Manhattan Institute

American Princelings

Hunter Biden and other children of political leaders are favored elites in the Chinese mode.

Mainstream media have mostly ignored or dismissed as “old claims” the interim Senate report into Hunter Biden’s shady business dealings in Ukraine, but the most explosive content in the report may be his engagement with China. The report details how the Democratic presidential nominee’s son has “extensive connections to Chinese businesses and Chinese foreign nationals that are linked to the Communist government.”

Consider, for example, the Bohai Harvest RST (BHR) investment fund, partly owned and directed by Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz, the stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry, through their private equity fund, Rosemont Seneca Partners. Chinese companies, including some large state-owned enterprises such as the Bank of China (BOC), controlled and funded 80 percent of BHR, and Chinese government authorities approved the deal to establish the fund after Hunter Biden traveled to China with then-Vice President Joe Biden in 2013.

Why would China’s largest state-owned bank—whose mandate is to support the Chinese government’s strategic goals with capital—want to start a business with a relatively small and unknown American private equity fund? The obvious answer is to buy influence in the United States through the children of two of the most prominent officials in the Obama administration.

Beijing’s investment in BHR soon paid off. In 2015, the fund played a key role in securing approval by the Obama administration and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) for the sale of the Michigan-based Henniges Automotive to one of China’s main military aircraft makers, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). The approval of this deal surprised many. AVIC had previously been in the news for allegedly stealing “technologies related to the US F-35 stealth fighter,” technologies then used in China’s own new stealth fighter, the J-31.

Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China also led him to work closely with Ye Jianming, chairman of CEFC China Energy, who reportedly has close ties to both the Chinese government and the PLA. Although a private company, CEFC had routinely struck deals that made no business sense but helped the Chinese government advance its geopolitical goals.

In 2016, Hunter Biden’s law firm, Owasco PC, formed Hudson West III LLC (now dissolved) with several Chinese nationals, including Ye’s associate, Gong Wendong. In a transaction the Senate report identified as “potential financial criminal activity,” a CEFC subsidiary funneled money to Hudson West III, which then paid almost $5 million in “consulting fees” to Hunter Biden’s law firm between August 2017 and September 2018.

On the same day that Ye’s CEFC announced THAT it would acquire a $9 billion stake in Rosneft, the state-owned Russian energy company, Gong opened a line of credit for Hudson West III; according to the Senate report, “Hunter Biden, James Biden, and James Biden’s wife, Sara Biden, were all authorized users of credit cards associated with the account. . . . The Bidens subsequently used the credit cards they opened to purchase $101,291.46 worth of extravagant items, including airline tickets and multiple items at Apple Inc. stores, pharmacies, hotels and restaurants.”

All these dealings remind me of a Chinese word, translated in English as “princeling,” which applies to the children of China’s most powerful Communist Party officials. Xi Jinping, China’s current leader for life, is a princeling. His late father, Xi Zhongxun, was a Communist revolutionary who fought alongside Chairman Mao and later became a vice premier of the People’s Republic.

Princelings live very privileged lives. They grow up in walled compounds with security guards and attended elite schools. When China began opening up to the outside world in the early 1980s, they were among the first groups of Chinese students to study abroad. When they returned to China, they usually took up senior positions inside the government or at state-owned companies or joint ventures. Both domestic and foreign companies hoping to seal lucrative business deals in China do everything they can to keep both princelings and their children on the payroll. Monetizing their influence and proximity to political power has allowed them to accumulate enormous wealth.

The Senate report on Hunter Biden is a reminder that the United States is not immune to corruption and abuse of power by the families of elites. Of course, Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz are not the only American princelings. In 2018, the Chinese government approved 16 trademark applications related to Ivanka Trump Marks, LLC within a month. The speed of the approval was unheard of. Would Trump have received this special treatment had she not been the daughter of the president of the United States?

The existence of American princelings, regardless of their political affiliation, is corrosive to our democracy. As Joe Biden himself once said, “corruption is a cancer.” The longer we ignore such corruption and abuse of power by our political elites and their families, the more divided America will become, and the harder it will be to keep our nation intact.

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