Just as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was marking the 30th anniversary of Beijing’s June 4 incident in an unusually high-profile manner, his cabinet colleague, Elaine Lan Chao, a Chinese American and the incumbent Secretary for Transportation, has been engulfed in a snowballing scandal.
According to investigative reports of the New York Times, Chao’s family has high-level political connections in China, and her failure to faithfully declare those links may constitute conflict of interest.
Worse still, the paper alleges that Chao, over the years, has been using her extensive connections in China to elevate the shipping company “Foremost Group”, which was founded by her father James Si-Cheng Chao, to prominence in the sector.
It is said that James Chao, who fled to Taiwan amid the Chinese civil war in 1949, used to be the schoolmate of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin when both of them were studying in Shanghai during the 1930s.
The fact that Elaine Chao, despite being a Taiwanese immigrant, a seasoned Republican politician and the wife of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, isn’t still immune to suspicions of “colluding with” China, it suggests that an anti-Chinese witch-hunt is subtly looming on the American horizon.
In the meantime, the Chinese Ministry of Education recently issued a warning for mainland students planning to study in the US, pointing out that American authorities are tightening visa control for Chinese students, a measure that, it said, would affect the learning and successful graduation of Chinese students in the US.
So are Chinese international students studying in the US really being affected? Perhaps a remark made by President Donald Trump during a private dinner party with top US business executives at his golf club in New Jersey in August last year might give us a clue.
During the dinner, he was quoted as saying that almost “every student that comes over to this country (from that country) is a spy.”
The reference of “that country” is mystery to no one, though Trump didn’t identify China by name.
As counter-measures, perhaps all Beijing can do is mount a similar witch-hunt against US companies operating in China.
And as the ideological struggle between the US and China continues to escalate, we believe things are likely to get even uglier in the coming days.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 5
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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