The new deputy head of a propaganda and espionage agency in the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China (PRC) has documented ties with business tycoons, university heads and other elite members of American society.
Chen Xu, former party secretary of one of the PRCâ€™s most prestigious universities,Â Tsinghua, was promoted to deputy head of the United Front Work Department (UFWD), according to an updated leadership roster on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)Â portal, which was first reported in ChineseÂ mediaÂ on Feb. 28.
The United Front Work Department
The Department of State describedÂ the operations of the UFWD as including â€œthe use or threat of physical violence, theft and release of private information, espionage, sabotage, or malicious interference in domestic political affairs, academic freedom, personal privacy, or business activityâ€ in a 2020Â press statement.
The general secretary of the CCP, Xi Jinping, labeled the UFWD a â€œmagic weaponâ€ for â€œrealizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nationâ€ in a 2014 speech celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Chinese Peopleâ€™s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a state organ which oversees the UFWD.
Recently, Beijingâ€™s espionage operations have garnered increased scrutiny in the U.S. following the FBIâ€™sÂ chargingÂ of five individuals with â€œtransnational repression schemesâ€ on Mar. 16, crimes which allegedly included the targeting of a Congressional candidate.
The Justice Departmentâ€™sÂ announcementÂ comes just two months after MI5 named a London solicitor,Â Christine Ching Kui Lee, as an alleged UFWD operative acting to financially influence British politicians in a January â€œsecurity service interference alertâ€Â issuedÂ to the House of Commons.
Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who is the lead of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and chair of the groupâ€™sÂ China Task Force, spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation about the dangers of associating with CCP, UFWD and CPPCC members.
â€œThe Justice Departmentâ€™s indictments this week are yet another wakeup call that the CCP is actively reaching into American society and trying to limit our freedoms,â€ McCaul said, making reference to the FBIâ€™s WednesdayÂ press conferenceÂ as evidence of the looming espionage threat. â€œYears of law enforcement activity, including this week, clearly show that this transnational repression can raise to the level ofÂ criminalÂ activity, and Americans should be aware when they are dealing entities who carry out the CCPâ€™s objectives abroad.â€
Blackstoneâ€™s Chinese Communist Party-Backed IPO
The UFWDâ€™s new deputy, Chen, has spent years cultivating relationships with U.S.Â politicians,Â leadersÂ in the Chinese-American community,Â student associations, and otherÂ high-profile individuals, such as the billionaire CEO of The Blackstone Group, Stephen Schwarzman.
Schwarzmanâ€™s connections to individuals tied to the CCP began years before meeting Chen at Tsinghua University.
Schwarzman began traveling toÂ ChinaÂ in 1990, but by 2007, when his global investment business,Â Blackstone, opened its second Asia-Pacific office inÂ Hong Kong, Schwarzman had already begun keeping regular company with figures directly and indirectly associated with the CCP, such as Antony Leung.
Before heading up Blackstoneâ€™s Hong Kong office, Leung was employed as theÂ financial secretaryÂ of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. In that capacity, Leung reported to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong,Â Tung Chee-hwa, a man linked to PRC influence operations across America and someone the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review CommissionÂ reportsÂ is â€œclearly associated with the United Front.â€
Mao Zedongâ€™s right hand man,Â Zhou Enlai, was the first person appointed to the position of vice chairman of the CPPCC, a title Tung now holds.
Schwarzman credits Tungâ€™s subordinate, Leung, with the lionâ€™s share of Blackstoneâ€™s success in the PRC.
Schwarzman said it was Leung who was by his side when he firstÂ metÂ with Xi Jinping during the future presidentâ€™s short stint as party secretary of Shanghai in 2007, and it wasÂ LeungÂ who helped arrange for $3 billion in funding for Blackstoneâ€™s June 2007 IPO from China Investment Corp (CIC), aÂ sovereign wealth fundÂ created by the CCP.
â€œWhen we were going public in 2007, we were planning a $4 billion IPO and the government of China came in and asked can we buy $3 billion of the $4 billion IPO?â€ Schwarzman toldÂ The Economic TimesÂ in 2020. â€œThis was sort of a shock because I have not been to China since 1990 and nobody buys three quarters of an IPO.â€
â€œSo, what we did is, we just increased it to $7 billion and we became the worldâ€™s second largest IPO of the decade after Google,â€ Schwarzman told The Economic Times. â€œAs a result of this, it was for the first time China had bought an equity interest in a public company outside of China, since modern China was established in 1949.â€
After going public, Blackstoneâ€™s first earningsÂ reportÂ arrived in August 2007, showing the firmâ€™s profits had tripled over a year.
Today, Blackstoneâ€™s revenueÂ sitsÂ north of $22 billion a year, up from just over $3 billion in 2007, according to their annualÂ report, with the company nowÂ proclaimingÂ itself the â€œlargest owner of commercial real estate globally.â€
The Tsinghua Clique
Schwarzman also creditsÂ LeungÂ with helping him set up the 2013Â dealÂ for Schwarzman Scholars,Â a one-year English-language internationalÂ programÂ at Tsinghua University which required $300 million inÂ fundraising.Â
As a one-party government, the political power to control the PRC has historically been fought over by competing intra-party â€œcliques,â€ of which there are known to be at least three: theÂ Shanghai Clique, theÂ Communist Youth League CliqueÂ and theÂ Tsinghua Clique, which Xi is said to lead.
As Tsinghuaâ€™s party secretary, Chen held an important position for both the university and the CCP, with Tsinghua serving as both a fertile training ground for domestic and international talent, as well as a capable vehicle for projecting the PRCâ€™s soft power.
According to her station, Chen was expected to promote the interests of both her university, as well as the CCP, which more often than not wereÂ indistinguishable.
When Xi arranged for President Vladimir Putin to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Tsinghua University in 2019, it was Chen who â€œpresided over the ceremony and read out the address of honor,â€ welcoming the Russian dictator into the â€œTsinghua family,â€ according to a Chinese state-run media Global TimesÂ report.
When the opening convocation for Schwarzman Scholars was held,Â the Great Hall of the PeopleÂ â€” Beijingâ€™s prime CCP venue for â€œstate affairs and diplomatic activitiesâ€ â€” was selected to host the event inÂ April 2013.
From its inception, Schwarzman Scholars attracted high-level CPPCC and UFWD attention.
David Daokui Li, aÂ memberÂ of the CPPCC of which Tung was the vice chairman, was appointed in 2013 as theÂ dean of Schwarzman Scholars. Among other things, Li would chair aÂ seminarÂ for the programâ€™s admissions attended by CCP cadre from the UFWD, Communist Youth League and central committee, whileÂ TungÂ himself sat on the advisory board for the program.
Schwarzman sat beside the CCPâ€™s highest-ranking female,Â Liu YandongÂ â€” the vice premier and former head of both the UFWD andÂ Confucius InstituteÂ project â€” during the programâ€™s opening convocation inÂ April, then again inÂ NovemberÂ 2013 when Liu visited Washington D.C., and again inÂ 2016Â when the program began its first semester.
â€œThe Schwarzman Scholars program is extremely fortunate to have the support from Chinaâ€™s top leadership, exemplified by the gracious congratulatory letter from President Xi Jinping and by the unwavering support of Vice Premier Liu Yandong,â€ said Tsinghua UniversityÂ President Chen JiningÂ in April 2014.
Liu reappeared in Schwarzmanâ€™s lifeÂ againÂ andÂ again, with Schwarzman labeling Liu a â€œspecial friendâ€ in the acknowledgment section of his 2019 book â€œWhat It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence.â€
Schwarzman also thanked many other â€œfriends and colleagues in the Chinese governmentâ€ in his book, such as â€œPresident Xi Jinping,Â Premier Li Keqiang,Â Vice President Wang Qishanâ€ and high-ranking influence operatives, such asÂ Sun Chunlan, another vice premier and former head of the UFWD, with whom Schwarzman Scholars engaged at leastÂ onceÂ orÂ twice.
Chen was also thanked in the acknowledgment section of Schwarzmanâ€™s book.
â€œParty Secretary Madame Chen Xu at Tsinghua has also been an essential part of the senior leadership who created the opportunity for Schwarzman Scholars to occupy a unique position at the university,â€Â readsÂ Schwarzmanâ€™s acknowledgment. â€œShe and President Qiu have helped create broad support for the program within the Chinese government. I always enjoy meeting with her and President Qiu on my frequent visits to Beijing.â€
As honorary chairman of theÂ China General Chamber of Commerce (CGCC)Â â€” characterized as a type of UFWD front organization in a 2018 Jamestown FoundationÂ reportÂ â€” Tung often appeared at the bodyâ€™s annual galas in New York, including with Schwarzman inÂ 2017Â and the following year.
On stage during theÂ 2018Â gala, Tung praised Schwarzman for â€œhis remarkable and impactful contributions to a constructive and cooperative China-U.S. relationship,â€ before personally presenting the billionaire with the â€œGoodwill Ambassador for China-U.S. Exchangeâ€ award.
While Schwarzman Scholars did not immediately respond to request for comment, a spokesperson for Blackstone told the DCNF: â€œThe insinuations are false and misleading. Schwarzman Scholars is an internationally recognized program designed to foster dialogue between nations.â€
â€˜The UFWD And CPPCC Are Not Benign Entitiesâ€™
Not long after helping establish Schwarzman Scholars, Schwarzmanâ€™s partner, Leung,Â leftÂ Blackstone in November 2013.
Today, the senior managing director of greater China for Blackstone is a man namedÂ Liping Zhang, another member of the CPPCC.
The addition of Schwarzman Scholars to Tsinghua was no less than a watershed moment for the university,Â coincidingÂ with a sharp spike in the institutionâ€™s international prestige, an event which also dovetailed with Xi Jinpingâ€™sÂ rise,Â offering Chen unprecedented access to a surplus of global elite and ample opportunity to advance her personal, professional, and political interests.
â€œThe UFWD and CPPCC are not benign entities,â€ Rep. McCaul told the DCNF. â€œThey are elements of the CCP charged with carrying out political subversion. Americans should be aware of their own exposure to the CCP, which is distinct from ordinary foreign ties.â€
â€œWhether itâ€™s spreading CCP propaganda, exporting sensitive technology to China, or lobbying for United Front groups, there are many activities that benefit the CCP that are legal in the United States â€” at least for now,â€ said McCaul. â€œAs we saw with theÂ passageÂ of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which banned the importation of Uyghur slave labor goods, things can change fast as the CCP threat comes into focus. Even in areas where federal intervention isnâ€™t appropriate, cooperation with the CCP is carrying increasing reputational, financial, and moral costs as Americans better understand our adversary.â€
Blackstone and Schwarzman Scholars are just two of countless entities that became acquainted with Chen before she was elevated to deputy head of the UFWD, and this article is just the first in a series investigating the ties Chen cultivated with Americaâ€™s elite.
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The Palmieri Report is a Pro-America News Outlet founded by Jacob Palmieri. The Palmieri Report is dedicated to giving people the truth so that they can form their own informed political opinions.Â
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