By WILLIAM MAYER
June 5, 2019 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Though we published this expose in May, new information relating to the matters covered therein prompts us to re-visit it with clarifying information.
Three days ago the New York Times published a feature piece alleging that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has extensive and troubling ties to the Chinese Communist Government [see, MIchael Forsythe, Eric Lipton, For the Chao Family, Deep Ties to the World's 2 Largest Economies].
The charges are not new, note that this publication devoted 3,500 words to the matter in May, though the outlines of the should-be-scandal were known as early as 2001, as noted in the below article.
Until the Times piece the questions posed had generated zero traction, but upon the publication the matter was given suspiciously short shrift in the legacy media including Fox News that aired a short [the item ran 2 minutes with no followup as far as this author can determine] ridiculous defense of Chao, ending the video clip with Citizens Against Government Wastes' Thomas Schatz stating essentially that there was no there there and that the charges were "a giant story about nothing." Fox did not identify Shatz' organization as being extremely friendly to official DC and especially the GOP.
We will let the reader judge the veracity of the Fox brush off noting that the most recent investigation into the influence peddling by Chao [whose husband just happens to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] was done by noted investigative journalist Peter Schweitzer [no friend of the Democrat establishment] in his latest work, Secret Empires.
So with that as the new back-story, please read on...
The People’s Republic of China [PRC] is a hostile foreign power guided by a policy whereby it hopes to establish a global hegemon supplanting that of the United States. It does so for a number of reasons, perhaps the most basic of all being the very long held [multi-millennial actually] racialist belief in China of the nation’s ethnic and cultural superiority, specifically that of the Han ethnic group [the Han Chinese, the world’s largest ethnic group] that came [returned] to power during the 1911 Xinhai Revolution which overthrew the “foreign influences” [the Manchus] thus yielding the “New China.”
Observers have noted that the degree to which Han-centrism guides China’s internal and external policies has been increasing at least since the 1990s.
“…As Chinese nationalism has become more ethnocentric since the 1990s, the cultural chauvinism of Han‐centrism has become increasingly more influential in the debate over national identity. Within this narrative, Han culture is considered to be the authentic character of the nation; to deviate from the Han identity will only tarnish Chinese exceptionalism and impede China's rise.” [source, John M. Friend, Bradley A. Thayer, The Rise of Han‐Centrism and What It Means for International Politics , Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism]
As evidence that Han-centrism has extraordinarily deep and culturally appealing roots one need look no further than China’s President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” [2013, now Belt and Road Initiative, BRI] initiative, which is none other than a modern attempt by the PRC to recreate the ancient, glory day, Silk Road built during the Han Dynasty [206-220 BC] that linked China to Europe via the Central Asian countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgystan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Predating the Silk Road was the Persian [and later Roman] built, Royal Road which spanned some 1,700 miles.
Though the old Silk Road complex and Xi’s plan share the common theme of extending the reach and grasp of China via expanded trade and binding relationships, the BRI Initiative is far more ambitious because it includes a maritime component envisioning new ocean-based trade routes all the way to Africa made possible by aggressive port infrastructure projects.
The overall process is massively capital intensive, with some estimates approaching $30 trillion in required expenditures by 2040 [source, Harry Cockburn, China’s $8 Trillion Construction Progamme, Riskiest Environmental Project in History , Independent UK].
Building projects external to China are often funded by PRC backed loans which some see as a clever way to build desired infrastructure while obligating unwilling participating countries via the funding mechanism itself - ties that bind.
Institutionalized PRC Hostility Towards America
The Chinese Communist state is uninterested in notions of genuine co-operation, diplomatic, cultural and scientific exchanges and the like for their own sake. To the degree that they exist, they do so in service of the PRC’s ambitious plan for global dominion or its fallback position, the attainment of a rough parity [a “peer competitor”] with the military, industrial and technological prowess of the United States.
“…in the realm of international relations, the United States opposes any constraints, despises the United Nations, violates international law, obstructs democratic principles, and disobeys the will of the people in the whole world against war. It upholds the supremacy of force, pursues free unilateral action, and openly advocates imperialist rule of the world.” [source, Rosemary Foote, Chinese Strategies in a US Hegemonic World Order , International Affairs, 2006, see footnote 47]
Contrary to the public perception that ideology no longer drives politics in the PRC, President [whose governance is based upon the traditionally unsustainable “strongman” model] Xi Jinping has consolidated all power under the Chinese Communist Party [CCP].
This creates an interesting duality, the PRC is the CCP and vice versa. Hence we have the Chinese Communists acting to “manage” whatever capitalistic tendencies still exist in the country so that they are in concord with the party line.
To wit, in the 2018 report issued by the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission, the authors claim that, “In late 2017, China’s 19th Party Congress solidified President Xi’s consolidation of all visible levers of political power…President Xi now appears able to focus on personally guiding China’s political, economic, military, and diplomatic policies for the foreseeable future…In President Xi’s words, “Government, the military, society, and schools; north, south, east, and west—the Party leads them all.” [source, Executive Summary: 2018 U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission , Report to Congress]
It is now becoming quite clear that the West’s hope for drawing China into a less antagonistic relationship - the hallmark of two preceding decades of initiatives - has failed and that rather than bringing the PRC closer to the type of behavior the West expects, China has used trade as a weapon, a very effective one as gauged by the huge trade deficits being racked up by the United States [rapidly approaching $400 B].
Not Made in China, the Need for Espionage
The PRC as much as admits that because of its inability to compete head-to-head with the advanced nature of the West’s technocratic, military and scientific expertise and practice, it has long relied on illicit technology transfers obtained by way of a massive espionage effort that has been in effect since at least 1970:
“Nonetheless, China is still in the process of industrialization and there remain gaps between China and advanced economies. Chinese manufacturing is large but not yet strong. The capability for independent innovation is weak and external dependence for key technologies and advanced equipment is high. Enterprise-led manufacturing innovation systems have yet to be perfected. Product quality is not high…” [source, “ Made in China 2025 ” - Internal Communist Party Document, July 7, 2015]
To that end China has for decades been engaged in a massive campaign of espionage directed at illegally obtaining commercial as well as national defense related secrets for the benefit of and at the direction of the Communist Party of China.
Indicative of the nature and apparent intractability of the problem, 20 years ago former California Congressman Chris Cox charged the PRC with stealing the, “design information on the United States’ most advanced thermonuclear weapons…[giving]…the PRC design information on thermonuclear weapons on a par with our own…More specifically, the Select Committee has concluded that the successful penetration of our National Laboratories by the PRC began as early as the late 1970s; the PRC had penetrated the Laboratories throughout the 1980s and 1990s; and our Laboratories almost certainly remain penetrated by the PRC today.” [source, U.S. National Security And Military/Commercial Concerns With The People’s Republic Of China , aka the Cox Report]
In a survey of the non-classified information regarding the matter, it becomes clear that PRC nuclear weapon technology couldn't have reached current levels of sophistication without having access to both stolen US nuclear test data as well as the high-performance computer systems necessary to interpret, analyze and integrate this knowledge base into PRC weapon systems.
To provide some idea of scope and width of the PRC’s espionage offensive one need not move beyond some of the actions taken by federal law enforcement as outlined in the DOJ document, “2018 Year in Review of China Cases ”
- 1.18.18 - Chinese National Sentenced for Economic Espionage and Theft of a US Commercial Trade Secret
- 1.19.18 - 2 Los Angeles-Area Men Charged with Conspiring to Illegally Obtain Technology and Computer Chips that Were Sent to China
- 4.4.18 - Chinese Scientist Sentenced to Prison in Theft of Bio-Engineered Rice
- 4. 27.18- Two Businessmen Charged With Conspiring to Commit Economic Espionage for Benefit of Chinese Manufacturing Company Involving Dual-Use Technology With Military Applications
- 6. 8.18 - Jury Convicts Former CIA Officer of Conducting Espionage For the PRC
- 9.25.18 -Chinese National Arrested for Allegedly Acting Within the United States as an Illegal Agent of the People’s Republic of China
- 10.10.18 - Chinese Intelligence Officer Charged with Economic Espionage Involving Theft of Trade Secrets from Leading U.S. Aviation Companies
- 10.30.18- 2 Chinese Intelligence Officers And 7 Hackers Charged With Long Standing Conspiracy To Steal Sensitive Commercial Aviation and Technological Data
- 11.1.18- PRC State-Owned Company, Taiwan Company, and Three Individuals Charged With Economic Espionage
- 12.5.18- Former Head of Organization Backed by Chinese Energy Conglomerate Convicted of International Bribery, Money Laundering Offenses
Demonstrating that the PRC’s extensive 2018 espionage activity was not a fluke, the April 29, 2019 edition of the Wall Street Journal carries a story claiming that Chinese spies are increasingly targeting U.S. intelligence officers and that,“Senior U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have escalated their warnings characterizing Chinese espionage as the single most significant long-term strategic threat…” [source, China’s Spying Poses Rising Threat To U.S. ]
Soft Power, Agents of Influence and Senator Mitch McConnell
Senator McConnell is a curious personality, retiring, soft-spoken and outwardly a practitioner of the courtly art of Congressional collegiality wherein the Senate becomes the most genteel power-club in the world.
But in many ways what you don’t see about the Senator is what matters and among the most important of these hidden attributes derives from his 1993 marriage to Elaine Chao, the former GW Bush Labor Secretary and currently President Trump’s Secretary of Transportation.
Chao, at rough glance, is the embodiment of the hyper-aggressive type of personality produced by the “tiger mom” child rearing practice that stresses achievement above nearly all other personal values. She is the epitome of the hard-charging politico eager to make a significant mark on the world; her early bio is so crowded with achievement that it seems penned upon a treadmill.
“Senior lending officer, Citicorp, 1979-83; White House Fellow, 1983-84; vice president for syndications, BankAmerica Capital Markets Group, 1984-86; deputy administrator, Maritime Administration, Department of Transportation, 1986-88; chairman, Federal Maritime Commission, 1988-89; deputy secretary, Department of Transportation, 1989-91; director, Peace Corps, 1991-92.” [source, Women in the News, A Washington Veteran for Labor, a Tested Negotiator for Trade, Elaine Lan Chao , NY Times, Jan 12, 2001]
So it is with this background that she approached her most important bootstrapping project, marrying the then junior senator from the state of Kentucky, Mitch McConnell in 1993.
And it is through this lens that one must consider Chao’s meteoric rise as contrasted against the apparent source of her power, her father James’ shipping company Foremost Group [formerly Foremost Maritime Corporation], a multi-hundred-million-dollar operation with a global reach but deep ties to the Chinese Communist government.
The dark side of Chao’s CV is an open sore in DC, known about and ignored for a very long time, publicly at least since World Net Daily published a series of essays regarding the matter dating back to 2001:
“Elaine Chao, and her father [had] extensive personal ties to communist China’s [then] President Jiang Zemin - contact described as “regular” and “deep,” WorldNetDaily has learned,” with the author alleging that it is these relationships upon which the family’s financial empire is grounded. To do this would require one having friends in high places,” or “Guanxi” (the Chinese term for political connections), the source told WorldNetDaily. “The real story here is that Ms. Chao’s father - and most likely herself - has been a family friend of the leaders of communist China for practically all of her life.”[source, John Dougherty, Elaine Chao’s Ties to Chinese Leader ]
Piercing Foremost’s corporate veil very deeply is a frustrating enterprise, for example the company’s website contains little in the way of concrete information, instead offering fluff from friendly industry publications as well as containing misleading claims, for example, “Foremost Group has built ships at leading shipyards around the world and its current order book includes shipyards in Japan and elsewhere” when in fact it appears that most of Foremost’s fleet was built in China by state owned entities, much of it quite recently:
“The success of Foremost is largely due to its close ties to the Chinese government, in particular the China State Shipbuilding Corp. (CSSC), a corporation with which Foremost has done ‘large volumes of business.’ According to investigative reporter Peter Schweitzer, CSSC is‘a state-owned defense conglomerate … at the heart of the Chinese government’s military-industrial complex.’ The main goal of the CSSC is to strengthen the Chinese military. James and Angela Chao have both sat on the board of a CSSC offshoot.While Foremost is an American company, ‘their ships have been constructed by Chinese government shipyards, and some of their construction financed by the Chinese government.’” [source, Larry Getlen, How McConnell and Chao Used Their Political Power To Make Their Family Rich , New York Post]
And yet it is from these same shipyards where China’s burgeoning blue water navy is being built, a development which is seen by U.S. defense analysts as deeply troubling:
“China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States” - Adm. Philip S. Davidson, Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command. [source, Steven Lee Myers, With Ships and Missiles China is Ready to Challenge US Navy in Pacific , NY Times]
The most comprehensive treatment of the source of the Chao fortune to date has been done by investigative reporter Peter Schweitzer in his most recent book, “Secret Empires.” In a 2018 Breitbart piece , Schweitzer and Jacob McLeod write that despite the specter of a potential full-on trade war between the PRC and the United States, the future of Chao-McConnell relationship with China seems quite rosy:
“To the contrary, as the [recent] 10-ship order suggests, they have accelerated…James Chao was recently in China for an event promoting his new Chinese-language biography …sponsored by Xinhua, the Chinese state-owned media outlet, and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), a branch of the Communist Party known to be active in foreign influence operations. Sponsors praised James Chao as a great promoter of China abroad, referring to him as ‘vanguard of China-US exchanges.’…The Chao’s Chinese counterparties are often closely aligned with China’s foreign policy elite. CPAFFC President Li Xiaolin, attended the book event with the Chao’s. She is the daughter of a former Chinese president and wife of a former Major General in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Another official in attendance now serves as Deputy Director of the United Front Work Department, a division of the Communist Party involved in managing foreign relationships.”
In 2008 James Chao “gifted” the McConnells a sum of between 5 and 25 million dollars [Congressional disclosure rules being purposely designed to cloud such matters].
The matter was and remains deeply problematic…
In Washington much is made regarding “the appearance of impropriety” and the resultant potential conflictions, but in this case the conflict of interest is so patently obvious as to cloud every action taken by either Chao or McConnell given than their wealth isso directly tied to the ability of James Chao and Foremost to continue to operate in a manner consistent with the dictates of the Chinese Communist leadership.
Does an Anti-Trump Majority Leader Really Deserve a Place at the Table?
We hope that by this point in the piece the reader has become more informed regarding the nature of the Chinese Communist threat by way of the conflicted loyalties of the man who along with his wife Elaine are undoubtedly the second most powerful Republican couple in DC.
As of this writing, the 2020 campaign is in full swing, something brought home personally to the formerly never-Trumper Senate Majority Leader who is approaching his own date with the voters of Kentucky as he seeks a sixth term.
McConnell’s desire to remain a king-maker itself could and should loom a large and contentious issue in that he is so thoroughly a creature of DC’s swamp - opposing the President [and by proxy, the will represented by 63 million popular and 306 Electoral College votes] on nearly every key issue - aside from a mutual desire to place more conservative jurists on the Federal Bench. Contrary to his private agenda, while on the stump these days the Majority Leader sometimes sounds like a born again Trumper…but it’s all bad Kabuki, as was the case with former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
At the height of the Mueller hysteria, McConnell seemed poised to join “the resistance,” publicly Tweeting in May of 2017, “Our new @POTUShas of course not been in this line of work before, and I think had excessive expectations.” McConnell’s ill-considered show of pique against the President was in response to his well taken criticism regarding the glacial pace of Congressional business and the fact that there seemed no sense of urgency to act on the issues upon which the President won on in 2016.
Privately however, according to the New York Times and other sources, McConnell was telling colleagues that the Trump presidency was dead.
Regarding the President’s signature campaign issue, “our guy” has refused to take effective action at the Southern border to stem the endless flood of illegals, even denying that the invasion from Mexico and Latin America is an existential crisis. Similarly, after 7 years of whining and campaigning on the issue, McConnell declared health-care reform, starting with the killing of Obama’s “Affordable Health Care Act” DOA.
McConnell is - understandably - a weak sister when it comes to taking punitive measures towards resolving PRC’s long-time abuse of trade with the United States to the detriment of American exports and trade deficit. It was therefore entirely within character for McConnell to have joined the stealth effort in the Senate to clip Mr. Trump’s wings as it were when it comes to his tariff authority.
Notably, his allies in this effort were Trumpophobes:
"I don't like trade wars. There are no winners in trade wars. And this scares me…" In his effort to apply pressure to the White House with hopes of breaking Trump’s hard-line approach towards trade with the PRC, McConnell worked behind the scene with former Senators Flake and Corker as well as Pennsylvania’s senior Senator Toomey to bring a “motion to instruct” bill to the floor that would give the legislative branch essentially veto power when it comes to matters of retaliation when it comes to trade. That the effort was eventually abandoned speaks more to the waning influence of outgoing renegade GOP Senators than a sea-change in McConnell’s thinking. [source, Elizabeth Landers, McConnel Becomes Latest to Break From Trump on Tariffs, CNN ]
The questions raised by McConnell’s version of dual-citizenship, one foot in DC, the other seemingly in Beijing are deeply disturbing. Rather than act as the President’s right-hand man, his efforts have been primarily directed at preserving the swamp that is the American seat of government and in particular the Majority Leader’s place at the administrative state’s trough.
Since he and his wife have benefitted so grandly by playing this cynical game and given the reality that the current overheated political dynamic allows the Majority Leader to play “good cop” against his own “bad cop,” it would be naïve to expect Mr. McConnell to take any action that might upset his “wealth-by-stealth” machine.
©2019 PipeLineNews.org LLC, William Mayer.All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law