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From the Chinese government to McConnell’s back pocket

Mike Forsythe, Eric Lipton, Keith Bradsher, and Sui-Lee Wee of the New York Times have a massive investigative story (porous paywall) on the family business and political connections of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao (趙小蘭 Zhào Xiǎolán). Secretary Chao is married to Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, and has served in both Bush administrations, so her connections in American politics are well known.

Here are some key findings the Times made about her family’s connections in China, and how they have formed a foundation of her husband’s political fortune:

The American Embassy in Beijing raised ethics questions after Secretary Chao requested to include “relatives who were fairly wealthy and connected to the shipping industry” in meetings in China in 2017. Those meetings were later “abruptly canceled.”

These requests were “alarmingly inappropriate,” said David Rank, a top American diplomat in Beijing who “learned of the matter after he stepped down as deputy chief of mission in Beijing earlier in 2017.”

Foremost, Secretary Chao’s father’s business, is a small but successful American shipping company whose “fleet is overwhelmingly focused on China.”

“Foremost has received hundreds of millions of dollars in loan commitments from a bank run by the Chinese government… Foremost has relied on the Export-Import Bank of China, or China EximBank, to finance at least four ships in the past decade… As of 2015, the bank had made at least $300 million available to Foremost, it said at the time.”

“The Times found that the Chaos had an extraordinary proximity to power in China for an American family, marked not only by board memberships in state companies, but also by multiple meetings with the country’s former top leader [Jiāng Zémín 江泽民], including one at his villa.”

“Public records show that she has benefited from the company’s success. A gift to Ms. Chao and Mr. McConnell from her father in 2008 [“valued between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal disclosures”] helped make Mr. McConnell, the Republican majority leader, one of the richest members of the Senate.”

“In all, from 1989 through 2018, 13 members of the extended Chao family gave a combined $1.66 million to Republican candidates and committees, including $1.1 million to Mr. McConnell and political action committees tied to him, according to F.E.C. records.”

See also a short article published by the Times with five takeaways from the investigation, and this Twitter thread by reporter Mike Forsythe that walks through some of the corporate documents and other evidence uncovered by the investigation.

The Tiananmen Square crackdown, at 30 years

General reporting on Tiananmen’s legacy and how it is remembered:

Voices from Tiananmen / SCMP
“In the following pages, former government officials, student leaders and other eyewitnesses revisit the momentous events of spring, 1989. These personal accounts, gathered from recent video interviews, as well as memoirs, shed new light on the hope and despair left by those days, which continue to haunt China a quarter century later.”
Also see this 15-minute SCMP documentary.

Thirty years after Tiananmen, protesters' goals further away than ever / Reuters

Six questions and four articles about Tiananmen Square / ChinaFile

Thirty years after Tiananmen: someone always remembers / by Ian Johnson in NYT (porous paywall)

When China massacred its own people / by Nicholas Kristof in NYT (porous paywall)

After Tiananmen, China conquers history itself / by Louisa Lim in NYT (porous paywall)

‘In the streets, anguish, fury and tears’ / NYT (porous paywall)
“Read excerpts from The Times’s on-the-ground coverage of the Chinese government’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.”

'Sacred day': Chinese remember Tiananmen killings by fasting / Guardian
“Thirty years after crackdown, fasting is gaining traction to mark 4 June amid increasing censorship.”

Witness accounts from Tiananmen in 1989:

What I learned leading the Tiananmen protests / by Wang Dan in NYT (porous paywall)

He stayed at Tiananmen to the end. now he wonders what it meant. / NYT (porous paywall)
“Zhou Duo helped evacuate Tiananmen Square in 1989. These days he defends the movement, but sees democracy in retreat in the West and far-off in China.”

Thirty years on from Tiananmen: unpublished pictures of the student movement / Radio France Internationale
“RFI’s Jan van der Made was in Beijing during the last days of the protest movement and the first days of the crackdown. His eyewitness account is illustrated here in his previously unpublished photographs.”

Tiananmen Square 30 years on: ‘At 3am, I feared I might be killed’ / Guardian

—Lucas Niewenhuis


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