Monday, January 21, 2019

Chinese American Community Wounded by Latest Paranoia

The SF Chronicle asked me to write this piece. When Professor Larry Diamond declined to submit his side of this controversy, the Chronicle decided not to post mine.

A working group of 32 China hands published an assessment of possible infiltration of operatives from China in the US. In the 200+ page report published by Hoover Institution, the section on the PRC influence on Chinese American community raised concern and objections from the community.

The report listed a bunch of organizations and associations, primarily located in Chinatown of major US cities, San Francisco being most prominent, as likely being directed or influenced by China’s Communist Party.

Given America’s history of McCarthyism and xenophobia, the Chinese American community was understandably alarmed by the specter of mass arrest and concentration camps that could be just steps away.

Among the reaction of outrage, SB Woo, president of 80/20 Education Foundation, demanded that the working group provide evidence to back up their accusations that I am sympathetic to the goals of the CCP—I was the only individual named in the report.

In response, the co-chairs of the Hoover working group, led by Professor Larry Diamond at Stanford replied and offered as evidence that I have been listed as an advisor to the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China since the founding of the organization.

It’s true. I did attend the inaugural conference in Sydney and my friend who organized the event listed me as an advisor. I had good company as a number of former prime ministers of Australia were also named advisers.

Former President Bill Clinton gave the keynote at the conference—this was in 2002. Apparently he also endorsed the idea of the peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the mainland.

Diamond sees the CCP in Beijing as the behind the scenes organizer and instigator of these reunification councils. Promoting unification or advocating one China is antithetical to his strong feelings for the independence of Taiwan.

On the other hand, to the millions in the Chinese diaspora, no matter their family history, they remember the Ming dynasty general that evicted the Dutch and retook Taiwan in the 17th century. Zheng Chenggong is one historical figure still revered by the people on both sides of the straits today.

That China had to recover Taiwan from Japan after WWII became that much more a matter of emotional ethnic pride to think of Taiwan as part of China. Unabashedly, I consider myself one of them. Only a small fraction of those born in Taiwan would deny their Chinese heritage and roots.

In the Bay Area, supporters of the peaceful reunification come from all sorts of background. Allegiance to the CCP is not a necessary condition or a valid presumption.

Diamond’s field of study is democracy in governments and not on China. He sees Taiwan’s evolution toward democracy as all positive. I see Taiwan’s economic linkage to the mainland as far more crucial to Taiwan’s future than a government beset with its indigenous forms of corruption.

The best and brightest of graduates every year—some say around 30%--leave Taiwan for China to find their job and begin their career. Unless Taiwan can find a way to collaborate with Beijing, its outlook will remain bleak.

As a bicultural person, I see the perspective from both sides of the Pacific and I believe a Chinese American point of view can add greatly to the public discourse about the US China relations. I strongly object to having my loyalty impugned because I am willing to speak up.
 George Koo writes regularly for online Asia Times. Before his retirement, he advised US companies on doing business in Asia.

You are invited to leave your remarks on this blog or contact me at

SB Woo and the 80/20 Education Foundation has a running compilation of his blog kept in chronological order, most recent one being on top of the list. The series of his dissatisfaction with the Hoover Report can be found listed in the compilation.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Paranoia not any good for US China relations

This was first posted on Asia Times.

The Hoover Institution published a report late last year presenting an assessment of China’s infiltration into all walks of American life by a “working group” of pundits and academics. The report recommended “constructive vigilance,” and I thought it unnecessarily added to America’s already heightened paranoia about China.

S B Woo joins the discussion

Then S B Woo, president of the 80-20 Educational Foundation, stepped forward to express outrage in an indignant letterto the co-chairmen of the working group. He accused the authors of the report of McCarthyism by implying that the Chinese-American community has been under pressure from the Chinese diplomatic missions in the US to support China’s party line.
Woo specifically demanded that they provide evidence to back up their accusation that I am openly sympathetic to the goals of the Communist Party of China (CPC). If you have evidence, please share it with me and the entire Chinese-American community,” he said. “If you don’t, then I demand that you retract the statement and apologize to the entire Chinese community and George Koo.”

Woo pioneered the idea that if 80% of Asian-American voters were to vote the same way, then despite their relatively small numbers, they could effectively swing state and national elections. Woo’s movement has attracted a national following.

Therefore, when Woo sent a second follow-up letter, the leaders of the working group quickly responded with a letter signed by co-chairmen Larry Diamond and Orville Schelland group participant John Pomfret. Woo shared their letter with me so that I could respond.

The most interesting “aha, caught you with your hand in the cookie jar” accusation in the letter was that I have been listed as an adviser to the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China since the founding of that organization.

What’s wrong with peaceful reunification?

Absolutely true, guilty as charged. I have never deviated from the idea that Taiwan is part of China, and therefore how can I not support the idea of peaceful reunification?

I saw attending the 2002 inaugural conference on reunification as a way to support a close friend who was the organizer, to visit Sydney for the first time, and to be assured of good company, because former US president Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker.

Apparently, Clinton didn’t see anything wrong with peaceful reunification either.

Diamond’s letter claimed that the United Front of Chinese political parties created these councils around the world as a “lobbying wing” and implied that the United Front being affiliated with the CPC can only be nefarious.

At the Sydney conference, admittedly the only one I ever attended, I saw and met a lot of enthusiastic overseas Chinese of like mind that believe in one China and in peaceful reunification rather than non-peaceful alternatives.

I didn’t see any officials from China proselytizing Australians about the Taiwan issue. I did see a number of former prime ministers of Australia listed as honorary advisers to the council.

Basically Diamond and I hold opposing points of view. His expertise is not about China but he has been a strong cheerleader of the exercise of democracy in Taiwan.

He has said that a democratic form of government is more important than economic development. The recent election in Taiwan, as I have discussed, would suggest that his premise is in doubt.

The textbook description of democracy differs greatly from the real world. Professor Diamond should work with his students on how to remedy the gaping flaws in existing Western democracies, starting with the United States.

Orville Schell, on the other hand, has as good a set of “China hand” credentials as anyone. He is an accomplished author and journalist, but his views on China have shown unusual twists and turns – sometimes positive and at other times negative.

Perhaps his lack of consistency is due in part to being influenced by his friendship with the late Harry Wu– a relationship he has never publicly disavowed.

Schell is not the only one. As a charlatan pretending to be a human-rights activist, Wufooled a lot of people.  (Very few bothered to look deeper to see his feet of clay.)

Wu saw quite astutely that a lot of American politicians are predisposed to believe anything negative being said about China. He made a living telling lurid tales of China to that captive market.

Wu had the misfortune of drowning while cavorting in Honduras. That was how he avoided scheduled court appearances to face charges of graft and sexual misconduct, and we will never know all the sordid and salacious details of his life.

John Pomfret, the last named author of the letter, has lived in China and written about China. He has written a definitive study on the history of the relations between the US and China.

Beautiful country preferable to Middle Kingdom

He called his book The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, which is an opportunistic translation of the Chinese names for the United States and China.

After reading his book, I came away feeling that he has a bias in which the beautiful country is just fine and the Middle Kingdom not so much.

One example should suffice. Pomfret talked about Danny Stillman, director of technical intelligence at Los Alamos National Laboratorywho “took nine trips to nuclear-weapons installations in western China that no American had been before.”

Through his many trips into China, Stillman was able to compile a list of all of China’s nuclear-weapon tests. When he was ready to publish a book about his findings, “the Chinese pleaded with them” (Stillman had a co-author) not to include the page with the list.

What’s missing in Pomfret’s narrative is the fact that Stillman went into China at the invitation of Chinese scientists. The reader should ask, how else could he make nine separate trips into China’s nuclear-weapons installations or gather a list of weapon tests if not with Chinese cooperation?

My explanation: In accordance with the “Art of War,” China wanted the US to know about China’s state of nuclear-weapon development so that the Pentagon would not make a mistake in calculating the pros and cons of a nuclear confrontation.

Pomfret could also have noted that the publication of Stillman’s book was initially suppressed by the Clinton administration, as the US government was in midst of dealing with the Wen Ho Lee fiasco, in which Lee was accused of stealing missile technology for China.

To admit that at the same time that Lee was being exonerated, China had openly revealed their nuclear development activities to the US would have been awkward to say the least.

Suffice it to say that portraying the Chinese pleading with Stillman presented a very different picture than the Chinese proactively inviting Stillman’s visits to China’s weapon-development centers.

A Chinese-American antidote to paranoia

As a bicultural person, I see the perspective from both sides of the Pacific and I try to present a Chinese-American point of view – a point of view frequently missing in the US mainstream that can help Americans better understand China and the importance of the relationship.

The latest example of how the US can get carried away with paranoia is the alarm raised around the Chinese subway cars being assembled in Springfield, Massachusetts, for Boston.

The fear, first raised in The Washington Post, is the prospect of the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) installing spyware on the coaches. Imagine that, the horrors of Beijing listening in on every conversation in the subway car.

I first reported in Asia Times about the project: “The CRRC bid was at least 20% lower than competing bids from Canada and South Korea. There were no US bidders.

“In other words, the use of Chinese know-how will provide American cities with state of the art rail cars, at affordable prices, made with American labor, and resulting in the infrastructure improvements to make America great again.”

I even pointed out that the deal with CRRC would produce cars with more than 60% local (made in the US) content and qualify under President Donald Trump’s “Buy American” mandate.
In my view, the subway car deal is an excellent example of a win-win arrangement for the US and for China.

The Diamond letter states that he and his colleagues support my rights to free speech under the US constitution. I hope so, because I intend to continue to be a constructive contributor to the discussion on the future of the US-China relations.

40th anniversary celebration of the normalization of US China relations.

Left to right, Vice Consul General Ren Faqiang, George Koo and Consul General Wang Donghua

The PRC Consulate held the celebration on the 40th normalization of US China relations. The usual suspects were all there, starting from Mayor Breed who gave an excellent short speech.

I had in my possession a copy of the extra edition of Peoples' Daily, dated December 16, 1978. I took advantage of the occasion to present it to the Consulate. In the future, when you see it hanging on the wall, you'll know where it came from. Initially, they were going to invite me to say a few word but the local politicians took up all the microphone time and oxygen in the room. 

I was going to say, "Peoples' Daily printed extras on only three occasions that I am aware of. First when China detonated their first atomic bomb. Third when China sent man to outer space for the first time. That shows how important China regarded the normalization with the US."

Saturday, January 12, 2019

George Koo answers the letter from Hoover working group

My reply in the order of issues raised by the leaders of the working group are as follows.

My pieces have occasionally appeared in and in Global Times. I do not write specifically for those online publications and I am always delighted when they find my pieces appealing enough to repost in their blogposts; guancha even does the translation into Chinese. I should hasten to add that I received no compensations and did not expect any.

The late William Chiu was the prime mover and organizer of the Peaceful Reunification of China in Australia and was a dear friend of mine. My wife and I accepted his invitation to attend the first conference in Sydney in 2002 because (1) we were and are enthusiastic supporters of the idea of peaceful unification and wanted to support his initiative, (2) saw an opportunity to visit Australia for our first time, and (3) a possible photo-op with former President Bill Clinton who was the invited keynoter at the conference. He was well compensated for his appearance. We paid our own way. 

Even though I am listed as an advisor ever since the first annual conference, I have not attended any since. I note that many luminaries including former prime ministers of Australia are listed as advisors of one capacity or another to this organization. The presence of United Front was not obvious to me and no one had to convince me "that Taiwan should be united with China."

I was invited to join the Overseas Friendship Association in 2003. I was on vacation in China at the time and I flew from Kunming to Beijing to participate in the conference organized by the OFA. Since then I participated in some of their organized activities, the last was in 2007. 

In general the activities include a gala, a meeting where official position and status papers were distributed and sightseeing where we had opportunities to mingle with overseas Chinese from all over the world, including many from Taiwan. The meetings and/or conferences were not riveting and I don't remember ever being asked to go forth and spread a particular message. The host took care of local expenses while travel to China was always on our own. 

I cannot explain how I was listed in the Overseas Exchange Association. The organization listed my affiliation as Deloitte. I retired from Deloitte in April 2008 and therefore the information was at least ten years out of date.

Since 1978, I go to China frequently to help US companies do business in China. My travel expenses were either paid by me or by my clients. Not one trip was paid by anyone from the China side, except for local expenses as noted above. 

After my business activity tapered, I devoted increasing amount of my energy to explaining China to the American public. I try to present a Chinese American point of view that I believe is absent in the American mainstream. To that end, my friends in China have arranged for me to meet various organizations and experts such as Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing and Tsinghua universities. These exchanges and discussions were no different in nature from China hands that visit China regularly, including those in the Hoover working group. 

I do not recall the March 2008 meeting with CSSN mentioned at the end of the response from Diamond et al. But I can categorically state that no Chinese organization paid for my travel. 

Since 2003, I have occasionally met officials of the United Front. We talked about issues as related to Chinese Americans and rarely if ever about American politics and never have the United Front folks asked me to promote a certain point of view. I even expressed interest in wanting to know more about Harry Wu's past before he emigrated to the US and all I got was no response.

I am absolutely convinced that it is in the national interest of both the US and China to get along and peacefully co-exists. The future and prospects of the win-win quadrant is unlimited for both countries and for the world. On the other hand, no win-lose scenarios can be viable, only lose-lose and that would be tragic and most regrettable outcome. I hope to continue to be a "constructive" contributor to the discussion about the future of the US China relations. I too support the First Amendment; it's one of the best reasons to be an American

Friday, January 11, 2019

Hoover answers SB Woo about China's influence on George Koo

Late last year a report was published by the Hoover Institution on China's activity in the US. I was mentioned in the report and I wrote a response which was posted in Asia Times.

Subsequently, SB Woo, president of 80/20 Education Foundation, in a letter addressed to the co-chairs of the working group responsible for the report, challenged them to support and back up their statements in regard to China's influence on Chinese Americans and specifically on me.

The co-chairs answered and requested that if publicized their entire message is posted. Their message is as below.
Dear Mr Woo:
This is in reply to your original message of December 29.  In it you raised the issue of including George Koo’s name in a footnote in the report. Mr. Koo is entitled to his opinions and throughout the report, we stress the necessity of protecting First Amendment rights in the face of Chinese efforts to manipulate American public opinion.
In Mr. Koo’s case, he has written extensively on US-China relations. He is an occasional columnist on a Chinese state-run news website called We heartily support his First Amendment Rights.
What is controversial (and this is within the Chinese-American community, not simply among those who wrote the report) is the participation of some Americans in organizations that were founded and are directed by the Chinese Communist Party. The goals of these organizations such as the Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, the Chinese Overseas Exchange Association and the China Overseas Friendship Association are to carry out state policy of the PRC and to sway public opinion in foreign countries to be more favorable to the PRC. We believe these organizations function no differently than lobbying organizations and, along with their participants, should register as agents of a foreign government.
Throughout the report, sources in a variety of sectors spoke with us on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues. We are respecting their wishes.

If you intend to broadly distribute our reply here, we ask you to distribute the entire message and not quote selectively from it.
Larry Diamond, Orville Schell, and John Pomfret
P.S. As an addendum to this letter allow us to include a few more details on Mr. Koo that we did not put in the report.
Mr. Koo is a participant in at least three United Front Organizations. He has served an advisor to the Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China since it was founded in Australia.
[]. As you know the council was established by the United Front Work Department in 1988 in Beijing and has chapters throughout the world. It essentially functions as a lobbying wing of the United Front Work Department to convince foreigners that Taiwan should be united with China.
Mr. Koo, as was noted in the report, has served on the council of the China Overseas Friendship Association. He also has served on the council of the China Overseas Exchange Association []. Both of those organizations are run by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council and get their direction from the Chinese Communist Party. Last spring the OCAO was merged into the United Front Work Department as part of the PRC’s efforts to streamline its overseas lobbying work. Among his many trips to China, Mr. Koo was the guest of the UFWD on a 2008 trip where he met with senior United Front officials. The Chinese news report of Mr. Koo’s trip -- implied that Mr. Koo’s travel to and in China was paid for by the Chinese government. 
My response to the letter by Larry Diamond et al. is posted on the next blogpost.