Photo: Courtesy of Harvard’s Belfer Center


Nicholas Burns '78 Is the New Ambassador to China 

The BC alum tweeted that he’s looking forward to doing “vital work for our country.”

In March, Nicholas Burns ’78 arrived in Beijing as the new U.S. ambassador to China, filling a post that had been open for more than a year. The longtime diplomat was nominated by President Biden last August, but wasn’t confirmed by the Senate until December. “I am grateful to President Biden for this opportunity to represent the United States in the People’s Republic of China,” Burns tweeted after his confirmation. “And I am looking forward to working with our superb career professionals at our embassy and consulates who are doing such vital work for our country.”

During his Senate confirmation hearing last October, Burns described the relationship between the U.S. and China as “complicated and consequential.” He pledged that the United States would compete with China in areas including the economy, critical infrastructure, and emerging technologies, and cooperate with the country in areas that are in America’s interest, such as climate change, drug enforcement, global health, and nuclear nonproliferation. Maintaining the relationship between the American and Chinese people is important, he said in his opening statement, but “we will challenge the PRC where we must, including when Beijing takes actions that run counter to America’s values and interests; threaten the security of the United States or our allies and partners; or undermine the rules-based international order.”

Burns has previously spent decades in the State Department, serving in roles such as under secretary of state for political affairs; ambassador to NATO and to Greece; and State Department spokesperson. Burns has prior experience working with the Chinese government on issues including the war in Afghanistan, the United Nations sanctions against Iran and North Korea, and U.S. policy in the Indo-Pacific. Most recently, he worked as the executive director of the foreign policy think tank the Aspen Strategy Group, and as a senior counselor at the consulting firm The Cohen Group. He is on public-service leave from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he is a professor of the practice of diplomacy and international relations. Burns is also a Boston College Trustee. (Burns declined to comment for this article, as his legal team has advised him against speaking to any institution where he has served as a board member.) 

Jane Hartley Is the New U.K. Ambassador

Photo of Jane Hartley

Jane Hartley NC ’72 has been confirmed as the ambassador to the United Kingdom. Hartley served as ambassador to France during the Obama administration, and is the first woman in forty-five years to serve as ambassador to the U.K. Her appointment comes at a time of complicated relations between America and the U.K. Both President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have committed to the ongoing security and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, for instance, but Biden has voiced concerns that the fallout from Brexit could jeopardize the peace in Northern Ireland.

Throughout Hartley’s time as the ambassador to France, a particular focus was counterterrorism cooperation. She served during the fatal 2015 shootings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Bataclan theater, and the 2016 truck attack in Nice, and ultimately received the Legion of Honor award from French President François Hollande. Previously, Hartley was chief executive officer of the international advisory firm the Observatory Group. She also holds board positions at several organizations. —Elizabeth Clemente

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