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Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced Tuesday he had placed a hold on President Biden's nominee for ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, over concerns about Burns' business relationships in China.

Why it matters: Burns is a widely respected former career diplomat who was expected to receive overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate. Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has stalled dozens of Biden's State Department nominees, lifted his blockade for Burns.

What he's saying: "Nicholas Burns has a long career in public service, but it is a career defined by the failure to understand the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party," Rubio said in a statement.

  • "In fact, Burns displayed no remorse or concern about his current business relationships with nationless corporations operating in China," he added, in what is likely a reference to Burns' global consulting work for The Cohen Group.
  • "Burns is exactly the type of nominee I expect from President Biden given this administration’s weak approach toward China, including lobbying against my bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act."

The big picture: Burns took a hard line on the Chinese government during his Senate confirmation hearing last month, saying it poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

  • Rubio's hold — which will delay, but not completely block Burns' confirmation — comes one day after Biden held a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of his push to place "guardrails" on the relationship.
  • Burns has echoed the Biden administration's position that the U.S. and China must find ways to cooperate on issues like climate change, even while engaged in intense competition in other areas.

Worth noting: Rubio also announced he had placed a hold on Biden's nominee for ambassador to Spain, Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón, due to concerns over her approach to Cuba. Reynoso currently serves as first lady Jill Biden's chief of staff and was previously U.S. ambassador to Uruguay under President Obama.

Go deeper

Nov 16, 2021 - World

Olympics sponsors caught between U.S. and China

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies that do business in China — especially Olympics sponsors — are concerned Beijing will use the 2022 Winter Games as a loyalty test.

Why it matters: China's leaders have become adept at silencing criticism from U.S. companies that might otherwise condemn the country's human rights record — and the Chinese government has been able to host prestigious global events like the Olympics while committing rights violations with impunity.

28 mins ago - World

Report: LGBTQ+ Afghans' lives "dramatically worsened" under Taliban rule

Taliban fighters in Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this month. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

LGBTQ+ Afghans have been threatened, attacked and "faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to their safety" since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August, per a report published Wednesday.

What they're saying: "We spoke with LGBT Afghans who have survived gang rape, mob attacks, or have been hunted by their own family members who joined the Taliban, and they have no hope that state institutions will protect them," per a statement from study co-author J. Lester Feder.

2 hours ago - World

Canadian Indigenous group finds 93 suspected unmarked graves

A makeshift memorial honoring the 215 children whose remains were found in a mass grave in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, last May. Photo: Cole Burston/AFP via Getty Images

Indigenous leaders in Canada's western province of British Columbia said Tuesday they believe they've found 93 unmarked graves near a former boarding school.

The big picture: Hundreds of mass graves have been found at the grounds of former residential schools for Indigenous children since last May, when the remains of 215 children were uncovered at one such site in B.C.