Top Biden China Official Steps Down After Just Six Months

(Photo by ANDREW KUTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
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The top China official in President Joe Biden’s State Department is stepping aside from his role after just six months leading the “China House,” the department confirmed Thursday.

Rick Waters, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for China and Taiwan, will no longer oversee the Office of China Coordination, known as the “China House,” starting on June 23. Although the State Department told Politico that the move is part of its normal “summer transition process,” Waters departure comes after only six months at the post as the administration’s China policy has come under recent scrutiny.

Waters, a longtime foreign service officer, was tapped to lead the much-touted China House when it was launched in December as a central clearinghouse for China policy in the State Department and beyond. The office was designed to eliminate redundancies and silos pertaining to China, the State Department said at the time.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the number two official at the State Department behind Secretary of State Antony Blinken, announced her retirement earlier this month. That news broke after a Reuters report alleging that Sherman had been running point on the department’s China policy, including holding back sanctions and other actions against Beijing following the February spy balloon incident that is still having diplomatic ripple effects across the Pacific.

Biden alluded to a potential diplomatic shift with China coming while at the G-7 summit last weekend, saying he expects relations with China to “thaw very shortly.” It’s unclear what he might have been referring to, although China’s new Ambassador to the United States took up his post in Washington this week. (RELATED: State Dept. Directly Contradicts Biden After He Hints At Lifting China Sanctions)

Waters will remain in a senior foreign service position going forward, the State Department said, but it did not provide any more specifics.