Trump Records Shed New Light on Chinese Business Pursuits

President Trump and his allies have tried to color the Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., as comfortable on China, partially by pointing to his son’s enterprise dealings there.

Senate Republicans produced a report asserting, amongst different issues, that Mr. Biden’s son Hunter “opened a bank account” with a Chinese businessman, a part of what it mentioned have been his quite a few connections to “foreign nationals and foreign governments across the globe.”

But Mr. Trump’s personal enterprise historical past is stuffed with abroad monetary offers, and a few have concerned the Chinese state. He spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing initiatives in China, working an workplace there throughout his first run for president and forging a partnership with a serious government-controlled firm.

And it seems that China is one in all solely three international nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — the place Mr. Trump maintains a checking account, in accordance with an evaluation of the president’s tax data, which have been obtained by The New York Times. The international accounts don’t present up on Mr. Trump’s public monetary disclosures, the place he should record private belongings, as a result of they’re held below company names. The identities of the monetary establishments will not be clear.

The Chinese account is managed by Trump International Hotels Management L.L.C., which the tax data present paid $188,561 in taxes in China whereas pursuing licensing offers there from 2013 to 2015.

The tax data don’t embrace particulars on how a lot cash could have handed by the abroad accounts, although the Internal Revenue Service does require filers to report the portion of their earnings derived from different international locations. The British and Irish accounts are held by firms that function Mr. Trump’s golf programs in Scotland and Ireland, which usually report thousands and thousands of in income from these international locations. Trump International Hotels Management reported just some thousand from China.

In response to questions from The Times, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, mentioned the corporate had “opened an account with a Chinese bank having offices in the United States in order to pay the local taxes” related to efforts to do enterprise there. He mentioned the corporate had opened the account after establishing an workplace in China “to explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia.”

“No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialized and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive,” Mr. Garten mentioned. “Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose.”

Mr. Garten wouldn’t determine the financial institution in China the place the account is held. Until final yr, China’s greatest state-controlled financial institution rented three floors in Trump Tower, a lucrative lease that drew accusations of a conflict of interest for the president.

China continues to be an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign, from the president’s trade war to his barbs over the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. His campaign has tried to portray Mr. Biden as a “puppet” of China who, as vice president, misread the dangers posed by its growing power. Mr. Trump has also sought to tar his opponent with overblown or unsubstantiated assertions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings there while his father was in office.

“He’s like a vacuum cleaner — he follows his father around collecting,” Mr. Trump said recently, referring to Mr. Biden’s son. “What a disgrace. It’s a crime family.”

In a misleading claim amplified by surrogates like his son Donald Trump Jr. and his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president has said the younger Mr. Biden “walked out of China” with $1.5 billion after accompanying his father on an official trip in 2013. Numerous news articles and fact-checking sites have explained that the huge figure was actually a fund-raising goal set by an investment firm in which Hunter Biden obtained a 10 percent stake after his father left office. The firm did receive financial backing from a large state-controlled bank, but it is not clear the fund-raising target was ever met, and there is no evidence Hunter Biden received a large personal payout.

As for the former vice president, his public financial disclosures, along with the income tax returns he voluntarily released, show no income or business dealings of his own in China. However, there is ample evidence of Mr. Trump’s efforts to join the myriad American firms that have long done business there — and the tax records for him and his companies that were obtained by The Times offer new details about them.

As with Russia, where he explored hotel and tower projects in Moscow without success, Mr. Trump has long sought a licensing deal in China. His efforts go at least as far back as 2006, when he filed trademark applications in Hong Kong and the mainland. Many Chinese government approvals came after he became president. (The president’s daughter Ivanka Trump also won Chinese trademark approvals for her personal business after she joined the White House staff.)

In 2008, Mr. Trump pursued an office tower project in Guangzhou that never got off the ground. But his efforts accelerated in 2012 with the opening of a Shanghai office, and tax records show that one of Mr. Trump’s China-related companies, THC China Development L.L.C., claimed $84,000 in deductions that year for travel costs, legal fees and office expenses.

After effectively planting his flag there, Mr. Trump found a partner in the State Grid Corporation, one of the nation’s largest government-controlled enterprises. Agence France-Presse reported in 2016 that the partnership would have involved licensing and managing a development in Beijing. Mr. Trump was reportedly still pursuing the deal months into his first presidential campaign, but it was abandoned after State Grid became ensnared in a corruption investigation by Chinese authorities.

It is difficult to determine from the tax records precisely how much money Mr. Trump has spent trying to land business in China. The records show that he has invested at least $192,000 in five small companies created specifically to pursue projects there over the years. Those companies claimed at least $97,400 in business expenses since 2010, including some minor payments for taxes and accounting fees as recently as 2018.

But Mr. Trump’s plans in China have been largely driven by a different company, Trump International Hotels Management — the one with a Chinese bank account.

The company has direct ownership of THC China Development, but is also involved in management of other Trump-branded properties around the world, and it is not possible to discern from its tax records how much of its financial activity is China-related. It normally reports a few million dollars in annual income and deductible expenses.

In 2017, the company reported an unusually large spike in revenue — some $17.5 million, more than the previous five years’ combined. It was accompanied by a $15.1 million withdrawal by Mr. Trump from the company’s capital account.

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