Ambassador William J. Burns served for over three decades at the highest levels of the U.S. government shaping U.S. foreign policy through significant international moments. Now, as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Ambassador Burns spoke with Paul Haenle about future of U.S. diplomacy, the rise of China, and the Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore.

Burns said the world is in the midst of considerable uncertainty and transition. He pointed to the emergence of rising powers like China and India, challenges to regional order in the Middle East, and revolutions in new technologies as driving changes in the international landscape and reshaping the global economy. Burns argued that international institutions and alliances must be updated to reflect new power realities and that effective diplomacy will be more important than ever. China’s rise is the most consequential phenomenon on the international landscape, Burns said, and the U.S.-China relationship will face significant challenges as the two countries adapt to each other’s shifting global influence. Ahead of the Trump-Kim summit, Burns emphasized the need for realistic expectations and careful preparation to close the gap between U.S. and North Korean views on fundamental issues like denuclearization. He stressed the need for a unified multilateral approach to secure a deal, taking into account, for example, the role of China and the significance of U.S. alliance relationships with the Republic of Korea and Japan.

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Prior to joining Carnegie, he served from June 2007 to June 2009 as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

William J. Burns

Bill Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States. Ambassador Burns retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 after a thirty-three-year diplomatic career. He holds the highest rank in the Foreign Service, career ambassador, and is only the second serving career diplomat in history to become deputy secretary of state.