President-elect Joe Biden has appointed Thomas Zimmerman as a Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel as part of the new appointments he announced on December 30, 2020. Zimmerman will serve as Deputy Lead for National Security Personnel on the Biden-Harris Transition team.
Mr. Zimmerman has prior experience working in China as a visiting scholar at the Department of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS).
For example, on February 10, 2015, Mr. Zimmerman, senior project officer of the International Cooperation Office of New York University, delivered a speech at the SASS International Relations Institute on the future of the U.S. policy in Afghanistan. In his speech, he discussed the changes in the future U.S. security mission in Afghanistan and the corresponding policy adjustments, how U.S. domestic political changes in the general election would affect U.S. Afghanistan policy, and how China and the United States can jointly cooperate to carry out projects to achieve common goals.
On March 12, 2015, Mr. Zimmerman also participated and spoke at a forum titled, “U.S. Anti-Terrorism Policy and the Asian-African Counter-Terrorism Posture.” The Shanghai Institute of American Studies and the Center for West Asian and North African Studies of the SASS jointly organized the event. During the discussions, Mr. “Zimmerman expressed the belief that, in resolving the Afghanistan issue, the United States is also pinning its hopes on China, hoping that China can play an active role in it. The United States and China share common interests and goals on the issue of Afghanistan. China is advocating the construction of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy, but due to the continued civil war in Afghanistan, the potential for economic cooperation in Afghanistan is difficult to evaluate. Western countries led by the United States have been making strategic retreats from this region and China’s role in resolving the Afghanistan issue has become increasingly apparent.”
In June 2016, Mr. Zimmerman visited the Shanghai Institute of American Studies and conducted internal discussions with attendees from SASS and the Shanghai Institute of American about the “One Belt and One Road,” terrorism issues, and the Sino-US anti-terrorism cooperation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
SASS, a leading think tank in China, was established in 1958 and is primarily funded by the Chinese government. According to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against Keven Mallory in June 2017, since 2014, the FBI has assessed that the Shanghai State Security Bureau (SSSB), a sub-component of China’s Ministry of State Security, has had a close relationship with SASS and uses SASS employees as spotters and assessors. The FBI has further assessed that SSSB intelligence officers have also used SASS affiliation as cover identities.
Shanghai Institute of American Studies
U.S. Department of Justice