Former Peace Corps Director Elaine Chao In Another Ethical Muddle (China)

Thanks for the ‘heads up’ from Dale Gilles (Liberia 1964-66)


Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, oversees the American maritime industry. Her family’s shipping company, Foremost Group, has deep ties to the Chinese elite.

By Michael ForsytheEric LiptonKeith Bradsher and Sui-Lee Wee

  • June 2, 2019


The email arrived in Washington before dawn. An official at the American Embassy in Beijing was urgently seeking advice from the State Department about an “ethics question.”

“I am writing you because Mission China is in the midst of preparing for a visit from Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao,” the official wrote in October 2017.

Ms. Chao’s office had made a series of unorthodox requests related to her first scheduled visit to China as a Trump cabinet member, according to people with knowledge of the email. Among them: asking federal officials to help coordinate travel arrangements for at least one family member and include relatives in meetings with government officials.


The family of Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary and wife of Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has high-level political connections not only in the United States but also in China. That gives the family unusual status in the world’s two largest economies.

Through interviews, industry filings and government documents from both countries, The New York Times found that the Chaos, and by extension Mr. McConnell, prospered as the family’s shipping company developed deeper business ties in China. Along the way, one of the company’s boosters was Ms. Chao, who now oversees efforts to promote America’s own maritime industry, which is in steep decline as China’s shipping sector rises in global dominance. Here are five takeaways.

The Chao family’s connections to the Chinese state go back decades

James S.C. Chao, 91, Ms. Chao’s father, studied navigation at a university in Shanghai before fleeing the mainland ahead of the Communist takeover in 1949. His schoolmate for a time was Jiang Zemin, who would become China’s president.



Leave a comment
  • Why should it be surprising to learn that another influential republican, speaker McConnell, has ties to the government of a foreign nation, China, when the president he supports on every issue is in the pocket of Putin as well as in love with the murderer-in-chief of North Korea. And now it comes out that McConnell’s wife just somehow “forgot” to mention her connections to China during her confirmation hearings for Transportation Secretary. This Trump administration is proving in yet another way that it is rotten to the core.

  • Some solid investigative reporting here from the NY Times–bottom line–Ms Chao has part interest in the Chinese shipping company of her family and Mitch has benefited from that company’s wealth–“vaulting” to the 10th wealthiest U.S. Senator. With the ongoing trade “war” going on with China–the conflicts of interest are so numerous I don’t know where to start.

  • The lotus rises above the muck and Chao is not the lotus. The Peace Corps represents the lotus.

  • Elaine Chao” husband is the second most powerful politican in Washington, in my opinion, Mitch McConnell. He has simply stopped almost all legislation passed by the House of Representatives. He has rendered the recent overwhelming election by Democratic in the House, meaningless. Ironically, Peace Corps legislation in 2018 was bipartisan, passed, and signed, despite the President’s recommendation to cut the Peace Corps budget.

    Now the President is recommending again a reduction in Peace Corps funding. It would be so ironic if Elaine Chao turns out to be an important advocate for Peace Corps funding and urges her powerful husband to allow increased funding for Peace Corps to be passed.

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