Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The China Guy

Terming President Obama "a near-supplicant to Beijing," Mitt Romney in March had taken to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and vowed

Unless China changes its ways, on day one of my presidency I will designate it a currency manipulator and take appropriate counteraction. A trade war with China is the last thing I want, but I cannot tolerate our current trade surrender.

We must also maintain military forces commensurate to the long-term challenge posed by China's build-up. For more than a decade now we have witnessed double-digit increases in China's officially reported military spending. And even that does not capture the full extent of its spending on defense. Nor do the gross numbers tell us anything about the most troubling aspects of China's strategy, which is designed to exert pressure on China's neighbors and blunt the ability of the United States to project power into the Pacific and keep the peace from which China itself has benefited.

Romney's focus now has shifted westward.      A week ago, he stated on CNN "In terms of a geopolitical foe, a nation that's on the Security Council, and as of course a massive nuclear power, Russia is the geopolitical foe."       After being roundly criticized, Romney later in the week contended

In contrast to President Obama, Governor Romney is clear-eyed about the geopolitical challenges Russia pose. Russia's nuclear arsenal, its energy resources, its geographic position astride Europe and Asia, the veto it wields on the UN Security Council, and the creeping authoritarianism of its government make Russia a unique geopolitical problem that frustrates progress on numerous issues of vital concern to the United States.

Romney has failed to make the argument that Russia presents "a unique geopolitical problem."      And it will not do so, as long as the People's Republic of China exists.     Although the GOP candidate did not address the threat posed by the PRC, his recent, overheated statements about Russia represent a critical pivot, a change of focus.      

Meanwhile, the Miami Herald has reported

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family, who have kept Newt Gingrich's flagging presidential campaign alive with donations, seem poised to send millions of dollars to Republican-allied groups and possibly a "super" political action committee backing front-runner Mitt Romney, according to fundraisers with ties to the casino owner.

Adelson, his wife Miriam and other family members have donated $16.5 million to a Gingrich-backing super PAC, which is allowed by law to take unlimited campaign donations.

A private dinner March 22 at Adelson's Las Vegas home drew the chairman of the Republican National Committee plus some of the GOP's best-known fundraisers and donors. The diners were in Las Vegas early for a weekend summit of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group that Adelson has backed heavily.

During the soiree, the Adelson family members privately sent strong signals to Romney allies that they'd donate millions of dollars, perhaps on par with their support for Gingrich, to a super PAC that has heavily supported the former Massachusetts governor's campaign for the GOP presidential nomination - assuming that Gingrich eventually drops out. Gingrich is badly trailing and as of the end of February, his campaign was in debt.

Adelson, a staunch Israel supporter whose fortune is pegged by Forbes at almost $25 billion, is a prime example of the new breed of donor who, thanks to court rulings in 2010, can give unlimited amounts to outside groups that spend independently to support candidates.

Israel is not the only country Sheldon Adelson is enthusiastic about.     In May, 2004 Adelson opened the Sands Macao and in less than three years, Macao, a special administrative region of the PRC, became the most popular gambling destination in the world.     Soon, Adelson became the third wealthiest American.    In 2008 he boasted

“We’re the largest investor of any kind in the history of China.” In early August, during the Olympic Games, Las Vegas Sands will launch the Adelson Center for U.S.-China Enterprise, in Beijing, which seems positioned to wield substantial influence. If you were an American businessman coming to China, the Sands’s Bill Weidner testified at the Suen trial, “you might need a logistics partner to deliver your goods. You might need a manufacturer to manufacture your goods. You might need a law firm. You might need an accounting firm. Whatever it would take to get you involved in business in China, we would—the center would help arrange for you.”

It's no surprise, then, that in March 2007 Adelson had

said that many members of Congress criticize China for its human-rights record, but he added that he liked the way the Chinese run their country. “People seem to be living a good life in China,” he said. “Look at the incredible progress China has made. How can someone say they’re doing the wrong thing?” He added that those who don’t approve of the way China is governed need not go to the country. “I don’t think the U.S. should be the policeman of the whole world,” he said.

Adelson's holdings haven't escaped the attention of the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which

are probing the Las Vegas Sands for alleged bribery of foreign officials. The investigation was launched after a civil lawsuit by a former company executive alleged the casino had “involvement with Chinese organized crime groups, known as Triads, connected to the junket business.” The Sands is headed by Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino owner who has given millions toward Newt Gingrich’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Adelson denies any wrongdoing.

Earlier, the casino mogul had offered kind words for the former Massachusetts governor while actively bankrolling a hopeful Gingrich.       Throughout, Romney was all hot and bothered about a looming threat posed by mainland China.     It may be a coincidence, but at least a happy one, that Mitt's tune is changing just as big money may be coming his way from one of the behemoth's proponents.

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