The shadowy world of Trump business in China

Politics & Current Affairs

A summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for September 26, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

“I don’t know how much money she’s making on this and why it’s worth it. I think it’s putting our trade policy in a very awkward situation.”

That is how Richard Painter, a chief ethics adviser in the George W. Bush administration who is also one of several high-profile lawyers suing Donald Trump for accepting foreign bribes, reacted to the results of an Associated Press investigation into Ivanka Trump’s business in China.

The investigation of the clothing and merchandise business in China of the American president’s daughter — and senior White House adviser — revealed little, and that’s the problem. Regarding how her brand operates in China, AP found:

  • Ninety percent of merchandise shipments could not be traced to a company.
  • Information quality on shipments has degraded since Ivanka Trump was appointed senior adviser to the president of the United States in March.
  • Almost nothing is known about where her merchandise is produced, or how much money is involved in production at those factories.
  • One company, Zhejiang Tongxiang Foreign Trade Group, which shipped thousands of Ivanka Trump handbags from March 2016 to February 2017, received export subsidies from the Chinese government — the exact kind of “cheating” in trade that Donald Trump has repeatedly decried. AP spoke with four trade experts to verify that the records on this company do in fact indicate export subsidies.
  • One state-owned company, Jiangsu High Hope International Group, was listed as working with the Ivanka Trump brand from 2013 to 2015, and it was impossible to verify whether state-owned companies — or state-owned supply chains — continue to aid Ivanka Trump’s brand.

In May this year, three researchers from China Labor Watch tried to investigate the labor conditions at Ivanka Trump’s shoe factory in southern China, but were detained by police. The advocacy organization said this was the first time their investigators had been detained.

This Trump family entanglement in China’s business comes as the U.S. and China gear up for Donald Trump’s expected visit in Beijing in November. Here’s how that’s going:

  • American Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is in Beijing, where he met with Premier Li Keqiang 李克强 and urged “fair and reciprocal treatment for U.S. firms,” according to Reuters. Xinhua says that Li believes “China’s market will be more and more open and its business environment will get better and better.”
  • The U.S. has submitted a document to the World Trade Organization, arguing that China’s cybersecurity laws will restrict foreign business, and asking that China delay the implementation of these laws and revise them, Reuters reports.
  • SCMP has a list of “Five trade issues the U.S. and China need to tackle before Trump goes to Beijing.”