Gov. Kathy Hochul (D., N.Y.) delivered a keynote speech last week to a Chinese business group led by the American subsidiaries of multiple companies under U.S. sanctions.
Hochul spoke alongside New York City mayor Eric Adams (D.), Delaware governor John Carney (D.), and two Chinese diplomats at the China General Chamber of Commerce's annual gala. The trade group represents the U.S.-based arms of several Chinese state-owned corporations, including more than a dozen that have been sanctioned for helping the Chinese military and aiding Beijing’s human rights abuses.
Hochul's appearance at the event comes as she faces a competitive election later this year. Hochul, who took over in New York following the resignation of disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo, at the Feb. 22 gala touted the "beautiful relationship" between the United States and China, ignoring Beijing's human rights abuses and increased military aggression.
The Democrats shared the stage with Chinese ambassador Qin Gang and China's New York consul general, Huang Ping. As top officials in the Chinese Communist Party, both Qin and Huang have sided against the United States on a variety of geopolitical issues. Qin reportedly provided Moscow with intelligence he received from American diplomats regarding U.S. plans to ward off Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Last week, he threatened the United States against supporting Taiwan's independence from mainland China. Huang, who has met with Hochul before, has dismissed allegations of China's genocide against Uyghurs and said that internment camps that house the Muslim group are legal.
The China General Chamber of Commerce event highlights how sanctioned Chinese firms are able to maintain business and political ties in the United States. The chamber, which calls itself the "largest and most impactful" trade group representing Chinese enterprises in the United States, serves as a facilitator for Chinese companies, American firms, and American policymakers. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo spoke to the group in 2017 when she served as governor of Rhode Island. Trump cabinet officials Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin spoke to the organization in 2018.
The group lists its partners as the National Governors Association, the U.S.-China Business Council, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Another partner is the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a corporate-backed diplomacy group that has the ear of the Biden administration.
The chamber's board of directors is a who's who of executives from dozens of China's largest banks, energy companies, and communications firms. The concluding remarks at the China General Chamber of Commerce gala were given by Steven Xu Tan, the president of China Telecom Americas. The Federal Communications Commission last year revoked the company's operating license over national security concerns, saying that China Telecom Americas "is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government."
Executives with mobile phone providers ChinaMobil and ChinaUnicom also serve on the chamber's board of directors. Both companies have been sanctioned over their ties to the Chinese military. China Unicom has also been blocked by the FCC and accused of surveilling Americans.
Hikvision USA, whose parent company has been sanctioned for helping the Chinese government surveil Uyghurs, is also represented on the chamber's board. The president of AVIC USA also serves on the board. AVIC, a Chinese state-owned aerospace and defense contractor, has also been sanctioned over its work for the Chinese military. The conglomerate has been accused of stealing American technology to help build fighter planes for the People's Liberation Army. China Communications Construction, Sinochem, and Inspur—all under U.S. sanctions—are also represented on the chamber's board.
Like many pro-China organizations, the chamber pushes closer trade and diplomatic relations between China and the United States while it downplays tensions between the two countries. As the United States has cracked down on Chinese firms, the chamber has increasingly helped its members respond to sanctions. At an event in 2020, a lawyer who advises the chamber urged Chinese companies to maintain a "significant but low-key" presence in Washington to limit punitive action from sanctions. Another lawyer at the event urged companies seeking to blunt sanctions to engage with policymakers through industry groups like the chamber.
Hochul's office did not respond to a request for comment.