China’s longest-serving ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai will be leaving his post on Tuesday after eight years, the longest a Chinese ambassador has ever served, as he has crossed the retirement age of 65 for senior Chinese diplomats.

Cui, 68, who was known for keeping his cool during the often heated disagreements between Beijing and the administration of former President Donald Trump, is retiring at a time of strained relations between the world’s two largest economies.

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In a public farewell letter posted on the Chinese Foreign ministry website, retiring Cui wrote; “I will forever treasure the deep friendship forged with the Chinese nationals here during my posting in the United States.”

Although no statement has been made on who will take over Cui’s post, there are media hints that Qin Gang, 55, a foreign ministry vice minister and trusted aide of President Xi Jinping, is most likely expected to fall in line.

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Qin served Xi as his chief protocol officer between 2014 to 2018, a period during which Xi travelled abroad frequently and hosted many high-profile domestic events.

He was also the spokesman of the foreign ministry from 2006-2010 and 2011-2014.

During the time, Qin is well-known to take a more assertive approach in defending China.

Asked at a press conference in February about China’s so-called “wolf warrior” diplomacy – an assertive and often abrasive style adopted by many Chinese diplomats in recent years – Qin defended China’s right to reject the “baseless smears” and called the people who made these accusations “evil wolves”.

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