Sen. Mitch McConnell is one of the strongest supporters of free trade and closer ties with China. Some say his attitude is a result of his marriage to Elaine Chao. After all, Jiang Zemin, China's former Communist Party boss and dictator, is a close family friend of the senator's wife, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao praised her father for building up China's industry. Jiang Zemin, the hard-liner who took power following the Tienanmen Square massacre, is notorious for his repression of religious minorities and Tibet.
It would be easy to blame McConnell's wife for his pro-China stance.
But it would be wrong.
It would be wrong because President Bill Clinton wasn't married to Elaine Chao when he asked Congress to treat Communist China as a "Most Favored Nation" and make it safe for corporations to move American factories there. Conservatives warned of China's threat to our national security, but McConnell ignored these concerns and voted to open the door to more investment in the communist country, as Clinton asked.
It would be wrong because Al Gore was married to Tipper, not Chao, when he took illegal campaign contributions from foreign nationals in the Chinagate scandal. The man convicted of laundering campaign money for Gore also directed dollars to McConnell. (He eventually returned the money.)
It would be wrong because the CEO of Loral Space and Communications wasn't married to Chao when his company told China how to improve its missile guidance systems. Loral could save money by using Chinese rockets to launch communications satellites into orbit, and they wanted to make sure the rockets didn't crash on takeoff. The Pentagon said the information Loral provided placed America at greater risk.
It would be wrong because the CEO of AIG insurance wasn't married to Chao when he wanted to set up shop in China and sought Washington's help. AIG lobbied hard to get Congress to ignore China's record on human rights and national security issues. They shoveled contributions into congressional campaign coffers - McConnell received tens of thousands of dollars from AIG and the top contributors to the US-China Business Council. AIG became the first Western insurance company to do business in China, and then went on to collect $182 billion in the Wall Street bailout.
And George W. Bush wasn't married to Chao, either, when he nominated her to be labor secretary despite concerns about her "business relationship with communist China." Besides her family friendship with Beijing's communist bosses, Chao had ties to the company at the center of the Chinagate money laundering scandal, another firm in partnership with an intelligence-gathering front for the People's Liberation Army, and an Internet company, Multacom, subsequently linked to a notorious Chinese cyberespionage ring. Bush remained faithful even after Chao told an interviewer U.S. companies aren't moving offshore for cheap foreign labor, but because American workers are sloppy, lack "good personal hygiene" and have "anger-management" issues.
No, McConnell's problem isn't that he's married to Elaine Chao. It's that he's married to the Washington-Wall Street establishment that will do anything to stay in power and sees China as a "strategic partner" and money-making opportunity.
Senator McConnell has received well over $200,000 from Chinese-Americans, many with ties to mainland China, most of it perfectly legal.
Love is blind, and it's love of money, not a woman, that makes McConnell and his friends in Washington unable to see the threat communist China poses to our people and our nation.
Co-authored with Harry Wu. Harry Wu spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps. He is an activist for human rights in the People's Republic of China and is now a resident and citizen of the United States. His defense of freedom and human rights has been applauded by organizations worldwide including the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, the Hungarian Freedom Fighters' Federation and the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. He is the Executive Director of the Laogai Research Foundation and China Information Center.
A version of this piece appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer.