“We’re gonna crack down on China when they manipulate their currency, when they steal our goods, when they don’t protect our intellectual property. We’re gonna make sure that China understands we mean business. Trade is gonna work for us, not just for them.”
– Mitt Romney speaking at a rally in Virginia last month, as reported by NPR.
So why has the Republican candidate for President made investments in China?
According to Mother Jones, who examined his recent tax returns:
between 2008 and 2011 Romney invested more than a half million dollars in the stocks of 10 Chinese companies—including firms that embezzled, partnered with Iran, and stole US intellectual property.
In fact, the Romney funds have found their way to more than 10 Chinese destinations, but let’s check the biggest amounts:
1. Global-Tech Appliances Inc
At the time that Romney was in charge of Bain Capital, the firm invested millions in this company that employed 5,000 young women to make household appliances. A report published by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights, states that Mitt Romney “knowingly invested in a brutal Chinese Dongguan sweatshop in China, which made small appliances in sweatshop conditions for Hamilton Beach, Sunbeam, Proctor Silex and Revlon behind barbed wire fences in the town of Qing-Xi.”
Through a Bain Capital fund, Romney has invested between $500,000 and $1 million in GOME, a Chinese electronics company. Microsoft Corporation is currently suing GOME for pirating versions of its Windows and Office software. Hum, isn’t intellectual property theft exactly what Romney keeps saying he will crack down on?
3. China National Offshore Oil Corporation (Cnooc Limited)
The New York Times reports that in 2009 and 2010, the W. Mitt Romney blind trust invested over $77,000 in shares of Cnooc Limited, the state-owned Chinese oil company. Cnooc does business with Iran’s energy sector, and this was at a time that US sanctions called for all companies doing business with Iran to divest all their interests.
4. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)
From Mother Jones:
“Gov. Romney believes China should be labeled a currency manipulator,” his spokeswoman said recently, “and he will move to label them as such on Day One.” Yet the candidate invested in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country’s largest bank. Some experts say that China’s central bank still exerts power over ICBC (which was privatized in 2005) to carry out the country’s monetary policy.
5. China Life Insurance
About a fifth of Romney’s China profits came from New China Life Insurance. In case you’re not yet convinced that Romney has been involved in some shady investment practices, you need to know that in 2009, China’s National Audit Office found that the company had embezzled money by overstating sales and lining executives’ pockets with millions of yuan. Guan Guoliang, former chairman of the company, was sentenced to six years in prison on charge of embezzlement of 200 million yuan in company funds.
6. New Oriental Education and Technology
In 2001, Educational Testing Service sued New Oriental for stealing and distributing test questions for admission to US universities. A Chinese court ordered New Oriental to pay over $1 million, though this was subsequently reduced. Romney may complain vigorously that the Chinese are intellectual property thieves, but he made more than $20,000 from the nearly $60,000 he invested in New Oriental shares.
7. Li & Fung Limited
This is a company that has benefited enormously from American outsourcing: it manages business for such companies as Toys R Us, Target, Walmart and Timberland. Three years ago, for example, Liz Claiborne decided to sell its sourcing operations—which handle all aspects of production, from finding materials to manufacturing garments—to Li & Fung Group for $83 million. The Romneys invested around $15,000 and made just over $1,000.
8. and 9. Youku.com and Tencent Holdings
From Mother Jones:
Romney investments included two of China’s internet giants: Tencent, the creator of the country’s most popular chat program, and Youku, which some describe as China’s YouTube. (The Romneys lost about $8,000 in Youku and a negligible amount in Tencent.) ”If you’re one of these Chinese internet companies, you factor in for your overhead and operating costs an entire division of people whose job it is to adhere to government censorship and surveillance requirements,” says Rebecca MacKinnon, a former Beijing bureau chief for CNN. “Obviously foreign investment is paying for that.”
10. Hang Lung Properties
Hang Lung is a huge real estate developer in Hong Kong, and is now investing $8.5 billion in mainland China. The Romneys invested $43,300 and profited $22,600 when they sold their shares.
The amounts of financial gain and loss involved in these Chinese transactions are minuscule compared to the Romney fortune, and many were sold on August 10 of this year, the day before a Republican debate. But that’s not the point.
Isn’t it just a little disingenuous for Romney’s campaign to criticize President Obama repeatedly for failing to take a tough line against Chinese trade practices, after he himself has promoted Chinese companies with his own investments?
These investments by Romney are yet more proof that Mitt will say anything to gain the upper hand, even if it involves twisting the truth.
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