Nicholas Burns Stepping Down as Executive Director of the Aspen Strategy Group to become Ambassador of the United States to China & Anja Manuel Named Next Executive Director of the Aspen Strategy Group

December 22, 2021

Ambassador Burns has led the Aspen Strategy Group since 2009.


Contact: Jon Purves
Associate Director, Media Relations
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, December 22, 2021 –– Nicholas Burns today stepped down as executive director of the Aspen Strategy Group to become the U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. Anja Manuel – a former American diplomat and current partner and co-founder of Rice, Hadley, Gates & Manuel ­– will transition from her role as director of the Aspen Strategy Group to succeed Ambassador Burns as executive director.

Ambassador Burns has led the Aspen Strategy Group since 2009. He oversaw the expansion and diversification of its membership; the creation of track II dialogues with Brazil, China, and Europe, and the continuation of the India dialogue; the merger of the Aspen Strategy Group and Aspen Security Forum; and the inauguration of the Rising Leaders Program to ensure a robust pipeline of young professionals and formalize the mentorship that is in the DNA of the Aspen Strategy Group. Manuel has been involved with Aspen since 2008 and became director of the Strategy Group in 2019 to work alongside Ambassador Burns to expand the purview of the group.

“The Aspen Institute is grateful to Ambassador Nicholas Burns for his leadership of the Aspen Strategy Group. Under his tenure, the group enhanced its already strong reputation as one of the country’s most vital nonpartisan foreign policy initiatives,” said Dan Porterfield, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute.“ Ambassador Burns now returns to public service in a critical position, and we wish him every success in his new appointment. We are delighted that Anja Manuel, who is also an experienced diplomat and a substantive expert, will lead the group into an exciting new chapter as its executive director.”

“It has been rewarding to work alongside Nick Burns, first on the NSC staff during the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism in Eastern Europe, then at the State Department, and most recently at the Aspen Strategy Group,” said Condoleezza Rice, co-chair of the Aspen Strategy Group. “He is a dedicated diplomat who is deeply respected in Washington and foreign capitals for his counsel and commitment to American values. Nick brings to Beijing a wealth of experience, having served as ambassador to Greece and to NATO, and as undersecretary of state for political affairs during my tenure as secretary of state. I thank him for his friendship and leadership and wish him the best as President Biden’s ambassador to China.

“Nick has provided exceptional leadership to the Aspen Strategy Group for the past twelve years,” said Joseph Nye, co-founder and co-chair of the Aspen Strategy Group. “From emerging technologies and U.S.-China Relations to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has addressed some of the most important questions of our time under his stewardship. We look forward to continuing our work with Anja Manuel, who possesses a keen understanding of the challenges at hand, as she leads the Aspen Strategy Group into a new, exciting chapter of growth.”

“It has been an honor to work with and learn from Ambassador Burns, both at the State Department and at the Aspen Strategy Group,” said Anja Manuel. “Nick leaves behind a tremendous legacy of growth as he returns to public service at this critical moment for American foreign policy. I wish him well and success in his new post in Beijing, and I look forward to working with Condoleezza Rice and Joseph Nye to expand upon Nick’s vision. I am also delighted that Niamh King, our steadfast deputy director since early 2020, has agreed to succeed me as director. Together, we will pursue our shared goals of nonpartisan problem solving, educating the public about the most important foreign policy issues of the day, and developing the next generation of American foreign policy leadership.”

The Aspen Strategy Group will continue to develop and expand its programming in 2022, with both the public Aspen Security Forum and private Summer Meeting expected to return to Aspen, CO after organizers successfully and safely convened an inaugural Forum this fall in Washington, D.C.


The Aspen Strategy Group’s mission is to convene decision makers in resolutely nonpartisan public and private forums to address key foreign policy challenges facing the United States. The ASG organizes its annual Summer Meeting in Aspen along with a variety of track II dialogues. It also presents the annual Aspen Security Forum, a public conference that engages current and former senior U.S. administration officials, conservatives and liberals, to take part in discussions on the most vital national security challenges of our time. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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