The White House has dismissed this characterization, saying senior officials have spoken to Qin regularly.
But Bonnie Glaser, Asia program director at the German Marshall Fund, said she heard a similar account from Chinese embassy officials about Qin’s reception in DC.
“The embassy story, even as recently as the beginning of this year, was that Qin Gang was not seen by US officials, and so he was spending time at the subnational level…to make visit to mayors and governors,” Glaser said.
This left Qin navigating Washington through lower-level interactions: meetings with other foreign ambassadors, dinners with media executives, and the use of a corporate consultant who volunteered as a go-between with the elite of Washington.
Now the White House’s reluctance to engage could come back to haunt it, following Qin’s appointment last week to the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee – a post that puts him close to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s inner circle and could put Qin on the way to becoming a foreign minister.
The Biden administration needs allies as it tries to strike a delicate balance between tackling China’s military and economic power, while finding ways to work with Beijing on global issues like climate change.
“I think he’s going to go back to Beijing with a pretty big chip on his shoulder for not being treated with the dignity and respect he felt he deserved,” said Ryan Hass, former China manager, Taiwan. and Mongolia to National Security. Council, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Glaser of the Marshall Fund said the administration began granting Qin extensive access to U.S. officials in the run-up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August — an apparent effort to mitigate the Chinese anger during this visit.
The White House said it placed no limits on Qin’s interactions.
“Senior White House officials — as well as senior officials from across the administration — continue to engage with Ambassador Qin regularly since his arrival in Washington, as part of our efforts to keep lines of communication open” with China, spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.
A senior administration official said in a statement that in addition to Campbell and Rosenberger, Qin also met with officials including U.S. Commerce Representative Katherine Tai, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of State. AgricultureTom Vilsack. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether Qin’s access to senior officials has changed over the past 15 months.
The White House’s frequency and levels of engagement with diplomatic envoys differs from country to country, so it’s unclear whether the meetings Qin had — or were denied — would be considered staggered. more generally, especially given the strained relations with China.
The Chinese Embassy declined to comment for this story.
The White House simply didn’t consider Qin a player, according to one of the people familiar with the meeting requests – a former administration official.
“Until recently, the opinion in Washington, including within the administration, was that Qin was not super connected to the policy-making process in Beijing,” the former official said. “Qin expressed his frustration to various people over what he saw as the administration’s reluctance to see him as a serious middleman” with Xi.
A Washington, DC-based diplomat familiar with Qin’s dealings with the administration said Beijing’s apparent insensitivity to Qin fueled skepticism about his influence in his country. “There were one or two issues where the United States wanted his help on certain things, but he just couldn’t — he didn’t seem to be fully aware,” the diplomat said, declining to comment. name the problems. .
The White House denied underestimating Qin’s ties to the CCP’s senior leadership, saying in a statement, “We assume that every PRC ambassador in Washington, including Ambassador Qin, is well connected with the senior leadership. leadership of the PRC government.
One of the people who spoke to POLITICO said Qin was snubbed as “reciprocation” for the Chinese government preventing the US ambassador to Beijing from meeting with Chinese officials.
The Biden administration said in a statement there was “no reward” and noted that the US ambassador to China – Nicholas Burns – met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on October 28. But this only seems to be the third session. he’s had with a senior Chinese official since arriving in Beijing in April, according to a catalog of meetings Burns posted on his Twitter feed. Neither the U.S. Embassy in Beijing nor the White House responded to a request for a list of Burns’ high-level government meetings this year.
With no high-level access until recently, Qin has relied on corporate consultant Juleanna Glover — dubbed “the whisperer mogul” for her track record advising Fortune 500 clients, including Netflix, Tesla and AT&T – to facilitate introductions to DC power brokers.
Glover said she took on the role of mediator with Qin to provide him with introductions to “super-smart and principled policy makers” as well as pressuring him for the release of imprisoned pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy. Lai in Hong Kong. She said she didn’t work for Qin in an official capacity.
Glover met Qin in December at a dinner party at the home of then-Bloomberg Media chief executive Justin Smith in the Tony Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, DC.
“I had just finished the book ‘2034: A Novel of the Next World War’ which is about a war between the United States and China,” Glover said. “But the most important thing is that India wins. So I sent him the book and said, ‘Read to the end.’ And that’s how we started talking. Qin, she said, seemed open to discussing a range of US-China issues.
Glover argues that Qin should be considered a valuable resource for DC’s diplomatic corps and the Biden administration.
Qin is “a direct link to the most senior leaders in China and it is crucial that…he and Chinese leaders have equal insight and understanding into what serious American policymakers think about the future of our two countries,” said Qin. she declared.
That said, Qin wasn’t much of a peacemaker.
In his first public address to the United States as ambassador in September 2021, Qin denounced American “false beliefs” and warned against violating Beijing’s “red line” on Taiwan, over its claims on parts of the South China Sea or its treatment of the Uyghur Ethnic Minority.
He ominously pointed to China’s nuclear weapons capability and warned of “disastrous consequences” if the United States sought to suppress China using a “Cold War playbook”.
In Washington, he is known as someone who doesn’t back down from a fight.
“He was a difficult operator and it was not easy to work with him,” said the foreign diplomat.
This is a marked difference from the approach taken by the previous Chinese ambassador, Cui Tiankai.
“Cui was a masterful diplomat…he was reserved and he wouldn’t throw a punch unless he was punched,” Craig Allen told the US-China Business Council. “Qin Gang is more active and willing to express themselves.”
But Qin has earned the respect of the American business community for seeking solutions to issues affecting American businesses in China. “I’ve always found him to be very pragmatic — he’s interested in the real problems that businesses face in China, and he wants to help solve those problems within his constraints,” Allen said.
At a February dinner in the private dining room of a Georgetown restaurant, Glover assembled a group that included Neera Tanden, a senior adviser to Biden and the president’s staff secretary, and Jay Carney, a former spokesperson for the Obama administration and then chief spokesperson for Amazon. Qin arrived late, sat at the head of the table, and calmly answered questions about Taiwan, the trade, and abuses against Muslim Uyghurs.
Qin expressed frustration that these topics dominate the bilateral agenda at the expense of a focus on pressing international issues such as poverty.
Some say the administration may already be overcoming its reluctance to engage.
“Someone made a mistake in our system – either [Qin] was more influential than we imagined and we should have known, otherwise he snuck into the Central Committee without us realizing it was possible,” the former administration official said. “But anyway, if we had known what we know now, we probably would have operated a little differently and invested a little more energy in trying to build trust with him.”