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Prof likely to be US envoy in Beijing

[ 2009-02-17 11:22]     字号 [] [] []  
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Tsinghua University professor and former Goldman Sachs president John Thornton is a likely candidate for the US ambassadorship to Beijing, a US political newspaper reported recently.

The speculation emerged as a key question surrounding US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's upcoming China trip remained unanswered: Who will be the new US ambassador to arrange Clinton's three-day visit to Beijing from Friday?

Conventionally, the US ambassador should be designated before the visit to accompany the top US diplomat.

But US embassy in Beijing spokesperson Susan Stevenson told China Daily yesterday: "President Obama has not yet named an ambassador to China."

Some Chinese experts said it is possible Clinton might announce the appointment in Beijing.

According to the Washington DC-based daily Nelson Report, Thornton, who in 2004 left his $11.2 million annual salary as Goldman Sachs' president to become a Tsinghua University guest professor earning a dollar a year, is one of the two top candidates.

The New York Times also reported on February 5 that Thornton had been "mentioned as a possible candidate for US ambassador to China".

The other probable candidate is president of the United States National Committee on US-China Relations Stephen Orlins, the report said.

Both candidates are renowned for their deep understanding of, and long-term relationship with, Beijing.

"Thornton is a big name on campus," a clerk who answered the phone at Tsinghua's School of Economics and Management said yesterday.

Thornton's "global leadership" course is among Tsinghua's most popular, said the clerk, who refused to be named.

"Thornton used his personal network to invite big names in global, economic and political circles to give lectures that the students went wild for," he said.

Another clerk, who only gave her surname, Wang, said Thornton was one of 2008's two laureates for the "Friendship Award" - the highest honor for foreign experts who have made great contributions to China.

Orlins is known for his contributions to "ping-pong diplomacy" in the 1970s that warmed frigid relations between Washington and Beijing, and led to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979.

Earlier this year, he suggested then US president-elect Barack Obama pay an early visit to China.

The Nelson Report also listed other candidates for the position, most of whom are senior China experts.

"The position of US ambassador to China is attractive to many people," Peking University scholar of US studies Niu Jun said.

"In addition, the process of naming an ambassador involves many factors."

Former US ambassador to China Clark Randt left office on January 20, Obama's inauguration day. He had served as ambassador to Beijing for seven and a half years - the longest term for a US ambassador to the country.

At the farewell press conference, Randt reportedly said the US ambassadorship to Beijing is the best position in the entire US administration.


1. Why are John Thorton's classes at Tsinghua University so popular?

2. Stephen Orlins is known for what contribution?

3. What did former US ambassador to China Clark Randt say about the US ambassadorship to China?


1. He invites big names in political, economic and global fields to give lectures to the students.

2. He contributed to "ping-pong diplomacy" in the 1970s that warmed relations between Washington and Beijing.

3. It’s the best position in the entire US administration.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Prof likely to be US envoy in Beijing

About the broadcaster:

Prof likely to be US envoy in BeijingBernice Chan is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bernice has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and most recently worked as a broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, producing current affairs shows and documentaries.