Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
September 23, 2023
Rahm Emanuel is a savvy and successful US politician. Emanuel knows Biden and his top aides well, and some of them worked for Emanuel at a different point in their careers. It means that Emanuel outranks many in the Biden’s Administration, but Emanuel has no credential as a qualified US diplomat. It is Biden’s call to appoint Emanuel as the US Ambassador to Japan, an important US ally in Asia-Pacific. Biden also appointed sitting mayor of Los Angels, Eric Garcetti, as Ambassador to India, another major US partner in the Indo-Pacific. But Mayor Garcetti, like Emanuel, has had zero credential as a diplomat.
The following news reports seem to indicate that White House staff is talking with Emanuel’s staff about an important protocol issue that jeopardizes Biden’s China strategy. The public pushes and pulls, with mixed messages, between DC and Tokyo are embarrassing for the US, President Biden should call Emanuel personally and tell him that either shut up or come back to the US. Otherwise, it damages Biden’s credibility as the President of the US.
White House told U.S. ambassador to Japan to stop taunting China on social media
Carol E. Lee and Courtney Kube and Peter Nicholas
Fri, September 22, 2023 at 7:05 AM PDT
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s aides have asked that Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, stop posting messages on social media taunting Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to three administration officials.
Officials at the National Security Council told Emanuel’s staff in recent days that his comments risk undermining the administration’s efforts to mend deeply strained relations with China, including with a possible meeting this fall between Biden and Xi, according to the officials.
Over the past two weeks Emanuel, who served as White House chief of staff to former President Barack Obama, has criticized Xi directly and sarcastically speculated about the Chinese leader’s treatment of his top aides, using the hashtag “#MysteryInBeijingBuilding.”
Emanuel’s tweets are “not in keeping with the message coming out of this building,” a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue.
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Biden struck a conciliatory tone when it comes to America’s rivalry with China. The U.S., he said, is “ready to work together with China on issues where progress hinges on our common efforts.”
“We seek to responsibly manage the competition between our countries so it does not tip into conflict,” Biden added.
It was a markedly different message than the one Emanuel has recently conveyed publicly. “President Xi’s cabinet lineup is now resembling Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None,” the ambassador wrote on Sept. 7 on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, referring to the disappearance of China’s foreign minister earlier this year and more recently its defense minister. “Who’s going to win this unemployment race? China’s youth or Xi’s cabinet?”
The administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said China has been furious about Emanuel’s posts.
Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., said in response to Emanuel’s criticisms that “at a time of partisan bickering and unattended domestic social issues, seeking limelight for oneself is good for nothing. Shifting attention brings no useful solution. It is better to act in a way that fits one’s official capacity.”
A spokesperson for Emanuel disputed NBC News’ report, calling it “absolutely not true.”
“Ambassador Emanuel is serving with distinction as an uncommonly effective representative of the United States in Japan. Every day his inventiveness, passion and relentlessness are on full display,” Kurt Campbell, deputy assistant to the president and coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, said in an interview.
He continued, “This guy is a superstar and when you put Rahm on the field you get the full Rahm.”
Campbell did not comment when asked whether Emanuel will continue posting about China’s leadership.
Some administration officials have been upset with Emanuel’s comments, according to the officials and a former official familiar with the matter. But one administration official described the sentiment more as annoyance and said Emanuel is still a valued part of the team.
A longtime, outspoken Democratic operative, Emanuel served in Congress and left the chief of staff job in 2010 to mount a successful campaign for mayor of Chicago. Emanuel knows Biden and his top aides well, and some of them worked for Emanuel at a different point in their careers.
A second administration official said for Emanuel to make these comments makes no sense and does not advance U.S. strategic goals with China or with the Asia-Pacific region.
“It just fights what we are doing there in the region,” the official said, explaining that the U.S. realizes it needs to maintain some relationship with China, especially an economic one, and social media postings like Emanuel’s do not “further U.S. goals.”
One former Biden administration official said Emanuel’s message on China “runs completely counter” to the goals his administration is trying to achieve with Beijing. “They’re trying to calm things down and to have the ambassador to Japan attack the Chinese? It’s stupid,” the former official said.
White House officials who’ve worked to mend those ties worry that publicly taunting and embarrassing Xi could unwind that progress, officials said. Emanuel, however, has not held back.
“Xi’s playbook is clear: shamelessly exploit human tragedies for political gain without any regard for the lives lost,” he wrote on X on Sept. 12.
“Xi’s team is using A.I. to spread false claims that U.S. ‘weather weapons’ caused the Maui wildfire, blaming the U.S. Army for bringing COVID to China, and spreading disinformation about Fukushima. Imagine a world where that energy was channeled into humanitarian aid and genuine concern for the global good. Like focusing on how to get the great Chinese youth back to full employment. Now that would be novel!!!”
Emanuel’s most recent disparaging post about China came just as Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, was set to secretly meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for two days of talks in Malta.
Emanuel’s last post about Xi likened the disappearance of Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu to the Shakespearean play “Hamlet”: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” he wrote Thursday.
US ambassador to Japan criticises China in speech and social media post
Fri, September 22, 2023 at 1:27 AM PDT
TOKYO (Reuters) – Rahm Emanuel, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, took fresh aim at China on Friday over coercing its neighbours, posted pictures of Chinese boats he said were fishing near Japan despite a seafood ban and noted China’s defence minister was still missing.
“Economic coercion by China is their most persistent and pernicious tool in their toolbox,” he said during a speech in Tokyo.
The latest manifestation of that, he added, was China’s decision to ban all seafood from Japan after it started releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean last month.
Before speaking he posted four pictures on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that he said were Chinese vessels “fishing for the same fish embargoed by China”.
Responding to Emanuel’s remarks on Fukushima, China’s foreign ministry said the ambassador should stop favouring Japan’s “irresponsible” behaviour.
After his speech, Emanuel declined to say whether the White House had told him to halt his social media posts, instead pointing reporters to comments by White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell yesterday.
Campbell described Emanuel to NBC as a “superstar” and an effective U.S. representative “serving with distinction”.
“The bigger picture, which is the more important picture, is three and a half weeks later, you and I are all standing here, and you can’t tell me where the defence minister is,” Emanuel said.