by Philip Lenczycki
A delegation from a Chinese think tank associated with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs secretly met with a billionaire New York executive and a group of politically-connected individuals last week to discuss faltering U.S.-China relations, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, as China searches for ways to maintain influence over Washington.
Maurice Greenberg, CEO of Starr Insurance Companies, and a select group of business leaders and former U.S. government officials reportedly discussed issues such as Taiwan, North Korea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with representatives from the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs (CPIFA) on Nov. 11 and 12, the WSJ reported. The Biden administration was subsequently briefed on Greenberg’s conference, which occurred just days before President Joe Biden met General Secretary Xi Jinping in Indonesia on Nov. 14.
Greenberg’s involvement in politics dates back decades, and in recent years he’s donated heavily to the Republican Party, giving $10 million to a super PAC which supported Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign in 2016. In addition to Greenberg, 12 individuals accompanied him to meet with CPIFA, including former Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman and former ambassador to China, Max Baucus, both of whom belong to a new group Greenberg formed in July which allegedly aims to “re-establish a constructive bilateral dialogue” with China, according to a WSJ opinion piece written by Greenberg.
Lieberman served as a Democratic senator from Connecticut between 1989 and 2013, while Baucus served as a Democratic senator from Montana beginning in 2002 until former President Barack Obama appointed him the U.S. ambassador to China in 2014.
“They are either demonstrating extreme naïveté or they are fully aware of who they are meeting with,” Peter Schweizer, author of “Red-Handed: How American Elites Get Rich Helping China Win,” told the DCNF. “None of these individuals strike me as naïve.”
CPIFA is allegedly a front group for the United Front Work Department (UFWD), according to analysts at the Hoover Institution. The UFWD serves the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and has engaged in espionage, propaganda and the use of physical violence, the State Department announced in 2020.
Although the full roster of CPIFA’s delegation to New York remains unclear, the DCNF determined that multiple policy experts who’ve worked for UFWD and Chinese intelligence front groups round out the organization’s administration.
For example, UFWD heavyweights, such as Tung Chee-hwa, the founder of the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), and Wang Huiyao, the head of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), belong to CPIFA’s council. Both CUSEF and CCG are prominent UFWD front groups, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
CPIFA’s advisory board also features Zheng Bijian, Ding Yifan and Wang Jisi, who’ve worked for the China Reform Forum, which Chinese intelligence analyst Alex Joske identified as a front group for the Ministry of State Security in his book “Spies and Lies.”
Greenberg has consistently prioritized engagement with China in spite of Beijing’s human rights abuses, such as when he accompanied former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Beijing in December 1989, just months after the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Despite the Chinese government’s slaughter of as many as 10,000 protestors, Greenberg allegedly promoted continued bilateral engagement throughout his visit, an eventuality which would financially benefit his Chinese insurance company.
In 2018, Lieberman registered as a lobbyist for the Chinese state-backed technology company ZTE, which the Federal Communications Commission subsequently designated as a “national security threat” for endangering the “integrity of our communication networks” in 2020.
Likewise, Baucus served on the board of advisors for the Chinese firm Alibaba until 2019 — a company which reportedly poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Chinese companies which the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted in 2021 for developing racial profiling technology used by the Chinese government against ethnic minorities in Western China.
Greenberg and his team appear to be putting profit over principles, Derek Scissors, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told the DCNF.
“The influence problem is far more our financial and tech companies pushing their short-term profits and stock prices as being vital to world peace or climate change cooperation or whatever the excuse of the day is,” Scissors told the DCNF. “They’d be doing that even if there was no United Front Work Department.”
Greenberg and his team are “clinging to the past,” Scissors said.
“Most people in that age cohort think first of the dynamic China of the 1990’s, where reform seemed so promising,” said Scissors. “That China is not only gone, Xi is deliberately burying it deeper.”
The State Department declined the DCNF’s request for comment, while Greenberg, Lieberman, Baucus and the Chinese Embassy did not respond.
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Philip Lenczycki is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Maurice Greenberg” by Starr Insurance Companies.