It was great to have a coffee with Ambassador Nick Burns whilst I was passing through Boston earlier this week. Now a Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics at Harvard, Nick had a stellar diplomatic career that saw him serve as US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (2005-2008), US Ambassador to NATO (2001-2005) and US Ambassador to Greece (1997-2001). During this period, he also led key strategic negotiations with India, Israel and Iran.
Nick continues to be one of the leading analysts of US foreign policy and its relations with the Middle East, APAC, South Asia, Europe and Latin America. In a recent Op-Ed in the Boston Globe, he proposed 3 key pillars of an effective US engagement with China in the 21st Century:
“First, Obama and Kerry should commit to more frequent meetings with the new Chinese leadership. American leaders still spend far more time with their European and Middle Eastern counterparts than they do with Chinese leaders. Engaging China is not a panacea but is the only way to begin building greater confidence and trust. Personal ties often matter in international politics. Thus, early meetings with Xi Jinping are imperative.
Second, the United States can look for progress where our interests are congruent with China’s — from ensuring stability in Afghanistan after the drawdown of NATO forces to combating piracy in the Horn of Africa to rebuilding the global economy.
Third, China has resisted working closely with the United States on Iran. Obama and Kerry can’t hope for dramatic progress overnight, but they can signal that greater Chinese cooperation to convince Iran to negotiate seriously on its nuclear program will be an early test of US willingness to help China on issues vital to its own security.”