A key presidential election battleground state of Michigan is also ground zero for a Chinese company’s acquisition of an automotive manufacturer with direct involvement by one of Hunter Biden’s businesses.
The transaction gave Chinese companies direct control of technology with possible military applications and, therefore, has national security implications.
Concerns over the transaction were laid out in an August 4, 2019, letter by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who is the Chairman of the Finance Committee.
Henniges Automotive Holdings, Inc., a Michigan-based supplier of anti-vibration components was acquired in 2015 with the controlling 51 percent interest going to China’s AVIC Automotive Systems Holding Co. Ltd.
While Henniges has said its annual sales are now $1 billion, up from a reported $824.8 million in 2014 and $611 million in 2011, the growth has not resulted in any reported employment increases in Michigan.
In a news release, Henniges touted the $600 million deal as “one of the largest acquisitions by a Chinese company of a U.S.-based automotive manufacturing company in history,” reported Automotive News at the time.
AVIC – a subsidiary of Beijing-based Aviation Industry Corporation of China – is a $65 billion Chinese government-owned aerospace and defense conglomerate with over 100 subsidiaries and about 500,000 employees globally, currently ranked 163 in the Fortune Global 500.
This one transaction is just a small glimpse into the complex ownership structures among a network of Biden-related corporate entities that carried out a larger web of transactions.
The other company involved in the transaction with 49 percent interest in Henniges is a private equity firm called Bohai Harvest RST (BHR), funded with $1 billion from the Chinese government via the government-owned Bank of China.
BHR, as detailed by Peter Schwiezer in an excerpt from his book “Secret Empires,” was formed in 2013 as a merger between Chinese-government linked Bohai Capital and U.S.-based Rosemont Seneca Partners.
Rosemont Seneca Partners was formed in 2009 by Hunter Biden, son of then-Vice President Joe Biden, as well as Chris Heinz, stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry among others.
Because the Henniges acquisition gave direct control of its anti-vibration technology to Chinese companies, the transaction was reviewed and approved by CFIUS.
CFIUS – the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – “is an interagency committee authorized to review certain transactions involving foreign investment in the United States and certain real estate transactions by foreign persons, in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States.”
The CFIUS Chair is the Secretary of the Treasury and members include the heads of the Departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, Defense and Energy as well as the Offices of U.S. Trade Representative and Science & Technology Policy.
Additionally, five White House offices observe and, as appropriate, participate in CFIUS activities.
The make-up CFIUS is particularly relevant in the Henniges transaction, as Grassley notes in his letter, because of the potential conflict of interest with Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz being directly related to high-ranking Obama-Biden administration officials.
Specifically, a CFIUS participant playing a direct role in the decision to approve the Henniges transaction is the Department of State which was under Kerry’s leadership at the time of the the approval for AVIC’s deal. And, of course, another CFIUS participant is the White House which was occupied at the time by Joe Biden as vice president.
Grassley questioned the Henniges transaction by CFIUS, especially in light of 2007 reports that AVIC was involved in stealing sensitive data regarding the Joint Strike Fighter Program.
That stolen technology and aircraft secrets from the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II were incorporated into China’s latest version of the J-20 stealth fighter, according to the report.
In 2011, Pentagon technology security officials opposed a joint venture between General Electric and AVIC due to concerns that U.S. fighter jet technology would be diverted to AVIC’s military aircraft programs.
Notably, the Obama-Biden administration ignored those concerns and instead, promoted the systematic loosening of controls on technology transfers to China, says the report.
The Henniges transaction was also allowed to go through, despite the addition of majority-owner AVIC being added by rule of the Bureau of Industry and Security to the “Entity List” the year prior to the deal.
For clarification, the aforementioned “Entity List” consists of those “for whom there is a reasonable cause to believe, based on specific and articulable facts, have been involved, are involved or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved in, activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interest of the United States.”
Lest anyone think that AVIC’s intentions towards the U.S. have improved, the entity’s current Chairman of the Board, Tan Ruisong, is a member of the 13th Session of the CPPCC – a political advisory body in the People’s Republic of China under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.
The question that could be asked is what did Joe Biden know and when did he know it.
Joe Biden was a long-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, becoming its ranking minority member in 1997 and chairing it from 2001 to 2003 and again from 2007 to 2009.
In June 2020, the Pentagon released a list originally commissioned by Congress in 1999 pursuant to a section of the National Defense Authorization Act of Chinese military-associated companies operating directly or indirectly in the U.S.
On the most recent list, AVIC appears first on the alphabetical list of 20 Pentagon-listed Chinese military-associated companies with a presence in the U.S. capital markets, according to RWR Advisory Group.
AVIC and its subsidiaries had been sanctioned five separate times – in 1993, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006 – by the U.S. for proliferation activities that played a key role in enabling Iran to develop its missile capabilities, according to RWR’s executive summary. These sanctions obviously all came while Joe Biden was in office.
It is unclear how hard-working, patriotic Americans benefitted from working for a company tied to the community Chinese government, just to keep their jobs and put food on the table.
Since Henniges is not publicly traded, it is difficult to find information on the company’s employment information in the U.S. except through scant press releases on the company’s website.
The year prior to AVIC’s acquisition of Henniges, the company reported it had over 6,500 employees worldwide.
Since the Henniges takeover, the focus of the company appears to be on its global plans.
In announcing its expanded partnership with Argentina-based Burkool S.A. to create a strategic alliance to service automotive original equipment manufacturers in Brazil, Henniges said in May 2016 it had 7,700 employees worldwide.
Then in July 2016, Henniges announced the opening of its first plant in Poland, with an expectation to add 500 team members there over the next five years.
In December 2017, Henniges reported it opened a new, scalable 79,500 square foot facility in the Shanghai region. The opening created approximately 70 new jobs and made a total of seven manufacturing plants in China.
Henniges also said it had 23 facilities worldwide, including 18 production sites and five research and development centers.
Then in 2018, Henniges said it was up to 8,200 employees worldwide and had plans for a new manufacturing plant in South America and expanding its engineering facility in Europe.
Henniges reported in April 2019, it was up to 19 manufacturing locations across eight countries with plans on expanding in the key regions of Mexico, South America, Europe and China.
Since the acquisition, Henniges appears to have added about 1,700 employees and several locations in the past five years, but most notably, none of the reported expansions in employment or locations have been in the U.S.
Henniges, however, is not the only Chinese takeover that did nothing obvious to help taxpaying citizens and workers in The Great Lake State.
Michigan also saw the acquisition of General Motor’s former Nexteer by China’s Pacific Century Motors in 2010.
A subsequent new labor agreement promised additional jobs, but also created a two-tier wage scale and cut wages for some Nexteer workers, reported MLive.
The deal came after the Michigan Economic Develop Corporation’s Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved a state tax credit valued at $70.7 million over 10 years and Buena Vista Township approved a 20-year 100 percent tax abatement, saving the company about $2.3 million in taxes per year.
Michigan-based A123 Systems Inc. was acquired by China’s Wanxiang America Corp., the Chicago-based arm of Wanxiang Group Company, in 2013 as a result of bankruptcy proceedings.
A123 in 2009 was awarded a grant of $249 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, thankfully receiving just $132 million of it before the foreign take over by Wanxiang, according to Financier Worldwide.
Wanxiang also acquired a Delaware-based A123 client, Fisker Automotive. Like the A123, Fisker’s takeover was also made through bankruptcy proceedings.
Within Wanxiang lies yet another connection to the Bidens.
Seneca Global Advisors – a Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz consulting firm founded in 2008 – had as a client Great Point Energy. In 2012, Great Point Energy entered into a $1.25 billion partnership with Wanxiang Group.
The Washington Examiner led off with the A123 acquisition as an example in its report of how China has been exploiting holes in the U.S. bankruptcy system for years to acquire national security technology.
In 2013, Grassley was joined by Senator John Thune of South Dakota in expressing concern over the Obama-Biden administration’s approval of Wanxiang’s purchase of the taxpayer-funded A123 and the associated national security implications related to the technology.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.