-China relations. During his tenure, Beijing grew increasingly confident and assertive, demanding that he be treated equally. Washington, on the other hand, has been wary of China’s rise to power, viewing it as a strategic rival and a potential threat to the US-led world order.

“Relations between China and the United States are at a critical crossroads, with the United States embarking on a new round of restructuring its government policy towards China, and it is faced with a choice between cooperation and confrontation, “Cui wrote in a farewell letter posted on the embassy’s website Tuesday.

And until the arrival of his successor, who has not yet been announced, neither Beijing nor Washington will have a main envoy in the other’s capital.

Former US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad left Beijing last year ahead of the November election. Nicolas Burns, a former diplomat, is one of the main candidates for the post, but the Biden administration has yet to make an official announcement.

The unusual diplomatic vacuum is just the latest sign of the current breakdown in formal relations in what is considered the most important bilateral relationship in the world.

Under the Trump administration, tensions between the United States and China erupted on a variety of fronts, from trade and technology, geopolitics and national defense.

And with Biden making China an authoritarian rival to Western democracy, while also seeking to form an alliance to counter Beijing, tensions are likely to escalate further.

Cui, who has stayed well beyond the traditional retirement age of 65, is widely seen as a rare stabilizer in this volatile mix. He is typical of old-school Chinese diplomats, adept at expressing a firm stance in moderation and a measured tone. And that sets him apart from the younger and growing cohort of Beijing “wolf warrior” diplomats, known for their aggressive defense of China and hostile public attacks by critics.
In March of last year, Cui denounced the conspiracy theory promoted by his colleague Zhao Lijian – a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry and the face of Chinese diplomacy of the “wolf warrior” – that the coronavirus originated from ‘an American military laboratory. “How can we believe all these crazy things? “He said in an interview with” Axios on HBO “.

Cui is expected to be replaced by Qin Gang, a career diplomat who currently serves as deputy foreign minister overseeing European affairs. Qin is considered a trusted aide to President Xi Jinping, having accompanied the Chinese leader on numerous overseas trips as chief of protocol.

But unlike Cui, Qin has never been an Ambassador and has no direct experience with the United States.

Before Cui was sent to Washington in 2013, he had already had a close relationship with the Obama administration during his four-year tenure as Deputy Foreign Minister in charge of the Americas and Oceania.

But for Qin, it’s a much more difficult time to build bridges in Washington, which has taken an uncompromising bipartisan stance towards China.

In increasingly strained relations, there is very little room for maneuver for the Chinese Ambassador, as all important policies and decisions will be made in Beijing. But Qin can still make a difference by not further deteriorating relations with inflammatory remarks, as some Chinese “wolf warrior” diplomats have done in other countries.

Photo of the day

A decisive test: Police stand guard outside the trial of the first person charged under Hong Kong’s controversial National Security Act. Tong Ying-kit’s trial began on Wednesday without a jury, a marked departure from the city’s common law traditions.

Tong, 24, pleaded not guilty to both counts of inciting secession and terrorism. He was arrested on July 1 last year after allegedly riding his motorcycle among a group of police officers during a pro-democracy protest, less than 24 hours after the sweeping new law came into effect. At the time, he carried a banner with the popular protest slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time” – which is now a ground for inciting secession under the new law, prosecutors said.

Tong also faces an additional charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.

China crackdown upsets cryptos

China’s cryptocurrency crusade is driving bitcoin to its lowest level since January.
Bitcoin, the world’s largest crypto, briefly fell below $ 30,000 on Tuesday as China further curbed mining activity and told major payment platforms and lenders that crypto trading would not be tolerated.

This is not a new strategy for Beijing, which for years banned financial and payment institutions from dealing with bitcoin and called on cryptos to pose risks to financial stability.

But the country has recently picked up the pace of its anti-crypto campaign.

Cryptocurrency prices fell to double digits in May after Beijing said it would “curtail bitcoin mining and trading,” prompting some miners to suspend operations. Crypto mining is a critical step in the process needed to bring more of these coins into circulation, and China is taking the lion’s share of that activity.

Over the weekend, Chinese state media reported that Sichuan Province, a mining hub, ordered all crypto mining operations to stop and cut off power to many mining facilities. . And on Monday, the People’s Bank of China said it summoned digital payments giant Alipay and a number of major commercial banks to warn them against trading in crypto.

Bitcoin has since recovered somewhat from its plunge on Tuesday, now trading just below $ 34,000. But it’s still a long way from the all-time high of nearly $ 65,000 per coin it hit in April, and analysts are warning of more volatility to come.

“Bitcoin is in the danger zone,” wrote Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a research note. If the cryptocurrency’s value drops beyond $ 29,000, he warned that an even larger drop to $ 25,000 could come quickly.

“The bullish case for Bitcoin is falling apart,” Moya said, adding that some long-term investors might fear that even a value of $ 20,000 per coin cannot be defended.

–By Laura Il

Around asia

  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to jail those who refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus as his country battles one of Asia’s worst epidemics. “You choose, vaccine or I put you in jail,” he said in a televised address on Monday.
  • Burmese security forces, backed by armored vehicles, clashed with a newly formed militia in Mandalay, the country’s second city, on Tuesday.
  • A Cambodian court has indicted four environmental activists with insulting the country’s king and conspiring, a prosecutor said on Monday, after three of them were arrested last week while documenting the dumping of waste into a river in the city.
  • Meanwhile, in China, Olympic champion Sun Yang’s hopes of competing in the Tokyo Games came to an end on Tuesday when the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the Chinese swimmer’s doping ban to four years from eight.

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