Alone in Beijing: A View From the Embassy


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The past six months have marked an especially rocky chapter in the U.S.-Chinese relationship. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy has made it difficult to travel around the country and has largely kept foreigners away. In August, Beijing cut off key channels of communication with Washington in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. In the months since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine, China has not condemned Russia’s unprovoked assault, nor has it publicly moved away from its “no limits” partnership with the Kremlin. More recently, new trade restrictions from the Biden administration have dealt a serious blow to the Chinese semiconductor industry. All in all, it has been a tense and unusual time in this fragile but immensely important relationship.

As the United States’ top diplomat to China, Ambassador Nick Burns has had to navigate the challenges of the last few months, strongly pushing back on China where the Biden administration disagrees with Beijing but also trying to find opportunities where communication, and even cooperation, is possible. He brings enormous experience to the job. Burns previously served at the State Department as undersecretary for political affairs, as ambassador to NATO and to Greece, and as State Department spokesperson. He has also worked on the National Security Council staff on Soviet and Russian affairs.

We discuss the challenges facing China, how China views American power, and what it’s like to represent the United States in Beijing today.

You can find transcripts and more episodes of The Foreign Affairs Interview at

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