Foreign Relations & International Law

ChinaTalk: Amb. Rahm Emanuel on China and Japan

Jordan Schneider
Friday, April 12, 2024, 1:58 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Straight from Tokyo, Japan: an exclusive with Amb. Rahm Emanuel.

Before his current posting as US ambassador to Japan, Rahm served as a senior advisor to Bill Clinton, multiple terms in the US House of Representatives, Obama’s first chief of staff, and the mayor of Chicago.

If nothing else, you can count on his gloves-off, no-holds-barred approach to politics — and he’s been no different when it comes to China. Notwithstanding reports that even officials in Biden’s NSC have told him to stop “taunting” China, Rahm has been consistently, uniquely willing to say out loud what virtually every other high-ranking US official doesn’t.
Of course, the ambassador — or, as his desk placard during his chief-of-staff days read, “Undersecretary for Go Fuck Yourself” — may take issue with that framing. His comments aren’t “critical,” Rahm says, but “truthful.”

This interview covers a ton of ground. On China:

• How the Biden administration is closing the chapter on “hub and spokes,” what tomorrow’s “latticework” architecture will look like, and what Asia-Pacific alliances might look like under a second Trump administration;
• The future of Japan-Korea, and a peek behind the curtain on how the historic Camp David summit materialized;
• Rahm’s “3 Cs” for China — calm, conflict, charm — and how US foreign-policy leaders should reckon the mutual inconsistencies among those three;

• And roads not taken by Xi: why Rahm thinks China’s entrepreneurial culture has taken a nosedive, and what China’s government today is most scared of.

And on politics and life:

• Why “diplomacy” and “politics” are the same thing — and why that’s a good thing;
• Whether the State Department suffers from a personality deficit, and what makes for a good ambassador;
• How to heal America’s body politic — post-Trump, post-Recession, post-GWOT;
• Why Rahm thinks “quality time” with kids is “BS,” and thoughts on raising kids as a time-crunched politician;

• And what Rahm thinks the biggest emerging threat to the world is.

I really enjoyed my trip to Japan, and I’d love a financial excuse to continue recording shows on the country. If you work at JETRO, METI, The Japan Foundation, Mitsubishi, Rakuten, etc. and are interested in seeing more deep coverage of Japan and US-China-Japan relations on this podcast, do reach out!

Outtro music: Tadao Hayashi Japanese Harp Trio's 1977 take on I Could Have Danced All Night Tadao Hayashi Harp Trio – The Impossible Dream 1977 (
Also from 1977, Tokai by Kaeko Onuki Tokai (

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Jordan Schneider is the host of the ChinaTalk podcast and newsletter. He previously worked at Kwai, Bridgewater and the Eurasia Group. His Chinese landscape paintings "show promise."

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