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Historian Flavius Josephus (who fought against Rome in the first Jewish war until he surrendered in 67, and later became an advisor to the emperors Vespasian and Titus) and the apostle Paul (the greatest early disseminator of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world) were Roman citizens because Romanizing foreign elites was an effective imperial policy.
The U.S. and the USSR competed fiercely for the capture of foreign elites, especially from the Third World, during the first Cold War. But the biggest difference between the Beijing of today and the Moscow of then is that today’s Chinese totalitarianism includes trade and business in its struggle for global hegemony in some ways that the Soviet power could not even imagine.
Beijing makes no secret of its efforts to capture elites around the world. And to achieve this it is betting on corruption, privilege and crony “capitalism.” But its most ambitious goal is to capture the elites of the United States itself. And it is succeeding in that regard. As Peter Schweizer’s book Red Handed: How American Elites are Helping China Win reveals, Beijing has already been able to co-opt key elites in academia, high finance, entertainment, technology and politics in the United States.
Schweizer thoroughly investigated everything from public statements and activities to business connections with China of some of the most influential people and organizations in the U.S. In Silicon Valley, he investigated tech entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tim Cook. In Wall Street, he investigated investors like Ray Dalio of Bridgewater, the world’s largest leveraged fund investment corporation. In academia, he went through the Chinese connections of elite universities like Harvard and Yale. In politics, he revealed the business relationships between China and the Bush, Pelosi and Biden families—and the Trudeau one in Canada.
A safe investment for the Chinese Communist Party, its intelligence apparatus and the “private” corporations at its service, is to offer to foreign elites the same thing that the party offers to the new Chinese elites, money and privileges, but in such a way that the interests of those elites depend on those of the totalitarian power elite at the top in Beijing.
While Schweizer points out how Beijing has co-opted people among elites in a relatively similar way and institutions around the world as well, what his book actually reveals is that some of the most influential people and organizations in the United States have significant business interests in China and such engagements would have played a role in enabling Beijing:
-Finance itself in the U.S. capital markets.
-Leverage U.S. military and surveillance technology.
-Influence U.S. policymaking.
It is, therefore, worrisome that after investing the expansion of its large Tesla car factory in Shanghai, Elon Musk opened a controversial showroom in XinJiang, a region where a BBC investigation revealed that Beijing was enslaving hundreds of thousands of persecuted minority people, mainly victims of the Uyghur genocide, through forced labor in cotton fields.
Apple (which had a market revenue of $89.6 billion in April 2021) was the world’s largest company that year, manufacturing all or part of its products in China and selling them more and more in China. In the case of the iPhone, for example, Apple sold just over 23% of the smartphones bought in China at the end of 2021.
Although in 1991 Nancy Pelosi unfurled before the international press a banner for the martyrs of democracy in Tiananmen Square, years later her husband Paul began to make millions as an investment partner in a pioneering firm in the Chinese investment market, Matthews International Capital Management, and in the last two years she blocked any investigation in the House of Representatives into a possible security breach in a Wuhan laboratory as the origin of Covid-19.
Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros