Conversations in Diplomacy: Zhang Yesui

  • Charles Hobbs
| Oct. 29, 2011 Series: Conversations in Diplomacy


Independence, peace, and cooperation -  according to Zhang Yesui, Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations, these three concepts are the cornerstones of Chinese foreign policy in the 21st century. Ambassador Zhang, who spoke with Future of Diplomacy Project Faculty Director, Nicholas Burns, during a visit in October 2011, said that history has taught the Chinese that sovereignty and national security are paramount interests for any state. Because of this, Zhang asserted that China is also committed to “respect the people of other countries to choose their social system and path of development.” To accomplish these ends, China is “prepared to work with international partners to maintain peace and promote common development.”

Ambassador Zhang affirmed his country’s commitment to good relations with the United States: “We must be creative in managing this relationship. We must not view US-China relations as a zero sum game; we must view this as a partnership that works for both countries.” This creativity, Zhang said, requires that both sides must advance cooperation and trust on economic, political, and security fronts. For both the US and China, Zhang warned that such trust-building measures will require sacrifice; just as the US has often raised complaints about China’s export controls, so too does China desire to see an end to US arms sales to Taiwan. International organizations, such as ASEAN and APEC, can “be a good forum for the two countries to sit together and discuss tensions…and how best to cooperate,” particularly in the Pacific region.

On a number of the most important current issues in international affairs, Ambassador Zhang pointed out that the US and China are currently collaborating to arrive at mutually satisfactory conclusions. In Korea, he said that “our objective is to maintain peace and stability…[China] would like to see a denuclearized Korean peninsula.” Working through the six-party talks, Zhang believed that this end can be achieved. Similarly, with regards to the Iranian nuclear program, “within the P5+1, China is a very active participant, and we have always upheld the principle of keeping the six countries together…at the same time, we also work with the Iranians through our bilateral channel to urge them to fulfill their international obligations.” While, as Professor Burns pointed out, none of these talks have yet yielded significant results, Ambassador Zhang insisted that only through a collaborative approach could these conflicts be resolved.

Zhang Yesui is a Chinese diplomat and formerly the Chinese Ambassador to the United States. After studying in China, he completed his studies at the London School of Economics and later assumed various posts in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2003, he became the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, covering areas such as Africa, Europe, North America, and International Treaty and Law. In 2008, he was appointed China’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

Conversations in Diplomacy is the Future of Diplomacy Project's Podcast Series. The podcasts bring together policymakers, academics, and professionals from around the world of international relations for candid discussions of pressing topics in world affairs.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hobbs, Charles. “Conversations in Diplomacy: Zhang Yesui.” News, , October 29, 2011.

The Author