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In 2017, Ramaswamy announced a business venture that involved a private equity firm linked to the Chinese Communist Party.
A Sept. 26 Washington Post opinion article by conservative writer Marc A. Thiessen explored Ramaswamy’s business in China. Thiessen described CITIC Private Equity, a business that partnered with a Ramaswamy-owned company to launch an operation in China, as “a state-owned Chinese investment firm.”
PolitiFact could not corroborate — and, outside of the opinion article, found no other evidence of — this business connection linking Ramaswamy to Hunter Biden. The article suggested Ramaswamy is tied to a Chinese businessman who was accused of paying Hunter Biden $5 million. Neither Ramaswamy’s link to that businessperson, nor the $5 million payment to Biden have been fully proved.
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has talked tough on China during his campaign, saying he would ban most U.S. companies from doing business there.
But several of his political challengers at the Sept. 27 presidential primary debate accused Ramaswamy of making deals with Chinese companies.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said the 38-year-old entrepreneur was "just in business with the Chinese Communist Party, and the same people that funded Hunter Biden, millions of dollars, was a partner of (his) as well."
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also singled out Ramaswamy: "You were in business with the Chinese that gave Hunter Biden $5 million. We can't trust you."
"This is nonsense," Ramaswamy responded to Scott.
As with many claims about Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, whose foreign business dealings have drawn Republican scrutiny, the claims are rooted in unproved allegations that Biden’s business deals in China signaled influence peddling or corruption.
In a nutshell: The wife of a possible Chinese business associate of Ramaswamy’s has been linked to another Chinese businessman who, according to someone else, paid Hunter Biden $5 million.
Ramaswamy’s senior adviser Tricia McLaughlin dismissed the alleged Hunter Biden connection as "the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon."
We reached out to Scott and Haley for their evidence. Here’s what we know.
These claims involve three biopharmaceutical companies.
In 2019, Roivant Sciences and Sinovant Sciences announced the launch of Cytovant Sciences, another biopharmaceutical company. Cytovant Sciences focused on developing cell therapy in Asia, according to a press release.
Spokespeople for Scott and Haley pointed PolitiFact to a Washington Post opinion article by conservative writer Marc A. Thiessen headlined, "Vivek Ramaswamy has a China problem — and a Hunter Biden problem." The column explored Ramaswamy’s business in China and described CITIC Private Equity as "a state-owned Chinese investment firm." (That description is similar to other news stories we read about CITIC’s chops among the Chinese elite.)
McLaughlin said Ramaswamy has firsthand experience doing business in China that informed his current policy positions. Ramaswamy "had a subsidiary in China, before the company eventually wound down its operations there as the risks of doing business in China became apparent," she said.
"There’s a reason why Vivek is the only candidate to offer a vision for declaring independence from our chief adversary," McLaughlin said.
In February, a Roivant Sciences spokesperson told The New Republic that Sinovant Sciences and Cytovant Sciences were "no longer operating," and Roivant Sciences was not active in China. Roivant declined to give a statement to PolitiFact.
McLaughlin said Ramaswamy committed not to do business in China when he launched the asset management company Strive in 2022. Ramaswamy announced his plan to run for president in February 2023.
Ex-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis argue Sept. 27, 2023, during a Republican presidential primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP)
Thiessen’s column outlined a connection from CITIC Private Equity to Hunter Biden. It requires a game of connect-the-dots:
Liu Lefei was listed as CITIC Private Equity’s chairman and CEO in November 2018. Liu is the son of a powerful Chinese Communist Party leader. The South China Morning Post reported in June 2012 that Liu had resigned as CITIC Private Equity’s chairman, but remained as CEO. Because Ramaswamy’s Roivant Sciences partnered with CITIC Private Equity, he and Liu may have been business associates.
Liu’s wife, Jia Liqing, is also tied to the CCP, according to a New York Times report.
According to Thiessen’s Washington Post column, Jia co-founded Harvest Global Investments with Zhao Xuejun, also known as Henry Zhao. Thiessen linked to two sources for that claim: an anonymously written 2020 article on a WordPress website called "Today China" and the Harvest Global Investments’ website. We did not find Jia’s name on the website, but a 2015 Google web cache of a site that provides information about people and businesses in Hong Kong listed Jia as an officer at Harvest Global Investments from 2016 to 2017. A Yale website also listed Jia as CEO and managing director of entities with similar names: "Harvest Capital International" and "Harvest Alternatives Investment Group."
Zhao, a Chinese businessman, was linked to Biden by whistleblower testimony. IRS agent Gary Shapley, who supervised the agency’s investigation into Hunter Biden, testified that the IRS obtained a July 30, 2017, WhatsApp message from Hunter Biden to Zhao. PolitiFact has not seen the WhatsApp message, but according to Shapley, Hunter Biden wrote, "I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled. … I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father." It is unclear what the "commitment" was or whether Joe Biden was present. (Joe Biden was neither vice president, nor running for public office at the time.) Legal experts cautioned that whistleblower testimony must be considered alongside all other available evidence. Hunter Biden attorney Abbe Lowell in a June letter to the House Ways and Means Committee said his client was not with Joe Biden on July 30, 2017.
John Galanis, who was convicted of white-collar crimes, claimed in an affidavit that Zhao played a role in securing a $5 million investment into Biden’s financial advisory firm by a Chinese entity. The Post op-ed cited a story on The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news site, and emails from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop. PolitiFact could not verify that Zhao paid Biden $5 million.
Shang-Jin Wei, the N.T. Wang professor of Chinese business and economy at Columbia Business School, said that although he couldn’t speak to Ramaswamy’s specific situation, he was not surprised that a U.S. business would "do business in China, with a local business partner with connections." China is the world’s second-largest economy and largest trading nation, he said.
"President Trump’s company was trying to develop business in China for the same reason," Wei said. "Most S&P 500 companies do business in or with China."
The Chinese Communist Party is not involved in every business transaction in China, but the party is likely involved in substantial deals or business that involves national security or other high-priority sectors, said Oded Shenkar, the chair in global business management and a management and human resources professor at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.
PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
Update, Oct. 4, 2023: This story has been updated to note that Hunter Biden’s attorney in June disputed an account that his client was with President Joe Biden on July 30, 2017.
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