Home Diplomatic Spotlight Diplomatic Spotlight — Feb. 3, 2024

Diplomatic Spotlight — Feb. 3, 2024

Diplomatic Spotlight — Feb. 3, 2024
United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba speaks in the final video of the 50 Years | 50 Faces series. (Screengrab)

It’s a wrap: UAE marks 50 years, US friendship with ‘story diplomacy’ videos

A project launched three years ago by the United Arab Emirates embassy in Washington celebrates the UAE’s 50th anniversary and highlights its relationship with the United States in a unique way: through a series of short videos that could be called “story diplomacy.”

The project, called 50 Years | 50 Faces, started with the story of current UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba, when he was a student-athlete at Georgetown, and was finalized last month with another interview in which Otaiba reflects on the breadth and depth of the UAE’s friendship with the United States.

“We spoke with Emiratis and Americans, across decades, and from all walks of life – artists and athletes, educators and entertainers, poets and even presidents,” the ambassador says in the series finale, which was posted on January 23.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis arrives at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 7, 2018. Mattis praised the professionalism and dependability of the UAE military in his interview for 50 Years | 50 Faces. (Lisa Ferdinando/Dept. of Defense)

Former U.S. President George W. Bush, who was the first sitting U.S. president to visit the UAE, contributed to the collection of videos, as did the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. Jason Carter spoke of efforts by the Carter Center to eradicate Guinea worm disease, and the UAE’s support for that and other global health projects.



Alia Al Mansoori, of the UAE, watches as her science experiment is launched into space. She contributed to the 50 Years | 50 Faces video series produced by the UAE embassy in Washington. (Courtesy UAE embassy)

Former U.S. ambassador to the UAE Marcelle Wahba, who arrived at her post a month after 9/11; two U.S. former defense secretaries, Jim Mattis and William Cohen, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also contributed to the series.




UAE sports photographer turned hockey player takes a selfie with her hero Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (back, left). Ali’s video contribution to the 50 Years | 50 Faces video series breaks stereotypes about Arab women. (Courtesy UAE Embassy)

The series of short videos also features a pitmaster who brought Texas-style brisket to the UAEan Emirati teenager who loves science, space and Star Wars, and whose experiment was launched into space by NASA; and a female ice hockey player whose skills earned her and her teammates the opportunity to meet the Washington Capitals ice hockey team.

Fifty-eight ‘Faces’ tell their stories in the videos.

“Each individual story is remarkable, but taken together, 50 Years | 50 Faces demonstrates the longstanding friendship and shared values between the UAE and U.S.,” a spokesperson for the UAE Embassy in Washington said in an email statement.

Click here and scroll down to watch the video collection.

‘Less rivalry, more goodwill’: China celebrates Year of the Dragon, 45 years of relations with the US

An event at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 16, 2024, rang in the Year of the Dragon and celebrated 45 years of U.S.-China diplomatic relations. (Metamorworks via Shutterstock)

High-ranking U.S., Chinese and international officials and businesspeople joined hundreds of guests at the Chinese Embassy on Jan. 16 to celebrate the upcoming Year of the Dragon and 45 years of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington.

During nearly four hours of festivities, guests listened to speeches, tasted Chinese food, tried on the once-outlawed traditional Han Chinese style of dress known as hanfu—which is now making something of a comeback—and enjoyed musical performances by Chinese and American artists.

Ambassador Xie Feng noted in a speech that the dragon symbolizes good luck, prosperity and strength, and carries wishes for a smooth year with good weather and a bumper harvest.

“We hope the world will see less rivalry but more goodwill, less ‘fuming dragon, roaring tiger’ but more ‘soaring dragon, leaping tiger,’” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a message of congratulations for the diplomatic anniversary, as did former U.S. Ambassadors to China J. Stapleton Roy, Joseph Prueher, Clark T. Randt, Jon Huntsman, Gary Locke, Max Baucus and Terry Branstad.

Connie Sweeris, a member of the U.S. table tennis team who in 1971 were invited to China to play against the vastly superior Chinese team, recalled in a video message how ping pong diplomacy had opened the door to friendship between the Chinese and Americans.

After the table tennis team’s visit to China, then National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger and U.S. President Richard Nixon traveled to the country. They were followed by American basketball players, physicists and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The communiqué that established diplomatic relations between the two countries was signed on Jan. 1, 1979 – and some credit ping pong diplomacy with paving the way for the landmark event.

Over the past 45 years, the U.S.-China relationship has grown into “the most important bilateral relationship in the world,” Xie said in his speech.

“We need to stay committed to our original aspirations, follow the trend of history, use the past as a guide, and bear in mind the future of humanity and the well-being of the people, so as to usher in a brighter future together,” he said.

A summit meeting in San Francisco in November between President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping helped to reset relations and rekindle cooperation between the two giants after a rocky few years when Donald Trump was president. Relations were further chilled when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022.

The San Francisco summit marked a new starting point in the relationship, with “rare opportunities and complex challenges”—and one big sticking point: Xie called it “the Taiwan question.”

“No matter how the situation on the island may unfold, it will not change the fact that there is but one China in the world and that Taiwan is part of China,” he said.

The 1979 communiqué recognizes the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China, but allows the people of the United States to maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.

The ambassador’s speech is available here.

The Year of the Dragon starts on Feb. 10.

Karin Zeitvogel

Karin Zeitvogel started her journalism career at the BBC World Service and has worked since then for international media outlets and organizations including Agence France-Presse, U.N. agencies, Voice of America, RIA Novosti and the National Institutes of Health. She's lived in nine countries, speaks fluent French and German, good Spanish and a smattering of other languages.