EXCLUSIVE: A Washington, D.C.-based investment firm with deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), led and advised by former Obama-Biden officials, urged multiple CCP-linked companies to invest in the U.S. during a U.S. government-sponsored luncheon in 2015, calling it "good for American workers."
Gary Locke, who served as U.S. ambassador to China from 2011 to 2014 under President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, served as an advisory board member of Harves Investment Group when it hosted a luncheon in Washington in March 2015, according to a press release on the firm’s now-defunct website.
"You all know the advantages of investing in America. I don’t need to repeat that. You know that because that’s why you are here," Locke told a room of more than 120 Chinese business leaders at the time, according to a YouTube video of the event.
"As your companies grow in prosperity, many of you are looking to go global and as you look at going global we want you to consider investing in America," he said. "But to really be successful in the United States, that key to success is really having the right set of advisers and experts. … And of course Harves Investment Group is one of those consultants."
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"We all stand ready to help you be successful in America because we know that your success is not only good for your owners and your shareholders, but also good for American workers and those are the win-win opportunities that we seek," he added. "We wish you the very, very best of luck. We wish you great success investing in America."
The 2015 luncheon was part of the SelectUSA Investment Summit held by the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration aimed to boost foreign investments in the U.S.
Chinese companies that attended the Harves Investment Group luncheon included Alibaba, Shandong Yuhuang Chemical, Hangzhou Wahaha Group, Wanda Group, and others, according to the group's press release, all of which have well-documented ties to the CCP.
Alibaba, a Chinese firm that reportedly helped create surveillance technology used against Uyghur Muslims, is one of China’s largest technology firms that actively works to advance the interests of the CCP.
The chairman of Shandong Yuhuang Chemical, Wang Jinshu was elected as the representative of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, according to the company’s website.
Zong Qinghou, the founder and CEO of Hangzhou Wahaha Group, Chinese leading soft drink maker, is also a CCP member.
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The chairman of Wanda Group, Wang Jianlin, is a CCP member, and served in the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. He is also a longtime member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which has been described by the U.S. government as a "central part" of China’s united front system working to advance the CCP’s interests.
Locke, who also served as the secretary of Commerce under Obama from 2009 to 2011, told Fox News Digital that he gave the welcoming remarks at the 2015 luncheon and was under the impression that it was "organized or co-organized by the Commerce Department, or at the suggestion of the Commerce Department."
Locke, the current president of Bellevue College in Washington state, who campaigned for President Biden in 2020, said he had no knowledge of who was invited to the luncheon, and he had no say in the invitation process. He said he was invited to give the speech by Harves Investment Group President Rick Wade, who previously served in the Obama administration as Locke’s senior adviser at the Commerce Department and served as a "liaison to China private sector partners, U.S. Embassy in China as well as other high ranking government officials" at scandal-plagued GreenTech Automotive, according to his Linkedin profile.
"As the quotes from the Harves press release indicate, I have long promoted investment in the U.S.—be it from China or Europe—that result in creating jobs for American workers, especially in manufacturing, and then exporting those made-in-USA goods to other countries," Locke told Fox News Digital. "That is what I did as Commerce Secretary, Ambassador to China, and as a private citizen. We had a motto at Commerce: ‘The more companies in America export their made-in-USA products, the more they produce; the more they produce, the more workers they need; and that means more jobs for the American people.’"
"In promoting investment into the U.S., I always talked about the need to secure approval from the U.S. government to ensure there were no concerns regarding our national security," he continued. "That is the CIFIUS process, a review by various federal agencies, including the Commerce Department and defense agencies, to ensure our national security was protected. While I was Commerce Secretary and Ambassador, several investments by Chinese companies were not allowed."
Locke also gave a shout-out to Francis "Fran" Person, who was in attendance at the luncheon, calling him one of his "friends" and a "great friend of trade with China." Person served in the Obama administration as an adviser to then-Vice President Biden and a special assistant to Obama from 2009 until the summer of 2014, months before he became an executive at Harves. Politico reported on his departure from the White House by quoting then-second lady Jill Biden saying, "Fran has been like a son to Joe and me … Fran may be leaving the office, but he will always be a part of our family."
Locke told Fox News Digital in a Tuesday email that he "met Mr. Person a few times during my time with the federal government" and that he did "not know of his involvement with Harves."
Meanwhile, Wade, who now serves as senior vice president of strategic alliances and outreach at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was quoted in the press release for the luncheon as saying the purpose of the event was "about people getting to understand each other better and establishing trust."
Wade did not respond to Fox News Digital's request for comment.
Vinai Thummalapallya, the former executive director of SelectUSA at the Commerce Department, also spoke at the 2015 event, according to the press release and the YouTube video of the event. Thummalapallya was later appointed by President Biden in 2021 to serve as deputy director and chief operating officer of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
"The companies who are attending the conference this year have committed $13 billion in investments that have been publicly announced within the last 12 months," Thummalapally was quoted as saying at the luncheon. "We calculated the expected job creation from that investment would be 37,000 US jobs."
Thummalapallya, who previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Belize under Obama from 2009 to 2013, blogged about the event on the Obama White House website but made no mention of China or Chinese companies.
Matthew McGuire, who was a senior adviser at the U.S. Department of the Treasury at the time of the event, was also in attendance, according to the press release. McGuire is also a former director at the Commerce Department and later served as the executive director of World Bank Group after being nominated by Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2015.
Thummalapallya, McGuire, SelectUSA and the Commerce Department did not respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.
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Fox News Digital has extensively reported on Harves Investment Group and other Washington, D.C.-based Harves affiliates and their ties to the CCP. Bo Zhang, the founder and CEO of the Harves Investment Group, among other U.S. based Harves affiliates, was being "groomed to take over his family's dynasty" in China, according to an email Person wrote to Hunter Biden in 2015, inviting him to China.
"Bo Zhang and his family would host us. They are a great family with great respect and relationships in China. Bo graduated from American Univ and is in his late 20’s, and his parents own Harves Century Group of Shenyang - which is a top tier private chinese real estate development firm," Person wrote. "His mom is actually the Chairman of the company, which is unique in China. They are very private, and wouldn’t tell anyone about you coming. Bo’s father-in-law is actually the Governor of Hainan (Chinese Hawaii), which he doesn’t advertise at all."
"I’d like for you to get to know Bo. He’s a brilliant guy - he’s been groomed to take over his family’s dynasty, but he’s very humble. He will do great things one day, but he needs good people around him. He and his wife live in DC, and are expecting a child," Person continued. "He is building a huge house in McLean, and plans on working and living in the US. This isn’t about a partnership, or selling you on anything. We just want to grow that relationship, and there will be plenty of big things that come down the road that we can work on."
Zhang's father-in-law, who is referenced in the email, is Liu Cigui, who was later elected as the Communist Party secretary of the Hainan province in 2017. He is considered a "loyalist" of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Another Zhang connection to the CCP was revealed in a December 2013 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filing with the Justice Department, which listed Zhang as the "foreign principal." The filing noted his relationship with Chinese government official Liu Guoqiang, who was the vice chairman of the Liaoning Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is a "key part" of China’s "United Front" work, The Diplomat reported a couple years ago.
Fox News Digital reported last April that Person visited the Obama-Biden White House at least seven times between 2015 and 2016 after he left the White House to work for Harves. Person and Bo Zhang also both attended a White House holiday reception in December 2015. Person previously told Fox News Digital that those "visits were personal in nature, visiting with old colleagues and friends whom I served with during my six years working there, and completely unrelated to my work with Harves Entertainment which was creating experiences and attractions with iconic brands across the sports and entertainment industry."
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As recently as March 2017, Hunter Biden's now-defunct private equity firm Rosemont Seneca Advisors held a 5% stake in Harves Amusement Parks and ownership in Harves Sports and Entertainment, both of which fall under the D.C.-based Harves Group. Person previously claimed that "Hunter Biden, Rosemont Seneca Advisors or any affiliate or associate have never held any equity in any Harves affiliated company," despite multiple emails from Hunter and his business partner Eric Schwerin contradicting this claim.
Person and Zhang did not respond to Fox News Digital's requests for comment.
Fox News Digital reported in August that Hunter was actively working behind the scenes in 2016 to solicit donations for Person’s failed congressional campaign while also introducing him and Zhang to business colleagues via email, including DuPont executive George Duko.
President Biden maintains that he has no knowledge of his son's business dealings. Hunter, who is under federal investigation, has denied any wrongdoing.
Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform previously told Fox News Digital that they planned to investigate Hunter’s business deals with Harves Group and his relationship with Person.