Hunter Biden Corruption Probe Could Humiliate China Too

Republican media figures and lawmakers are seizing on the investigation into potential corruption involving Hunter Biden's business dealings in foreign countries, including China.

President Donald Trump and the GOP spread spurious accusations and conspiracy theories about Hunter in the run-up to November's election, hoping this would damage Joe Biden's chances.

The claims were not enough to prevent the president-elect's comfortable win, but it was revealed last week that Hunter is facing an investigation by federal prosecutors in Delaware working with the IRS Criminal Investigation agency and the FBI.

It is not yet clear if Hunter was involved in any wrongdoing, and investigators are currently issuing subpoenas and seeking interviews, CNN reported. Trump, meanwhile, is pushing for a special counsel to be appointed to oversee the probe.

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley is among those citing the probe as a counterintelligence concern, amid speculation that the investigation—which does not involve the president-elect—may influence Biden's nascent plan to push back on Beijing.

But if the corruption allegations about Hunter prove true, they will be embarrassing for China too, particularly given President Xi Jinping's public campaign against corruption, which has snared billionaires, top business people and even senior Communist Party officials.

One of the matters being investigated is the gifting of a 2.8-carat diamond to Hunter by the founder and former chairman of the CEFC China Energy firm, Ye Jianming, when the two met to discuss potential business deals.

Hunter told The New Yorker in 2019 that he passed the diamond on to another associate. "I knew it wasn't a good idea to take it," he told the magazine. "I just felt like it was weird."

Ye was detained in China in 2018 and is facing corruption and bribery charges. These include suggestions that Ye had bribed Wang Sanyun, a former Communist Party secretary of Gansu province.

Hunter also briefly acted as a lawyer for Patrick Ho, who headed a CEFC-backed organization and in 2018 was convicted of paying millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Chad and Uganda, to promote CEFC energy deals. Ho was sentenced to three years in prison but has since been released and now lives in Hong Kong.

More revelations about Hunter, if there are any, could be bad for both Biden and China. "My sense is that China is looking to put a floor under, to stabilize, a U.S.-China relationship in free fall," Robert Manning, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Newsweek.

"Beijing will likely ignore or downplay the Hunter Biden issue. To the extent that it makes it more difficult for Biden and Xi to try to define a new normal, defining the terms of competition, China will try to maneuver around it."

Jacques deLisle, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and an expert in Chinese politics, likewise said Beijing would probably want to steer clear of the partisan Hunter morass.

Xi's anti-corruption push has had to walk a fine line, showing the president is tough on crime without revealing just how extensive the problem is. This is especially true for anything that might pull in party officials and Xi allies.

"Both of those aspects have proven much harder to control where the scandal is transnational and, thus, the investigating authorities are foreign entities outside the party-state leadership's control," he added.

China's anti-corruption program is about "making sure the right, and not the wrong, targets get hit," deLisle said. "It's great to take out one's political enemies; not so nice if it hits one's own."

America's rivals have happily highlighted the polarized and chaotic political environment in the U.S. over the past four years, including allegations of Trump's impropriety, criminality and the blatant nepotism that handed his children and son-in-law Jared Kushner significant influence.

Nations such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea will likely continue to do so as Trump and his allies fight their inevitable exit from the White House. China will have plenty of ammunition without resorting to the Hunter probe.

"I think the Global Times and foreign ministry spokespeople will have plenty to work with in making hay about U.S. political dysfunction as the details of the depredations of the Trump era play out, as partisan warfare continues, as the recovery from COVID proceeds agonizingly slowly compared to what China and others have achieved, and as, perhaps, the Democrats fall to infighting," deLisle said.

"It may be added to the arsenal, but—again, assuming there is not something really big that we do not yet know—it won't add much," deLisle said of the Hunter investigation, particularly when "compared to the massive and obvious corruption of members of the Trump administration—and their relatives—this looks to be pretty small potatoes and to add little."

China's criticism of the U.S. is bigger than Trump versus Biden, regardless of GOP talking points claiming that Beijing supported the Democratic candidate. "It's important to bear in mind here that the increasingly assertive and snarky Chinese indictment of the flaws of the U.S. system is just that—an indictment of flaws of the system, writ large," deLisle said.

"To be sure, any ethical tainting of the Biden administration may matter, but mostly to counter the narrative that the problems were just Trump rather than something systemic," he added.

For now, the allegations remain allegations. "I think much will depend on the details—if he is guilty and what the transgressions that stick are," Manning said.

"In general terms, I think it has to be viewed in the context of the delusional fantasies of Trump, his supporters and GOP officials that the election was rigged and that Biden's presidency is illegitimate," Manning added.

DeLisle suggested the Biden team would be prepared for that. "The Biden crew knows that they are going to get hit from the right with some version of 'Beijing Biden,' and, so, this does not add much," he said, noting that could change if the probe uncovers more troubling information.

In that case, Manning said: "It will reinforce all the conspiracy theories and complicate not just Biden's China policy, but his presidency writ large."

Hunter Biden faces corruption probe involving China
This file photo shows Hunter Biden speaking at an award ceremony for the World Food Program USA on April 12, 2016 in Washington, D.C. He is facing a federal investigation. Paul Morigi/Getty Images for World Food Program USA/Getty