Rahm Emanuel's China Ties Are 'Disqualifying' for Japan Ambassadorship, Hawley Says

Biden's ambassador nominee courted millions in Chinese investment as Chicago mayor

Rahm Emanuel posting with China's Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Chao in 2013 (credit: Chicago Tribune)
May 29, 2021

Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) told the Washington Free Beacon Rahm Emanuel's past dealings with China could compromise his effectiveness as President Joe Biden's ambassador to Japan.

As ambassador to Japan, Emanuel would need to coordinate with Tokyo to counter China's regional power, as Japan is widely considered one of America’s most important allies in standing up to China. Republicans said Emanuel's close relationship with Chinese elites warrants serious investigation and could stand in the way of his Senate confirmation. Hawley said Emanuel's "reckless" record in office demonstrates he does not understand the China threat.

"Rahm Emanuel clearly does not understand the China threat and can’t be trusted to serve as ambassador to Japan," Hawley said. "That Joe Biden would attempt to put someone so reckless in charge of relations with one of our most important allies is very concerning."

Emanuel did not respond to a request for comment.

Emanuel made overtures to Chinese business throughout his tenure as mayor of Chicago in the hopes of making the city the "location of choice" in North America for the Communist regime's investors. In one case, the former Obama administration chief of staff secured a contract for the city with a company known for its cooperation with the Chinese military and Huawei. A 2016 contract brokered by Emanuel put the state-owned Chinese transportation giant CRRC to work in upgrading the Chicago transit authority’s railway cars, even though the proposal scored 5 points lower in evaluations compared to competing bids. The transportation company has collaborated with Huawei, an innovator in Chinese spyware, and its data collection capabilities have been shared with the Chinese military, according to a 2019 report.

"Putting a CCP-owned, Huawei-affiliated data harvesting company in charge of building a major American city’s critical infrastructure isn’t just dangerously naïve, for an ambassador to Japan, it’s disqualifying," Hawley said.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Ian Easton, a senior director at the Project 2049 Institute, said Emanuel's cozy relationship with Chinese power players—including the $1.3 billion contract he awarded to a Chinese transportation giant—should give the Biden administration pause.

"Giving American taxpayer money to companies owned and operated by the Chinese Communist Party, a militant and genocidal regime, is a dereliction of duty," Easton said. "It's beyond naïve to think Chicago's CCP-made trains won't come with hidden backdoors that collect private data from American riders in peacetime and allow the Chinese military to weaponize the trains against us in a future crisis."

Emanuel's China ties go beyond the rail contract. In 2013, Emanuel made his first trip to China, where he spoke at Tsinghua University, a school known as "China’s MIT," and a crucial research partner for the Chinese military. Emanuel also brought senior members of the Chinese Communist Party to his city. Chinese vice premier Liu Yandong and vice minister of commerce Wang Chao visited Chicago in 2013. He welcomed Wuhan mayor Tang Liangzhi to his city in 2012. Emanuel later said the ties he built as mayor led to eight projects backed by Chinese capital in his city, with more on the way.

Emanuel also tasked members of the Chicago business community, including fellow former Obama chief of staff Bill Daley and financier Michael Sacks, to join him in promoting commerce with Beijing. In meetings with Chinese investors, the two attempted to "[pitch] Chicago to China." Daley's brother Richard and nephew Patrick registered in 2013 as paid foreign agents of China.

A Republican Senate aide told the Free Beacon Emanuel will need to fully account for his relationships with Chinese interests during his hearing process.

"If he expects to be taken seriously, Rahm Emanuel needs to explain the exact nature and full extent of his interactions with Chinese businesses and any personal profits he may have earned," the aide said. "His record as mayor of proudly and aggressively courting CCP-linked firms to invest billions of dollars in critical Chicago infrastructure shows a stunning lack of judgment."

After his term ended in 2019, Emanuel headed to Wall Street to consult for Centerview Partners, a firm with its own history of work with China. In 2012, Centerview led talks between the Hollywood studio DreamWorks and multiple Chinese firms, including state-owned media, to form a "China-focused entertainment company." In 2021—during Emanuel’s time at Centerview—the firm advised U.S. manufacturer Honeywell on multiple contracts. The State Department fined Honeywell $13 million in May for its role in sharing secret U.S. military blueprints with China.

Centerview Partners did not respond to a request for comment.