(Bloomberg) -- The top U.S. diplomat in China, David Rank, has resigned in protest of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change accord, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The past weekend was Rank’s final one as charge d’affaires at the embassy in Beijing, the top job until former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad arrives to take the post of ambassador. In a farewell speech to colleagues, Rank cited Trump’s decision last week to leave the Paris accord as the reason, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly.
The State Department confirmed that Rank had left his post but wouldn’t say why. His decision was a personal one, and the department appreciates his “years of dedicated service,” a State Department official said. Rank’s decision was reported earlier on Twitter by John Pomfret, an editor-at-large with SupChina.
Rank’s move reflects a disappointment with the Trump administration’s decision shared by many foreign service officers. It may further suspicion at the White House that many career diplomats oppose Trump’s agenda or are working to subvert it. The president announced June 1 that he would withdraw from the climate accord and seek to negotiate a new agreement, though that statement was greeted with skepticism by many countries.
It also comes at a time when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has come under fire for the slow pace of filling top posts in his department. Most senior jobs in the department, down to the assistant secretary level, remain unfilled, and a new wave of departures was announced internally last week, including Arnold Chacon, who oversees human resources at the department, and Executive Secretary Joseph Macmanus, who is leaving to become a special adviser.
Colleagues said Rank isn’t someone who would take political sides, describing him as a nonpartisan career professional. From 2011 to 2012, he was political counselor at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, and was director of the State Department’s bureau of Afghanistan Affairs. He joined the State Department in 1990 and speaks Mandarin, French, Dari and Greek, according to his official biography. He couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
“There is a reason he’s received ever-tougher postings from presidents and secretaries on all sides of the political spectrum -- he’s as savvy as they come,” said Scott Mulhauser, former chief of staff to ex-Ambassador to China Max Baucus. “He is one of the finest officers and one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met.”
Experts and foreign service officers have lamented that the U.S. decision to leave the Paris accord will create a leadership vacuum on climate issues that China’s leaders are eager to fill. China is the world’s No. 1 polluter, though the U.S. is responsible for far more carbon emissions per capita.
Rank was named deputy chief of mission in Beijing in January 2016, and became the charge d’affaires after Baucus left the post when Trump took office. Baucus’s replacement, Branstad, was confirmed by the Senate last month but hasn’t arrived in China yet.