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Washington Times: Chinese influence questioned

Jul 31, 2008

Washington, Jul 31, 2008 - Kenneth Lieberthal, a former Clinton White House National Security Council staff member, came under some sharp questioning recently before Congress about his business ties to China.

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on China and the Olympics, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, pressed Mr. Lieberthal, who testified as a University of Michigan professor, about his connection to Stonebridge International, a Washington consulting firm that works with businesses in China.

Mr. Rohrabacher noted that China is buying influence in the United States through "people who are making billions of dollars allying themselves and doing the bidding of a dictatorship that fundamentally hates everything this country's all about."

Asked if his company represents the Chinese, Mr. Lieberthal said, "I'm not with a company. I'm at the University of Michigan."

Mr. Rohrabacher had asked if Mr. Lieberthal had sought to press Chinese officials to release imprisoned Chinese dissidents.

Mr. Lieberthal said he had done so when he worked in government, but apparently not recently or as part of his role as a Stonebridge board member.

"I think corporations try to stay out of political issues as much as they can, but I think on balance the opening of the Chinese economy to Western corporate participation has been a positive for [the] standard of living in China and, let me say also, for the quality of life in China," he said.

Mr. Rohrabacher returned to questioning Mr. Lieberthal later in the hearing, stating that "corporate America seems to have what I consider to be an unholy relationship with that clique that runs China with an iron fist." He then asked Mr. Lieberthal about his relationship with Stonebridge and whether it was a corporation doing business in China.

"Let me clarify, sir. What I was reacting to was you said 'your company....,'" Mr. Lieberthal said.

Mr. Rohrabacher: "So you're not associated with Stonebridge?"

Mr. Lieberthal: "No. I am a senior director at Stonebridge. I'm not..."

Mr. Rohrabacher: "Is that a corporation?"

"Yes. I'm not an employee," Mr. Lieberthal said.

"So your company, you are on the board of directors. Are you paid by Stonebridge?"

"Yes, I am."

"All right. So I wasn't incorrect in saying 'your company.' You're paid by a corporation. And does it have a major economic interaction with China?"

"Stonebridge is a consulting company, and some of the consulting it does is on, you know, advising on operations in China," Mr. Lieberthal said.

Mr. Rohrabacher then announced to the committee that Mr. Lieberthal's business ties to China should be considered as the committee listened to his opinion.

"What we're seeing here is a perfect example of where we have corporate interest ... making billions of dollars, who actually have an influence on public opinion here and governmental opinion here in the nation's capital of the United States of America," Mr. Rohrabacher said. "That doesn't mean your opinions are wrong, just - we need to know about that."

Mr. Rohrabacher stated that there needs to be a clear distinction between "the people of China" and "a dictatorship... a small group of people who repress them."

Mr. Lieberthal did not return phone calls seeking comment on the exchange.
Original Article: Washington Times