Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson was a businessman and former CEO of ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil and gas company. An engineer by training, Tillerson had worked for ExxonMobil for over 40 years before he stepped down as the company's CEO, a position he held from 2006 to 2017. Tillerson has no prior public sector experience, but as a business leader, he has built extensive relationships with foreign leaders, most notably with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin.
In 2011, ExxonMobil discovered a natural gas field within waters claimed by both China and Vietnam. ExxonMobil's operations in the South China Sea immediately raised concerns from Beijing, who hoped "foreign companies do not get involved in disputed water." Later, ExxonMobil dropped drilling plans after Tillerson met with Wang Yilin, the chairman of state-run China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), and talked about "further cooperation" between the two companies.
During his confirmation hearing, Tillerson took a tougher stance against China's presence in the South China Sea. He contested China's sovereignty claim in the South China Sea, saying China's "access to those islands is not going to be allowed." Recently, however, he has reportedly pushed the president to reaffirm the One China policy after Trump had indicated it should be reconsidered.
During his visit to Beijing in March, Tillerson made the statement that "U.S.-China relationship has now over 40 years... been a very positive relationship built on non-confrontation, no conflict, mutual respect, and always searching for win-win solutions." The remarks was seen as an acknowledgment of China's concept of the "new pattern of great power relations" by top U.S. officials for the first time since 2012.
- Washington Post, Who is Rex Tillerson?
- Foreign Policy Magazine, Is Tillerson willing to go to war over the South China Sea?
- Financial Times, Tillerson sets stage for clash with Beijing over South China Sea
Secretary of Defense
James Mattis was serving as a fellow at Hoover Institution at Stanford University when he was nominated for Secretary of Defense. Mattis has held various positions during his 40 years of military service in the Marine Corp. He retired from the commander of the U.S. Central Command in 2013.
Mattis is often described as a pragmatist who supports assertive U.S. military policy, but with careful calculation. During his confirmation hearing, Mattis acknowledged that the United States does not possess enough military power to fully deter China. He also said the United States will need to manage the competition with China in the South China Sea. In a written document submitted to the Senate, he highlighted the need to "collaborate and engage with China wherever possible," but also said the United States should be prepared to confront China's "inappropriate behaviors" that conflict with U.S. interests.
Mattis chose South Korea and Japan as destinations of his inaugural trip as Secretary of Defense. While in South Korea, Mattis defended the the decision to deploy THAAD missile defense systems in the country, saying that no nation but North Korea should be concerned about the missile defense system. In Japan, Mattis reaffirmed that the United States will continue acknowledging Japan's administration of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. He also said the United States will defend these disputed islands based on Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. On the South China Sea, Mattis said there is no need to make "dramatic military moves at all" since disputes should be solved through diplomacy.
During his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June, Mattis said the U.S. "seek instructive, results-oriented relationship with China" and but criticized China's artificial island construction and militarization of facilities for "undermining regional stability." He vowed to continue to "fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and demonstrate resolve through operational presence in the South China Sea and beyond." He also emphasized that the U.S. will not "use our allies and partners... as bargaining chips."
- Foreign Policy, Can ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis temper the impulsive President-Elect?
- The Guardian, US Defense Secretary tries to calm Asian jitters- but is undermined at every turn
- Foreign Policy Blog, Mad Dog Mattis on China
- Nikkei Review, Time's up for soft China policy
Secretary of Commerce
Wilbur Ross had worked as an investor and a financial adviser specializing in bankruptcy and restructuring distressed businesses. In 2002, he consolidated several bankrupt American steel companies into the International Steel Group. He previously served as a member of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund under president Bill Clinton, and as an economic adviser for former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The billionaire holds tough-minded view on trade policy, and his WL Ross & Co. has benefited enormously from free trade agreements. In 2011, China Investment Corporation, a Chinese sovereign wealth fund, provided $500 million to Diamond S Shipping. This deal was negotiated by Ross, whose WL Ross & Co. is the largest shareholder of Diamond S Shipping. Ross has been reluctant to criticize China for its trade policies, but his views have changed in recent months. During his Senate confirmation hearing, he referred to China as "the most protectionist country among very large countries." In 2016, Ross, along with Peter Navarro, devised the Trump campaign's economic strategy.
In September 2017, Ross told media that China does not need the "preferential treatment" on trade today that would've been justified decades ago." He urged China to "guarantee fair and reciprocal treatment for U.S. firms."
Secretary of Treasury
From from 1994 to 2002, Steve Mnuchin was a hedge fund investor and a partner at Goldman Sachs. During his confirmation hearing, Mnuchin vowed to combat currency manipulation and said that he would name China as a currency manipulator, if sufficient evidence is present. Mnuchin is also the head the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an inter-agency body that vets foreign inward investment proposals and investigates lobbying efforts by foreign governments and investors.
After the United Nations security council unanimously adopted a stringent round of sanctions against North Korea in August and September of 2017, Mnuchin warned China that the United States could implement secondary sanctions against them if they failed to crack down on illegal trade with North Korea.
U.S. Trade Representative
Robert Lighthizer was a law firm partner specializing in defending U.S. firms, notably steel companies, from import competition and helping American businesses enter foreign markets. In the 1980s, he served as Chief of Staff for the Senate Finance Committee and as deputy U.S. Trade Representative in the Reagan administration. Allegedly using trade enforcement measures as leverage, Lighthizer persuaded South Korea, Japan, Mexico, and the European Union to sign “voluntary restraint agreements,” which reduce the volume of exports flowing from these countries to the United States.
Often described as a "trade hawk," Lighthizer is a protectionist known for his harsh criticism of China’s trade policies, which he believes have caused tremendous job losses in the steel and manufacturing industries in the United States. In 2010, he described the U.S.-China trade deficit as a “threat” to the U.S. economy in testimony submitted to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
- Vox, Why Trump’s pick for US Trade Representative,Robert Lighthizer, is a big deal
- Foreign Policy, Trump taps protectionist Robert Lighthizer as his new Trade Representative
- New York Times, Trump’s pick on trade could put China in a difficult spot
- The Washington Times, Lighthizer: Donald Trump is no liberal on trade
Director of the National Economic Council
Gary Cohn was the President and COO at the Goldman Saches, where he spent a 26-year career performing jobs from trading commodities, running mortgages to overseeing day-to-day operations. He currently serves as the Director of the National Economic Council in the Trump Administration.
While President Trump has frequently accused China of artificially keeping its currency low, Cohn has stated that he believes the Yuan is actually over-valued. In June 2017, Cohn met with South Korean President Moo Jae-in and asked his help in dealing with "China's many predatory practices," including infringement on intellectual property rights, technology transfer, ownership and unfair market-entrance requirement for U.S. companies doing business in China.
- Wall Street Journal, How Donald Trump's New Top Economic Adviser Views the World
- The New York Times, Trump's Economic Cabinet Is Mostly Bare. This Man Fills the Void
- Business Insider, Trump and his top economic adviser have had completely different views on China
- Bloomberg, Goldman's Gary Cohn Doesn't See Hard Landing Ahead for China
Senior Advisor to the President
Jared Kushner was a real estate investor and a close adviser to Donald Trump. He is Ivanka Trump’s husband and Donald Trump’s son-in-law. Despite his lack of foreign policy experience, Kushner is Trump’s primary point of contact for senior foreign officials. He has been acting as a “shadow diplomat” behind the first Trump-Abe meeting and more importantly, the chief broker of Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping's first meeting at Mar-a-Lago in April.
Two weeks after Trump’s electoral victory, Kushner was spotted in a meeting with Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of Anbang Insurance Group, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. According to the New York Times, Kushner and Wu allegedly talked about redeveloping a skyscraper owned by the Kushner family at Midtown of Manhattan. Anbang is a state-owned Chinese financial behemoth and the owner of the Wardolf Hotel, which it purchased for $1.95 billion USD in 2013. A few days after Trump’s inauguration, Kushner had “an extensive ongoing dialogue” with Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States.
As scrutiny over Kushner's connection with Russia grows, he and Invanka Trump reportedly turned down an invitation from China to go to Beijing in September in preparation for Trump's visit.
- The Hill, Kushner pursuing Chinese real estate project while advising Trump: report
- Bloomberg, China Woos Ivanka, Jared Kushner to Smooth Ties With Trump
- New York Times, Jared Kushner, a Trump In-Law and Adviser, Chases a Chinese Deal
- Salon, China is looking to Jared and Ivanka – not the State Department – to get through to the president
U.S. Ambassador to China
Terry Branstad is the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, having been the governor of Iowa for 22 years. A lifetime republican, Branstad endorsed Trump during the Republican primaries, and his son served as the president of Trump's campaign in Iowa.
Outside the United States, Branstad is known for his close friendship with Chinese president Xi Jinping, whom he first met in 1985. Branstad describes Xi as “personable”. As governor, Branstad has visited China multiple times to promote Iowa’s agricultural products. Chinese officials welcome Branstad's nomination and call him “an old friend of the Chinese people.”
- The Washington Post, Ten things to know about Iowa Governor Terry Branstad
- NPR, An 'old friend Of China' prepares to bridge differences at a fraught time
- The Des Moines Register, Branstad’s nomination shines spotlight on Iowa internationalism
U.S. Ambassador to UN
Haley served as the Governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017. She was the first female governor of South Carolina and the second Indian-American governor in U.S. history, after Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Haley’s views on foreign policy are more in line with mainstream Republicans than many of her peers in the Trump administration. She opposes the Iran nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration as well as the ban on Muslim immigrants proposed by Trump. During her nomination hearing, Haley emphasized the importance of China to the North Korea issue and called for closer U.S.-China cooperation to deal with challenges on the peninsula.
- New York Times, Nikki Haley puts UN on Notice: US is ‘taking names’
- USA Today, Where Nikki Haley and Donald Trump split on foreign policy
- The Washington Post, Nikki Haley addresses the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions against North Korea
H. R. McMaster
National Security Advisor
General H.R. McMaster is the first active-duty military officer to serve as National Security Advisor since Gen. Collin Powell. McMaster is also a military historian with a PhD degree in history. Because of his blunt and outspoken style, particularly about the Johnson administrations failings during the Vietnam War, McMaster is often described as "one of the military’s most independent-minded officers."
McMaster has frequently stressed the irreplaceable role of political and human dimensions in modern warfare. In his view, technology alone cannot secure the gains from battlefield. Beside the Middle East and military history, McMaster has talked very little about security issues in other regions of the world, but based on available comments, it is reasonable to conclude that he is taking a hard-line on China. In a speech delivered at Virginia Military Institute, McMaster said the United States should confront "hostile revisionist powers" such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran with "strategic vision." During a discussion on the role of technology in modern warfare, McMaster used China, whose newest fighter jets resemble the design of the U.S. made F22, as an example to demonstrate technology as a "transferrable advantage that we have in defense to our adversaries."
- The New York Times, Trump Chooses H. R. McMaster as National Security Advisor
- The New York Times, The Pipe Dream of Easy War
- US News and World Report, McMaster May Not Be What Trump Expects
- US News and World Report, 10 Things You Didn't Know About H.R. McMaster
Director of the National Trade Council
Peter Navarro is a professor of economics and public policy at the University of California Irvine. Beyond his teaching career, Navarro has written over ten books on a wide range of topics, from investment tactics to trade issues.
Navarro is one of the most outspoken critics of Chinese policy in American academia. In 2012, he directed a documentary, “Death by China,” in which he alleged that the U.S.-China trade deficit and heavy American job losses were caused by unfair Chinese competition. In a Trump campaign white paper co-authored with Wilbur Ross, Navarro called China a “currency manipulator” and “the biggest trader cheater in the world.” Navarro’s criticisms of China go far beyond trade and economic issues: he has been advocating for a full-scale U.S. containment of China. In his book “Death by China,” Navarro writes that “it’s time for America to fully and firmly recommit to” Taiwan, and urged Congress to pass an act stipulating penalties for China’s trade practices. He also urged the U.S. government to send “secret emissary missions” to persuade Chinese party officials to "voluntarily" undertake currency reforms.
Kenneth Juster (awaiting confirmation)
U.S. Ambassador to India
Kenneth Juster served as the Deputy Assistant to the president for International Economic Affairs and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council from January 2017 to June 2017. In September, he was nominated and is awaiting Senate confirmation to be the next U.S. ambassador to India, a post that has remained vacant since January 20.
Mr. Juster has extensive experience in the private sector. He has been a partner at the investment firm Warburg Pincus LLC, Executive Vice President at Salesforce.com, and a senior partner at the law firm Arnold & Porter.
During his tenure as Under Secretary of Commerce under the Bush Administration, Juster played a key role in developing the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), which incubated the civil nuclear deal between the United States and India. Mr. Juster was also responsible for negotiating the End-Use Visit Understanding between the United States and China, which facilitated increased exports of advanced U.S. technology to China.
In his statement to the Senate, Juster explained that "India and the United States share common values and a commitment to democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law. The Administration views India as a leading power and a true friend, whose influence internationally is important and growing."
- The Hindu, Kenneth I. Juster named U.S. ambassador to India
- The Fiscal Times, Meet the Man Who Will Explain Trump to the World’s Great Economic Powers
- US Department of State, Commerce Department's Juster cites milestone initiatives with China, India
- East-West Center, Ken Juster Makes First Statement as Newly Nominated Ambassador to India
Senior Director on Asian Affairs
National Security Council
Matt Pottinger is a writer and journalist covering news primarily in the Asia Pacific. Pottinger, a Chinese speaker, started his career as a Beijing-based journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Reuters. He is known for his in-depth knowledge of Chinese society and criticism of the Chinese government. In 2012, he enlisted in the Marines at the age of 32. During his five years of military service, Pottinger completed one combat deployment in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. After his retirement from the Marines, Pottinger joined The Council on Foreign Relations.
Under Secretary of Treasury
David Malpass is curently serving as the president of Encima Global and chair of GrowPac. He is a columnist at Forbes magazine and his op-eds regularly appear in the Wall Street Journal. He sits on the board of the Economic Club of New York and the National Committee on US-China Relations. In the private sector, he was the chief economist of Bear Stearns. In the public sector, he had held positions during the Reagan and Bush Administrations, having served as Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary for Developing Nations, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of States, Republican Staff Director of Congress's Joint Economic Committee, and Senior Analyst for Taxes and Trade at the Senate Budget Committee.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Malpass criticized the media for having "demonized" Trump's economic policy and wrote "there is no doubt" that Trump's economic policy a policy is an "upheaval to promote faster growth, repair the economic stagnation and end the corrupt pay-to-play system." In addition, he has written extensively on China's economic trajectory, specifically studying China's currency policies in relation to China's expanding role as a global economic power. Malpass is critical about China's monetary policy, saying the economic slowdown will not be stopped without a "framework of effective regulations."
- The Wall Street Journal, Growth Advocates at Treasury
- Bloomberg, Trump Taps David Malpass for International Treasury Post, Source Says
- New York Times, Why This Economy Needs Donald Trump
- The Wall Street Journal, China Declares Currency Independence
U.S. Ambassador to Japan
William F. (Bill) Hagerty is a businessman and Managing Director of Hagerty Peterson & Company, LLC, a private equity investment firm. A native of Nashville, Hagerty previously served as Trade and Commerce Secretary for the state of Tennessee. He previously served as policy adviser for President George H. W. Bush. He joined Trump’s campaign team in July 2016 and has served as Director of Presidential Appointments ever since.
In the 1980s, Hagerty lived and worked in Tokyo for three years as Senior Expatriate for Boston Consulting Group. He was in charge of the firm’s western clients in Japan and Asia.
John J. Sullivan
Deputy Secretary of State
John J. Sullivan was a partner in the Washington D.C. office of Mayer Brown LLP, and co-chair of the law firm's national security practice. He has held senior positions including the Deputy General Counsel of the Defense Department by Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the Counselor to Assistant Attorney General J. Michael Luttig in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.
Born in Boston, Mr. Sullivan received his bachelor's degree from Brown University and his law degree from the Columbia University School of Law. From 2010 to 2016, Sullivan served as the chair of the United States-Iraq Business Dialogue, a governmental advisory committee on United States economic relations with Iraq.
Mr. Sullivan was confirmed by the United States Senate and sworn in as the Deputy Secretary of State on May 24, 2017. During his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sullivan assured the lawmakers that U.S.-China relations were on a positive track, but the U.S. will use "all the legal and policy [measures]" to turn the dial on Chinese support for North Korea, including military options.
- US Department of State, Senior Officials' Biographies
- Politico, Tillerson's new deputy quietly wins over State Dept. staffers
- The Washington Times, Trump's pick for deputy secretary of state optimistic on U.S.-China cooperation on North Korea
Patrick M. Shanahan
Deputy Secretary of Defense
Mr. Patrick M. Shanahan joined Boeing in 1986 and spent over three decades with the company, serving as vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems and Boeing Rotorcraft Systems.
Mr. Shanahan holds a Bachelor degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington, a Master degree in mechanical engineering in MIT, and an MBA from MIT's Sloan School of Management.
On July 19, 2017, Shanahan attended the Senate Armed Services Committee that confirmed his nomination. However, his hesitant answer to U.S. supplying weapons to Ukraine dissatisfied Senator John McCain, who at one point threatened to withhold his nomination. Shanahan's lack in military or political experience was also questioned by other lawmakers.
Randall G. Schriver (awaiting confirmation) Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Randall Schriver is president and Chief Executive Officer of the Project 2049 Institute. He is also a founding partner of Armitage International LLC, based in Arlington, Virginia, and a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington DC.
Schriver holds a B.A. from Williams College and a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University. In his early career, Schriver has severe as an active duty naval intelligence officer. He was recently presented with the Order of the Propitious Clouds by the president of Taiwan for promoting Taiwan-U.S. relations.
He spent two years (2001-2003) serving as the chief of staff and senior policy advisor to the then-deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, before moving to deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (2003-2005)
Armitage was know for his emphasis on the importance of both military strength and soft power. But Schriver has shown hard-line leanings toward China, calling for checks against Beijing through a stronger relationship with Taiwan.
Joseph H. Felter
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia
Dr. Joe Felter is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia. Prior to joining OSD, Dr. Felter held teaching and research appointments at Stanford University and the Hoover Institution. His research focuses on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism and has appeared in top peer reviewed academic journals and a range of other publications.
Dr. Felter retired from the US Army as a Colonel following a career as a Special Forces and foreign area officer. He has conducted Foreign Internal Defense and Security Assistance missions across East and Southeast Asia and has participated in combat deployments to Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Dr. Felter received a B.S. from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Masters of Public Administration with a concentration in negotiations and conflict resolution from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University.
Victor Cha (nominee)
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
Victor Cha is a former director for Asian affairs on the White House National Security Council and served as deputy head of the U.S. delegation in multilateral talks with North Korea over its nuclear program during the administration of President George W. Bush. He is currently the Korea Chair at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of Asian studies at Georgetown University's Department of Government and School of Foreign Service.
In a op-ed published in the Washington Post in July, Cha called for a new approach to diplomacy towards North Korea, arguing that China must be a central part of future negotiations and should pay for Pyongyang to halt and roll back its nuclear and missile programs. However, lack of working experience with China was cited a potential weakness for Cha, who is seen as a hard-liner on North Korea.
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative for Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Industrial Competitiveness
Jeffrey Gerrish was a partner in the International Trade Group at Skadden, Arms, Slate, Meagher & From LLP. He has wide-ranging experience on a variety of international trade issues. In particular, he has extensive experience litigating trade disputes before the Department of Commerce, International Trade Commission, Federal courts, North American Free Trade Agreement binational panels and the World Trade Organization. Mr. Gerrish has been appointed by the chief judge of the United States Court of International Trade to serve as a member of the Court's Rules Advisory Committee. He received his J.D. from Duke University School of Law and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany.
Gerrish is known for his close working relations with United States Steel as head of Skadden's international trade group. He represented Tensar and United States Steel in the anti-dumping duties and anti-subsidy cases against Chinese imports along with Robert Lighthizer.
- Law360, Trump Taps King & Spalding Partner For Key Trade Post
- Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts
Gilbert B. Kaplan
Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade
Gilbert Kaplan was a partner at King & Spalding, in the international Trade Group. While at the firm, he filed and won the first ever successful United States anti-subsidy cases against China (on coated paper and standard pipe). He is the co-founder of the Manufacturing Policy Initiative at Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
Kaplan previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary and the First Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Import Administration, where he supervised over 500 trade remedy cases. He was a key negotiator of the United States-Japan Semiconductor Agreement. Previously, he was the Director of the Office of Investigations at the Department of Commerce, in charge of day-to-day trade remedy law administration. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.
Dennis Shea (nominee) Ambassador to the World Trade Organization, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in Geneva
Dennis Shea served a decade on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission and was the founder of Shea Public Strategies LLC, a public affairs firm based in Alexandria, Virginia.
A Harvard-trained lawyer, Shea has worked in and around government for much of the past 30 years, including as senior adviser to former Republican senator Bob Dole and Elizabeth Dole and as assistant secretary for policy development and research at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Shea has been an advocate to ban China's state-owned firms from acquiring U.S. companies, arguing that Beijing uses state back firms to advance its national security objectives. Earlier this year, Shea told a hearing that the U.S. should create a third category for Chinese companies, dubbed OPSIES, an abbreviation for "ostensibly private but state influenced companies."
- U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Hon. Dennis C. Shea, Vice Chairman - 2017 Report
- Reuters, Trump Nominates China Critic As Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
- Forbes, Trump Adds To China Critics In Administration
To Be Announced