US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s ties with China raise concerns
In an investigative report, The New York Times revealed that the family of U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has prospered from its political connections with the world’s two largest economies.
The Chaos’ connections to China date back decades, when the Chao family acquired a stake in a state-owned marine equipment manufacturer, which did business with China’s military and was deeply involved with a ministry led by Jiang Zemin. According to the report, Jiang was a schoolmate of James Chao.
In 1964, James Chao established the New York-based shipping company Foremost Group, more than 70 percent of whose freight is shipped to China, with iron ore taking up the lion’s share. The iron ore has become source for China’s steel products, a bone of contention in an escalating conflict between China and the U.S.
With Ms. Chao at the helm, the Transportation Department has called for cuts for projects aimed at supporting American-flagged ships, leading to doubt over the Trump administration’s commitment to shipping. Department officials claim that Ms. Chao’s actions as agency head “have nothing to do with her family’s business in China,” reported The New York Times.
Nevertheless, Chao’s family ties to the shipping company and her relationship with China have caused ethical concerns. She is known to make use of her connections to raise the company’s profile, such as by appearing at a contract signing event between Foremost and the Sumitomo Group of Japan.
The report also found that McConnell benefited from his marriage with Elaine Chao. Since 1989, Chao family members have donated more than US$1 million to McConnell’s campaigns and affiliated political action committees. The couple also received a present worth up to US$25 million, making McConnell one of the wealthiest members of the Senate.
Source: Taiwan News
James Si-Cheng Chao (Chinese: ???; pinyin: Zhào Xíchéng; born December 29, 1927) is a Chinese-American entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the founder of the Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping, trading, and finance enterprise. The James S.C. Chao Scholarship is named after him.
Chao attended upper schools near Shanghai, including Shanghai Jiao Tong University (formerly National Chiao Tung University) and Wusong Merchant Marine College, where he majored in navigation. He finished his coursework in 1949 and went to sea as a cadet on a merchant vessel. At the climax of China’s civil war, Chao’s ship went to Taiwan, where he started a new life.
In the mid-1950s, Chao advanced through the ranks to become one of the youngest sea captains of the time, at the age of 29. He moved to the United States in 1958, settling in New York City the same year. He received a master’s degree in management from St. John’s University, Queens, in 1964.