Camden Conference In the World-May 2021
Nicholas Burns, who has appeared numerous times at Camden Conferences as a speaker and moderator, could soon become US Ambassador to China, according to reports in the Axios, Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. Naming Burns — a former senior US diplomat and now Harvard professor — as US envoy to Beijing “could be a positive signal to China that Biden is taking the interaction seriously,” David Dollar, Treasury Department envoy to Beijing in the Obama administration, told the WSJ. “He’s not just a political person but someone with a policy background.” Speaking recently with public radio host Marco Werman of The World, Burns said trade is the No. 1 US issue with China: “We have to hold the Chinese to account and we have to compete with China and pressure them to observe all the trade rules that would allow our companies and our workers to be able to compete on a level playing field.” A “battle of ideas” between authoritarianism and democracy is another top issue for Burns.
Matthew Rojansky, keynoter for the 2015 Camden Conference on Russia Resurgent — at which Burns was moderator — has also been considered for a senior position in the Biden Administration: Russia director on the National Security Council, according to Axios. However, reports in Politico and elsewhere suggest Rojansky lost out for the job because of opposition from Russia hawks. Interestingly, the Belfer Center at Harvard, where Burns serves on the board, last month published a “compilation of the observations and policy ideas related to Russia” by Rojansky, who is director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Several prior Camden Conference personalities have been getting new jobs and awards of late. Keynoter from the 2020 conference on The Media Revolution, Nicco Mele, left as director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the media and politics to become managing director of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation. Maria Ressa, who also spoke in Camden in 2020, was awarded the annual press freedom prize by Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. And Cas Mudde, a 2017 conference speaker, was named Distinguished Research Professor 2021 by the University of Georgia, where he is Stanley Wade Shelton Professor in the Department of International Affairs. That’s in addition to his continuing work as a Guardian columnist and tireless commentator on populism.
Another former CC speaker with a new position is Ma Jun, who was director of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs in Beijing when he spoke on “China’s Role in the Global Environment” in Camden in 2019. Ma recently retired from the monetary policy committee of the People’s Bank of China. However, as chair of the Green Finance Committee of China Society for Finance and Banking, a research body managed by the central bank (PBC), he warned last month of potential threats to China’s financial sector from loans to high-carbon-polluting industries such as coal as China moves towards its goal of carbon neutrality by 2060. Ma presented a more positive take on China’s energy transition in a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut and another 2017 Camden Conference speaker along with Mudde, made a career change decades ago that most of us probably missed: from architect to scholar and public policy advocate. Marwan Mausher, a former senior Jordanian diplomat and now colleague of Yahya’s at the Carnegie Center who spoke in Camden in 2013, helps explain the importance of architecture to Yahya’s approach to public policy.
Thomas Nilsen, a speaker from the 2021 conference on the Arctic, wrote last month in the Barents Observer about planning for what is slated to be the largest NATO exercise inside the Arctic Circle in Norway since the 1980s, dubbed Cold Response 2022. Nilsen, who edits the paper, links the exercises to “times of growing distrust between Russia and Europe.” Geopolitical tensions with Russia of were also cited by Nilsen as the cause of disruption in construction of what would be the world’s most northerly nuclear power plant, the planned Russian-designed Hanhikivi 1 unit at Pyhäjoki south of Oulu.