Government & Military

Cui Tiankai

Beijing's man in Washington shows what soft power can do.

China's Ambassador to the United States

The Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. is not known for its expert touch with foreign journalists, particularly when contentious issues like Beijing’s artificial island building in the South China Sea hit the headlines. But behind the scenes, Ambassador Cui Tiankai, who exudes a particular charisma and facility with English, has become a busy and effective power broker. In December 2016, a still-stunned American electorate was wondering aloud what would happen to the U.S.-China relationship after the inauguration of Donald Trump, who had made his disdain for China known on the campaign trail. Yet Cui, who has a degree from Johns Hopkins University and made a splash shortly after his 2013 appointment to ambassador when he took his wife to the Super Bowl, was already laying the groundwork for a détente with the president-elect. Cui met twice with Trump’s son-in-law and future White House advisor, Jared Kushner, and began a period of close contact that led to a Trump-Xi summit this April, one that went far smoother than many had feared.

“I think he’s under incredible pressure from Beijing to find inroads within the Trump administration, or at least keep things on an even keel” in the run-up to China’s hypersensitive nineteenth Party Congress late this year,” Bill Bishop, editor of the influential Sinocism newsletter, told


. “So far he seems to have done a good job of it.”

(Photo credit: Misha Friedman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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