THWARTING CHINA’S “HIDDEN HAND” VERY MUCH JAPAN’S BUSINESS
It has become customary for US presidents to write memoirs not long after leaving the White House. Royalties are incredibly high by the Japanese standards, but they may be justifiable in that these books attract readers across the globe, virtually guaranteeing a best seller. Barack and Michelle Obama each has sold a book in a joint deal, reportedly making $US65 million. The sum was so ridiculous it made me pass the point of surprise and start laughing. Even so, I think presidential memoirs are worth reading.
Of all the US presidents, Bill Clinton doubtless appears to have been the one most seriously affected by Chinese influence. Chinese money presumably was one reason Hillary failed to become the first woman president in America despite her all-out efforts. There is a high possibility that the image of the Clintons tainted with Chinese money inevitably blocked her road to the White House. Mienai Te (Asuka Shinsha, Tokyo; December 2020), a Japanese translation of Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping the World (Oneworld Publication, London; September 2020) elaborately details the shocking facts about China’s vile efforts to influence America, targeting both parties.
Hidden Hand was written by Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohlberg. Hamilton is the author of Silent Invasion (Hardie Grant Books, Australia; 2018), a best-selling chronicle of China’s efforts to peddle influence in Australia.
In Hidden Hand Hamilton turns his attention to Chinese operations in North America and Europe. The Chinese infiltration portrayed in each country is horrendous, but especially appalling are the efforts the Communist Party (CCP) has made to influence members of the Republican Party—particularly the Bush clan.
In Decision Point (Crown Publishing Group; 2010), a memoir by George W. Bush, we see a person who had been raised receiving the total love of his parents. Bush recalls his life as a young man who was a big drinker, made mistakes, got married, and gave up drinking to deepen his belief in Christianity—a touching evolution of a forthright and sincere person.
Assessments of Bush as president vary, but there has been a nagging question in my mind about the relationship between the Bush clan and the Chinese government. Before becoming the 41st president (1989-93), his father served as chief US liaison officer to China 1974-76 and CIA director 1976-78. He was Vice President under Ronald Regan. As President, Bush Sr. dealt with the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square Incident and waged the Gulf War to a resounding victory, among other things. When the international community imposed economic sanctions on China in 1989 and isolated it as a result of the Tiananmen Massacre, Bush sent a secret mission to Beijing to smooth relations.
China’s Sweet Temptations
Japan is often considered the first nation (under the Kaifu administration) to break the tight shackles of international economic sanctions, but it actually was the US that moved swiftly to come to the aid of China, with Bush playing a key role.
China respectfully calls Bush Sr. “an old friend”—an honorific it bestows on world figures who have rendered great help to China, including Henry Kissinger. Although his father was on good terms with the Chinese, Bush Jr. acted quickly right after inauguration to position China as America’s strategic rival, departing from Clinton’s policy of viewing China as a strategic partner. But his decision to reshape America’s over-optimistic China policy was undermined drastically by the 9/11 attacks during the first year of his presidency. Bush subsequently invited Chinese President Jiang Zemin to his villa in Crawford, Texas, where he switched his China policy from one based on competition with China to cooperation in a fight against terrorism.
That China decided to target the other Bush brothers is clearly discernible from what followed the Crawford meeting. When Jeb Bush ran for president in 2016, the Chinese side donated US$1.3 million, which was actually provided by a Chinese couple—Gordon Tan, a property developer in California, and his partner Huaidan Chen, based in Singapore.
Jeb quickly pulled out of the race—seemingly a disappointment to China. But earlier, in 2013, the wealthy Chinese couple had already started to groom Neil Bush, the third son of George and Barbara Bush, by naming him non-executive chairman of their company Shinhaiyi.
In 2017 Neil founded the George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations and assumed its chairmanship, inheriting his family’s Chinese assets (Hidden Hand). The foundation is in a cooperative relationship with the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries—”a top-level advisory body that forms an integral part of the CCP’s united front work.”
It is easy to imagine that the Chinese side must have made various approaches to Neil with tempting offers. The People’s Daily in its June 24, 2019 edition enthusiastically reported on Neil’s remarks during an interview, according to the authors.
Neil is quoted as telling the interviewer: “While China is becoming more and more mature, US democracy is flawed and politicians are ‘brainwashing’ Americans into seeing China as a problem. Some US politician is putting trade barriers on as a political weapon to bully countries into doing what he is demanding.”
Marrying Daughter to Elite Politician
Hamilton further quotes Neil as gushing about “the natural kindness and gift giving of the Chinese people” during an interview with the state broadcaster CGTN, “unwittingly revealing the tactics used to groom him.”
Hamilton also writes that Neil observed during another interview with the CGTN: “Americans would change their view of China if they could only see ‘the rise of the freedom people are enjoying.’”
The Bushes are one of the most prestigious political clans in the US. There of course is no guarantee how long the enormous political clout the Bush clan has will last, as American politics often changes dramatically. But China structures its infiltration operations extremely craftily, pouring in abundant economic resources. Examples of Chinese infiltration in the US, Canada and European countries show that women are sometimes used to seduce political or business elites in addition to offers of vast amounts of money or vested interests. In other words, the Chinese sometimes marry their daughters to political elites.
Mutual affection is naturally required in any marriage. But still, the case of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell makes one think. A Republican heavyweight who is the most powerful man in Washington after Trump, the Senate majority leader was once a leading hardliner but in the 1990s became “a noted China dove” after marrying Elaine Chan, the daughter of Chinese-American James Chan, one of his donors.
Chan was a classmate of Jiang Zemin at Shanghai’s Jao Tong University in the late 1940s. His shipping company in New York is closely affiliated with state-owned Chinese corporations. Elaine served as secretary of labor under Bush Jr. and secretary of transportation under Trump. In 2009, her father gave McConnell a multimillion-dollar gift, making him one of the wealthiest senators in Washington. This spurred McConnell to lead the Republican Party to a pro-Beijing line, as the authors analyze it.
It is clear that Japan has also been a target of China’s efforts to extend its influence at any cost. But the free world cannot afford to be tainted with Chinese values. We must lay bare the reality of China’s “hidden hand” which has been extended toward Japan in the same way it has toward America and Europe. Taking a fresh look at the situation in Japan at this juncture, I cannot but feel grave concern over how seriously Confucius Institutes, the Thousand Talents Plan, and our pro-Beijing lawmakers and business leaders can impair our national interests. It is time that we commit ourselves fully to exposing the truth about Beijing’s “hidden hand” as it relates to Japan.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 933 in the January 14, 2021 issue of The Weekly Shincho)