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Who Is Lobbying China?

[Editor’s Note: An article published in Globe, a bi-weekly magazine under Xinhua, shows China’s perspective on how the U.S. has been lobbying the Chinese government on behalf of various business interests. The following is a translation of excerpts from the article “Who Is Lobbying China?”] [1]

“In all aspects of U.S. diplomacy toward China, including the economy and trade, American style lobbying is becoming a fast growing industry. In this profession, the players, no longer limited to the U.S. government and the Chamber of Commerce, also include U.S.-based multinational companies, U.S. universities, think tanks, and other civil society groups.”

“At the recent second-round Sino-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialog, American-style lobbying once again demonstrated its strong energy. In addition to the frequent public efforts of huge trading groups led by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the American business and trade organizations also had a lot of private activities. Shortly before the Dialog, the American Chamber of Commerce launched a well organized ‘May Offensive’ toward China’s senior officials, aiming to open the door for government procurement.”

Former Politicians Who Love to “Visit”

 “Among the troops of China lobbyists, some former politicians have played an important role because of their familiarity with Chinese officials and Chinese affairs.”

“… Although having dealt with China multiple times when he was in office, Evans’ (former Commerce Secretary Donald Evans) visit to China this time was not for reminiscing. Instead, others entrusted him with an important mission. What he represented was an organization called ‘Financial Service Forum,’ whose members include 20 presidents of U.S. banks. The visit this time was to persuade Chinese regulatory agencies to further open up China’s financial market.”

 “… Evans served as Secretary of Commerce under the Bush Administration from 2001 to 2004. He started work for ‘Financial Service Forum’ in 2005 and visited China several times as its lobbyist. In his October 2007 visit, he talked to almost every key official in the Chinese financial and regulatory authorities.”

“U.S. media believe that, of all former politicians that American corporations have hired to lobby China, ‘possibly the most sought-after star’ is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The former Federal Communication Commission chairman Reed Hunt often visits China as the representative of IT companies in Silicon Valley. He discusses issues of opening up the Chinese Internet and telecommunication industry, and has become a regular visitor of relevant Chinese agencies. After leaving office as the governor of Washington State, current Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke was a consultant on China-related business, exclusively serving large U.S. corporations such as Microsoft and Starbucks. The Albright Stone Bridge Group led by former Secretary of State Albright and former National Security Advisor Berger planned to expand its Beijing staff to at least 10 people this year. The branch manager used to be the U.S. representative during trade talks with China.”

Large-Scale Onset of American-Style Lobbying

“… A number of Washington old brand lobbying firms, such as Jones Day, Hogan Lovells, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP, all set up China offices in the name of an investment consulting or communication firm. In addition to serving U.S. corporations and other foreign businesses, they also serve some Chinese companies as clients.”

“… In fact, U.S. companies’ illegal acts in their home country, such as direct bribes, hiring officials’ relatives with a high salary, and paying for luxury travel, have also entered China. In April 2004, Lucent Technologies’ China branch fired four high-ranking managers on the grounds of alleged violation of the ‘Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,’ in which the U.S. government prohibits bribing foreign officials. In November 2006, an American software manufacturer was accused of paying for a luxurious overseas vacation for Chinese officers and family members.”

“Law firms in Washington have also increased staff members in Beijing and preferentially hire China hands who have retired from the U.S. government. For example, former USTR’s Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China Affairs, Timothy Stratford (Chinese name Xia Zunen), is currently a partner of Covington & Burling LLP’s Beijing office. When interviewed by Bloomberg recently, he said that he was just entrusted by Microsoft and other American companies to participate in a lobbying campaign aimed at urging China to revise a policy that could prevent these companies from making huge profits in a government purchase as high as US$88 billion.”

From Unidirectional to Bidirectional

 “While proactively going abroad to China to lobby, the U.S. public relations campaign toward China also created a model that invites Chinese officials, entrepreneurs, and elite intellectuals to receive short-term training in the U.S. in an effort to cultivate a ‘pro-U.S’ group in China.”

 “Every summer since 2000, General Electric has chosen around 25 Chinese entrepreneurs to participate in this company’s leadership program in New York. … This kind of relationship has reaped results: This company and China signed contracts to supply jet engines as well as wind turbine generators.”

 “Meanwhile, some well-known U.S. institutes took advantage of their teaching resources to launch training programs for Chinese officials and other elite personnel. In 2007, when visiting friends around the University of Maryland, located in the Washington D.C metro area, the reporter met a group of ‘special Chinese students.’ From the textbooks they held and the bikes they rode, they were no different from other students. However, their age, clothing, and appearances were more like officials in China. The Chinese scholar, Liu Quansheng, at the University of Maryland explained to the reporter that these people were county-level officials from Shandong Province, receiving training at the Institute for Global Chinese Affairs. Later the reporter got to know that, since 1996, this university has held dozens of training programs for more than 2,000 middle and high level Chinese officials. Its partners in China include the General Administration of Sport, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine, the China Meteorological Administration, some local governments, and some universities and colleges.”

 “In fact, since the late 1990s, the trend of Chinese officials going to the U.S. to participate in training programs has been growing steadily. The most famous project is the Harvard University Kennedy School’s annual ‘China Future Leadership Project.’ Since 2002, there have been approximately 60 central and local government officials participating in this training every year. The curriculum includes public administration, sustainable development, leadership ability, and negotiation skills. As of 2007, there have been more than 300 bureau level and above officials in China who have received the training. The U.S. side claims that the essence of this training is to cultivate the way of thinking that “looks at the question from the angle of the other party.”

 “However, with the growth of China’s national power, public relations between the U.S. and China has gradually changed from unidirectional to bidirectional. From April 17 to 24 of this year, Tsinghua University welcomed a group of special students. Nearly 20 U.S. bureau-level senior officials came to China for a one-week intensive training under the arrangement of the U.S. Federal Executive Institute. The curriculum included Chinese politics, economy, military, energy, environment management, and decision analysis.”

 “This so called ‘China and U.S. Senior Government Official Training Class’ is the very first time that the U.S. government has organized high-ranking officers  to come to China for training. It is reported that the students were chosen by the FEI and those bureau level officials have a direct influence on the U.S.’s China policy. The students include directors from the Office of Independent Program Evaluations under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s International Affairs Office of the Western Hemisphere under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Navy Information Operations Command’s Action and Planning Office under the U.S. Naval Department, the United States Department of Defense’s Defense Technology Analysis Office and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s New Reactor Office. The U.S. side indicated that the U.S. side will send more high-ranking officials in the future to study in China because, ‘It is very important for the U.S. to be able to make the right decisions toward China.’”

[1] Globe, August 6, 2010