In recent days, Senator Steve Daines has advertised heavily to convince the people of Montana that he will be tough on China. That’s a hard sell for Daines under the best of circumstances, given that he chose to work in China for Procter and Gamble immediately after the Tiananmen Square massacre and has been so friendly to the Chinese government that the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. once called him China’s ambassador in Congress. He even undermined efforts to help the oppressed people of Tibet so badly that a former U.S. Ambassador argued Daines undermined human rights and strengthened the perception that Americans can be bought:
“It confirms everything the Chinese believe about us and folks around the world, that anyone can be bought,” he said. “We’re only as strong as our weakest link, and that Daines would do this only encourages them to continue.”
It turns out that the ambassador was right, and that Senator Daines, who as recently as two years ago was calling for a “strategic alliance” with China, was doing some buying of his own.
Research shows that Daines was making large investment transactions in China-linked mutual funds just as the U.S. and China were engaged in trade talks.
In fact, on August 21, 2018, Daines purchased funds tied to Chinese corporations the day before new formal trade talks between the U.S. and China.
On August 21, Daines purchased as much as $150,000 in mutual funds with large investments in China.
The timing of the purchase is certainly suspect, as China and the U.S. held talks on August 22 and August 23:
A Chinese delegation led by Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen will meet U.S. representatives led by Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs David Malpass, China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on its website. The Wall Street Journal reported that the talks in Washington would take place on Aug. 22 and 23, just as new U.S. tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese goods take effect, along with retaliatory tariffs from Beijing on an equal amount of U.S. goods.
And following a second wave of talks, Daines started selling.
On December 24, Daines sold as much as $150,000 from the funds:
China and the United States held a vice ministerial-level call on Friday, the second such contact in a week, achieving a ‘deep exchange of views’ on trade imbalances and the protection of intellectual property, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said. A statement posted on the ministry’s website on Sunday said the two countries ‘made new progress’ on those issues, without specifying further. It also said China and the United States discussed arrangements for the next call and mutual visits. On Wednesday, the ministry said Beijing and Washington had held a vice ministerial-level telephone call about trade and economic issues, without providing other details. The calls took place amid signs of a thaw in a trade dispute between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies.
Just as with the healthcare investments we discussed yesterday, Daines wasn’t breaking any laws here, but it demonstrates the profile of a Senator who, while presenting himself as a leading figure in US-Sino trade relations, was busy making large investments in Chinese state-owned firms. It also demonstrates the danger of a U.S. Senator who seems to be making his personal finances a priority while he should focus on serving the needs of Montanans.
And independent of those concerns, it’s hardly in keeping with his new “tough on China” stance for Daines to be investing in the very state-owned companies that make it so difficult for American companies to compete with China.
We could believe Senator Daines now when he suggests that he’s going to be tough on China just in time for an election.
Or we could believe the former middle manager at Procter and Gamble who went to work in China after they brutally killed their own people, the former President of the Asia-Pacific region for RightNow Technologies, the Senator who helped the Chinese government cover its abuses in Tibet, and the investor who poured a fortune into Chinese state-owned businesses while the U.S. was in a trade war with the country.
Either way, we’d be fools to believe anything Steve Daines says now.