Every year, the State Department gives $100 million in grants to fund public diplomacy programs that "enhance national security." Under President Biden, some of that money has gone to an organization with extensive ties to a Chinese Communist Party front group.
According to federal spending records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon, the State Department in September gave $180,076 to the George H.W. Bush China Foundation, which has partnered with the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation, an organization that promotes the interests of Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party. The China-U.S. Exchange Foundation donated $5 million to the Bush China Foundation, a significant portion of its annual revenue, in 2019, Axios reported.
The Bush China Foundation’s ties to the China-United States Exchange Foundation make it an odd choice for the government grants, which are meant to advance "U.S. foreign policy goals." The China-United States Exchange Foundation is a top organization in the Chinese government’s United Front system, which the Chinese Communist Party uses to influence foreigners in favor of Beijing’s policies.
American officials have long expressed concern that the China-United States Exchange Foundation is engaged in covert influence operations for Beijing. CIA director William Burns has said he cut ties with the organization because of its connections to Beijing after he took over at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a prominent foreign policy think tank.
The Bush China Foundation has maintained its ties to the China-United States Exchange Foundation amid scrutiny of the relationship. Neil Bush, the Bush China Foundation's founder and chair, praised the Chinese think tank’s founder, Tung Chee-hwa, at an event in January 2021. Tung is vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory group for the Chinese Communist Party.
At a Bush China Foundation event with China’s ambassador in July 2021, Bush lamented an "onslaught of anti-Chinese sentiment in the U.S. over recent years that has led to growing suspicion of China and her motives."
Bush has been an outspoken defender of Beijing’s controversial national security policies. In a 2019 interview with Chinese state television, he criticized pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong upset over a Beijing-backed national security law used to arrest dissenters and shut down news organizations critical of the Chinese Communist Party.
"My first question would be, what freedoms are you seeking that you don’t already enjoy? What setbacks have you incurred," said Bush, who also suggested that "outside forces" were behind the protests.
The Bush China Foundation also received another State Department grant to help develop a "digital mental health network" for American and Chinese "mental health stakeholders."
At an event with the China-United States Exchange Foundation in 2019, Bush said he would "advise my American friends not to meddle in the internal affairs of China."
Bush has extensive business ties to China. He came under fire during his brother’s presidency for signing business deals in China. In 2002, he received $400,000 from a Chinese semiconductor manufacturer. In 2009, he attempted to secure a deal for China’s oil company, Sinopec, to purchase oil from Ghana.
While leading the Bush China Foundation, Bush has organized an annual forum in China, the International Symposium for the Peaceful Use of Space Technology, with officials from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), a state-owned space and defense contractor that the United States has blacklisted because of its links to China’s military.
An official from the organization attended the symposium in November, where Bush served as honorary chairman. Bush leads the symposium with his partner at the Chinese property developer CIIC. In 2019, Bush and his partner, Wang Tianyi, signed a "strategic cooperation framework agreement" with CASC that called for the "exchange of international space innovation technology."
The State Department declined to comment on the grants. The Bush China Foundation did not return a request for comment.