China has brazenly threatened U.S. liberty, including our freedoms of commerce, navigation, and communication and the life and limbs of our servicemen and civilians. It has sought to chill speech on U.S. soil and influence our elections. It harbors expansionist ambitions that further imperil our liberties and those of our allies. In short, there is no greater challenge for American in the realm of national security and foreign affairs.
At a time in which the political-media establishment’s stated concern over foreign influence in the U.S. political system is paramount, we should be asking one question of every U.S. candidate and official: Where do you stand on China, and do you have any entanglements—economic or otherwise—with Beijing that create a conflict of interest or the appearance thereof?
This issue, largely missing from the public discourse, was raised at a recent meeting of China hawks in the financial community by a former President Trump confidante, perhaps telegraphing a critical campaign debate to come. Aiming his fire specifically at the newest entrant to the Democratic presidential field, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon asserted: “Joe Biden’s gotta come 100 percent clean on his relationship and his family’s relationship with the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] … We need to know every piece of involvement that Joe Biden has had with the Chinese Communist Party, the Bank of China and all the financial institutions in China.”
Biden’s China Ties
The ex-Trump advisor was alluding to “Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer’s reporting in his 2018 book, “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends.” In the book, Schweizer writes about the link between Biden’s role in U.S.-China policy, and a deal consummated by his son Hunter Biden’s investment firm Rosemont Seneca Partners with the Chinese government. In Schweizer’s telling, during an official December 2013 trip:
The vice president is negotiating a bunch of very sensitive issues with the Chinese, including the South China Sea, trade, tech transfer, etc. Biden is criticized on that trip for basically going soft on Beijing. Shortly after they return to the U.S., Hunter Biden’s firm receives a $1 billion private equity deal from the Chinese government [via the Bank of China]. Not from an American business in China; from the Chinese government itself. It later gets increased to $1.5 billion. We have no way of knowing how much Rosemont made on the deal because there are no disclosure requirements.
Schweizer asserted that this was the first time the Chinese government gave a Western firm access to a cross-border investment fund formed in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. In the wake of these revelations, spokesmen for Hunter Biden and his partner at the now-defunct Rosemont Seneca, Christopher Heinz—stepson of former secretary of State John Kerry—disputed the conservative author’s claims.*
Bannon tied what he framed as a sweetheart deal for Biden’s son to the Obama administration’s appeasement of China—a line of attack adjacent to one President Trump has started to pursue:
Joe Biden was there [in the White House] for eight years. We had the Munich of the 21st century [which] was allowing the CCP to build those islands [in the South China sea]. And what Obama did [sic]? He … moved one marine brigade to Darwin, Australia. That’s the pivot to Asia. Oh, except, having [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] come in the Rose Garden, look him in the eye, and on world TV shake his hand and said [sic], ‘No more cyber attacks, no more cyber theft,’ and [then] double down in the next year. Joe Biden has to answer the question: ‘What did you know, when did you know it, and how much money has your family and you personally taken from the most murderous regime of the 21st century?’
This is a blunt question from a political bomb thrower, but that does not make it any less legitimate or indicative of the fact that President Trump may harp on this issue.
Committee on the Present Danger
The challenge to Biden came at a meeting of the newly assembled Committee on the Present Danger: China (CPDC), a reincarnation of the original “Committee on the Present Danger” convened during the Cold War to awaken Americans to the threat from the Soviet Union.
CPDC, led by Brian Kennedy, the chairman and current president of the American Strategy Group, and Frank Gaffney, the vice chairman and current executive chairman of the Center for Security Policy, and comprised of leaders across the political, economic, national security, and media fields, aims to “defend America through public education and advocacy against the full array of conventional and non-conventional dangers posed by the People’s Republic of China.” The CPDC meeting, focusing on China’s “unrestricted economic warfare,” was led by a variety of experts who raised other salient points.
Roger Robinson, a former member of President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council who helped craft the plans to defeat the Soviet Union economically, and heads a business analysis firm that tracks China’s global transactions, highlighted the threats to national security and human rights that Americans are unwittingly underwriting through their investment portfolios.
Outspoken China critic Gordon Chang suggested that China’s purportedly unending substantial economic growth is fraudulent, and called on the Trump administration not to provide the CCP a lifeline via a trade deal but rather to significantly tighten the screws, including substantially ramping up tariffs and banning the importation of goods and services that have benefited from Chinese intellectual property theft.
Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass of Hayman Capital, one of the few to accurately predict and profit from the subprime mortgage crisis, echoed Chang’s contrarian view about the weakness of the Chinese economy, claiming that his research indicates China is running desperately short of U.S. dollars, which in combination with its massive money-printing, piling up of debt, and command and control economic and political system, indicates impending economic doom.
David Goldman, president of Macrostrategy LLC and columnist for Asia Times, was more sanguine about China’s economic prospects. Goldman claimed that the innovation and technology behind China’s Belt and Road Initiative—spearheaded by telecommunications national champion and leader in the race for building fifth-generation (5G) infrastructure Huawei—illustrates a drive for dominance in a capital-intensive industry that poses dangers for America that we must countenance with a comprehensive response.
Dan David, a money manager who uncovered and blew the whistle on billions of dollars’ worth of fraud in Chinese companies discovered only in research conducted after he had profitably divested of them, fraudulence detailed in the documentary “The China Hustle,” argued that the key to countering China’s malevolent behavior is to speak freely about their illicit activities. The underlying message from all of the speakers was that China is the seminal threat to the United States, and the United States has largely allowed this to happen through our own greed and willful blindness.
How will American Elites Respond?
Notable was the concurrence among the policymakers, captains of industry, and intellectuals featured in the meeting with a provocative narrative: The “Deplorables’ pension funds financed” China, corporate America has served as the “lobbying arm for the CCP,” and Wall Street is its “investor relations department.” Channeling Trump administration official Peter Navarro, Bannon added that while American authorities are now highly attuned to unregistered foreign agents regarding the much less powerful Russian adversary, it is time to investigate those on Wall Street and in corporate America pressuring the Trump administration to make a trade deal at any cost.
America’s elites will no doubt writhe at this rhetoric. But is it because they consider such words distasteful and needlessly incendiary, or because they recognize that political and financial interests are, and have been, trumping the national interest for decades—especially with respect to the rise of Communist China?
If the silence over Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–CA)’s favorable policies towards China, her family’s profiting from China-linked investments and the Chinese spy on her staff for 20 years is any indication, there is little will in the political-media establishment to grapple with these issues openly and honestly.
Yet if we as a nation truly care about the corrosive, destabilizing nature of foreign influence, should not we be most concerned with the greatest foreign adversary of all? Should not business leaders be presenting a united front with members of an increasingly united federal government to drive as hard a bargain as possible to fundamentally change China’s behavior, and provide real teeth to any punishment should it fail to adhere to a deal, as it has done repeatedly in the past?
As the CPDC’s speakers made clear, U.S.-China policy not only deserves to be at the center of the 2020 presidential election, it must be at the center of the 2020 presidential election.
* After the publication of this article, a spokesman writing on behalf of Chris Heinz asked that we clarify that the claims disputed by representatives for Heinz and Hunter Biden were distinct. Specifically, the spokesman asserted that: “Chris Heinz was involved in Rosemont Capital. Through Rosemont Capital, Mr. Heinz owned a minority interest in Rosemont Seneca Partners until 2015. Despite being misreported, neither firm was involved in the Chinese deal Bohai Harvest RST. At no time have Chris and his family had an interest in or involvement with Bohai Harvest RST.”