Each week I am summarising the main points in Hamilton and Ohlberg’s Hidden Hand. I regard this as such an important book that I wish everyone involved in public life would read it – but I realise that a lot of people won’t have the time and so I hope these summaries are helpful.
Hidden Hand 3 – The CCP’s Influence on Bush, Biden, Bloomberg and other American Political Elites.
Hidden Hand is proving to be a prophetic book. Every week I see it being played out and proven largely correct in the media. This week alone the CCP, in its fury against Australia, for daring to challenge their bullying, has swung into battle. An Australia journalist in China has been arrested,; an ‘investigation’ into the $1.6 billion Australian wine trade in China has begun; Australian Universities have been identified as places where Chinese funded academics are sending technological and military secrets back to China; and Huawei (remember the company that is ‘independent’ of the CCP) has stopped sponsoring the Canberra Raiders. Meanwhile I listened to an ABC panel – who were all convinced that whereas Donald Trump was clearly bad and to be condemned without reservation, ‘China’ was more nuanced, and we needed ‘balance’ etc. If you have read Hamilton and Ohlberg’s book – none of this will come as a surprise.
It will be interesting to see if Australia’s Western allies will support Australia. I suspect that the EU will cave, I don’t know about the UK and as for the US, it will depend on who gets elected President. Australia will be in big trouble if there is a President Biden. Chapter three helps us understand why.
CCP Foreigner Categories
The genius of the CCP is to target , amongst others, Western political elites, by playing to their weaknesses – vanity, hubris and greed. The party divides foreigners into five categories
- First category friend – someone who agrees with the party on everything. Frequently quoted in the media. Like the British man this week who has been posting about how he lives in China and nothing is happening to the Uighur’s. He has been given star treatment by the Chinese Media.
- Friendly personage – Relied upon but not really trusted (often businesspeople).
- Those who love China but know all the vices of Chinese communism – they are beyond influence.
- Those who love China but hate Chinese communism – they are enemies to be discredited.
- Those who don’t know and don’t care – they are ‘the useful idiots’ because they can be invited to cultural events etc and can be influenced.
Hamilton then goes on to list how this works out in the West – especially in North America.
George H. W Bush wrote in his memoir about how he had a special relationship with Deng and was given special insights. Western politicians are naïve and vain enough to believe that they are been given special understanding to the thoughts of Chinese leaders – and then they act as the conduit for those leaders.
For example, former Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, was appointed to the international council of the China Development Bank (along with Henry Kissinger). He described human rights as ‘Western values’ that do not apply in China and praised the CCP government as the best government in the world in the last thirty years. Full stop.”
Susan Thornton, a former senior US State Department Official, was one of one hundred American scholars, businesspeople and foreign policy experts who wrote a letter in July 2019, criticising Trump’s China policy. It’s a revealing letter because it only mentions ‘China’ not the CCP. They argue that the real problem is the US with its more aggressive stance – and if only we continued to be nice to China and let it do what it wants, then it will of course become like a Western democracy. It was Western paternalism at is most stupid. Of course, the Chinese media lapped it up and praised it to the skies.
John McCallum – was the Canadian ambassador to China. When Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada in December 2018, he advised her how to get out of being extradited, and publicly supported the CCP, even when it jailed two Canadian citizens in retaliation on trumped up charges. He said that Canada had more in common with China than the United States! The Chinese media praised him as a ‘truth teller’. McCallum had often travelled to China over three decades and was a classic ‘victim’ of their psychological techniques. “Self-belief with the need to feel important opens people to seduction”. Hamilton gives several other examples of other envoys being caught in the same trap. “I think that Chinese official really likes me. I am special.”
The difference between this new ‘Cold War’ and the old one with Russia, is that the CCP are not really interesting in people ‘turning’ and becoming spies. They just want diplomats to become convinced that the most important thing in the world is to maintain good relations with China. It is a brilliant and effective tactic.
Another effective tactic is to use business, money and the promise of travel. In a later chapter Hamilton looks at how this works through ‘academic’ think tanks – especially in Washington.
President Clinton met with a top Chinese intelligence operative in the White House in 1996. Significant Chinese money was donated to the Clinton campaign.
The President, the White House, the bureaucracy, think tanks and business lobby groups were all targeted by Beijing. ‘The common belief was that as China developed economically , it would naturally morph into a liberal state”. Even after this has been proven false many stick to this view because they have strong personal investment in defending Beijing.
Joe Biden –
In May 2019 Biden ridiculed the idea that China was a strategic threat: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man”. This deep analysis of international policy from someone who could well be the next President of the US! Biden had urged caution when Hillary Clinton, as Obama’s secretary of state, was taking a tougher position on China. “Biden had formed a warm personal relationship with Xi Jinping when Xi was vice president and president-in-waiting”. Biden holds to the naïve belief that China will eventually liberalise – he has an over optimistic view, not only of China, but of his own abilities.
The CCP has been courting him by awarding business deals which have enriched his son, Hunter Biden. When vice- President Biden flew to China in December 2013 , Hunter went with him. He had other meetings. Two weeks later Hunter opened a new firm, BHR partners, whose largest shareholder is the CCP run Bank of China. Hunter’s personal share in this is believed to be around $20 million. Does anyone really believe that Hunter, who has little experience in private equity, would have received such largesse from the Chinese government if his father were not vice-President of the US? It’s corruption 101. Why is this not a factor in the US election? In my view Biden’s weakness over China and exposure to corruption by proxy is sufficient reason to hope that he never becomes President.
Again, the tactic is brilliant. It is ‘corruption by proxy’. The top leaders keep their hands clean, but their families are targeted. It works. In 2014/15 Beijing aggressively expanded in the South China Sea, and Obama, Kerry and Biden sat on their hands.
Michael Bloomberg – is the most Beijing friendly of all presidential aspirants. He has extensive investments in China, opposes the tariff war and often speaks up for the CCP. ‘Xi Jinping is not a dictator’ says the New York billionaire – perhaps he should tell that to the million imprisoned Uighurs, the people of Hong King and the Christians currently having their churches torn down?
Mitch McConnell – Senator from Kentucky has been Senate majority leader. He was once a ‘hardliner’ on China but in the 1990’s became a ‘dove’/ Why? He married the daughter of one of his doners, Chinese American businessman James Chao. Elaine Chao went on to serve as secretary of labor under President George W Bush, and in 2017 was sworn in as Presidents Trumps’ transportation secretary. James Chao has excellent guanxi – connections in China. In 2008 he made a gift of several million dollars to the McConnells. Since the 1990’s McConnell has been working to shift the Republicans to a more China friendly position. When the Republicans backed a resolution supporting Taiwan, he was missing in action. He has opposed any measures to censure China for its human rights abuses and currency manipulation. Elaine Chao has dismissed reports suggesting China is a threat. This at the heart of the American government.
President Trump = Although he has slowly come to challenge China there have been considerable pressures on him not to do so. E.g. the new commerce secretary , Wilbur Ross, has extensive investments in China. Gary Cohn, Trump’s director of the National Economic Council, had been president of Goldman Sachs – which is heavily invested in Chinese banks and is a key influencer for the CCP. This alliance between hedge fund capitalists and Chinese communists is fascinating. Cohn has deep connections with Chinese financial and political elites. Trumps treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, had also worked for Goldman Sachs – he became the leading China dove in the White House.
Trump’s son in law , Jared Kushner, and senior White House advisor has substantial investments in China. Ivanka Trump owns valuable trademarks in China – some granted after her father became President (see the ‘corruption by proxy’ policy at work). She was executive vice president of Trump Hotels, which planned to build some twenty to thirty hotels in China. Despite all this the relationship between Trump and the Chinese went sour in 2018.
The Bush Family and the CCP
Jeb Bush – The CCP were hedging their bets before 2016. They thought Jeb Bush could become president and so a Singapore based Chinese couple invested in Bush with a $1.3 million donation to his election campaign. They appointed his brother Neil Bush as a non-executive chairman of their company.
George HW Bush – was regarded as a ‘special friend’ by China. “As President in 1989 Bush worked hard to smooth relations after the June massacre in Tiananmen Square, sending a secret delegation to Beijing in early July, just a month after the bloody crackdown” . Is it any wonder that the CCP think they can get away with anything? Bush’s son Neil chairs the George HW Bush China- US Relations Foundation which works with the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. The CPAFFC is a United Front organisation which although posing as an NGO is a CCP organisation. Thus, you have a US politician signing up with a CCP organisation to promote “a peaceful and prosperous future”.
Youyi is a term for friendship that is associated with foreigners. It is key to the CCP exerting influence. One example is the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the CPAFFC and an Irish think tank, AsiaMatters in May 2019 – to promote people to people exchanges and cooperation. At the ceremony Ireland’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, said that Ireland would now advance China’s interests in the EU.
Returning to Neil Bush. The CCP certainly get their money’s worth. He argues that China was becoming more mature and that US democracy was flawed, and politicians were ‘brainwashing people into seeing China as a problem”. This naivety (greed? stupidity?) are dangerous and costs lives. In 2019 Bush was in Hong Kong saying that the US should not meddle in Chinese affairs, that CCP leaders are motivated by concern for the people, and that ‘US style democracy is not suited to China”. In October 2019 he told China TV that Americans would change their view of China if only they ‘could see the rise of the freedom people are enjoying there’. As Hamilton says, “His words so closely echoed those generated by the CCP’s Propaganda Department they could have been written by it”. They probably were. A few months after Bush praised the rise of freedom in China, the CCP took away the last freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.
Lenin is supposed to have spoken of ‘useful idiots’ – do-gooders who could be exploited and used by The Party to further their aims. It appears that the CCP has taken and honed this concept to perfection. The West is full of ‘useful idiots’ who believe that they have a ‘special understanding and friendship’ with China and who, in the naïve belief that they are being used to change China towards Western liberal democracies, are instead being used to undermine and weaken those very democracies.