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Paul Manafort Advising Chinese Billionaire on U.S. Infrastructure Projects

Paul Manafort meets with Yan Jiehe (China Pacific Construction Group; archive).

Paul Manafort meets with Yan Jiehe, March 5 (China Pacific Construction Group; archive).

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, currently under investigation for his pro-Russian ties and Russian money laundering, will now be advising Chinese billionaire Yan Jiehe (严介和) on gaining access to lucrative infrastructure projects in the United States according to the Financial Times. Yan is the founder of China Pacific Construction Group (CPCG, 中国太平洋建设集团) and one of the wealthiest men in China (See also Fortune, Huffington PostSalon, The Week).

Manafort met with Yan in Shanghai on April 11, according to the Financial Times, and was described by Yan as “Trump’s special envoy.” During his visit Manafort was treated to a Huangpu riverboat tour of Shanghai, and indicated that he “would be returning to China within a month for further talks.” Yan clearly indicated that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss access to U.S. infrastructure projects to be funded by the Trump administration to the tune of a trillion dollars.

“I will not seek out Trump,” said Yan confidently, “He will seek me out. In the entire world, I am definitely the most ideal privately owned unit to invest in construction. In the whole world, there’s not another company equal to Pacific Construction.” Despite such bravado, Yan’s meeting with Manafort suggests that he is indeed seeking out Trump (and seeking out U.S. public funds that American taxpayers might rather see go to an American construction company).

Manafort’s spokesman, Jason Maloni, initially denied that Manafort was in China on business; then denied that his business in China involved “any current or future infrastructure projects or contracts in the United States.” Maloni’s denials seem to conflict with Yan’s own statements at this meeting, however, and with the details of previous contacts between Manafort and Yan.

According to the CPCG website (March 8; archive), Manafort met previously with Yan in Beijing on March 5-7. Manafort and Yan are pictured above at this meeting and below with unspecified others in attendance. The meeting is reported in detail also by Jingsun Group (京商集团, March 15; archive), an infrastructure company associated with Yan that hosted the event. This previous meeting is not included in the Financial Times report, and until now seems to have escaped U.S. media attention.

Paul Manafort in Beijing, March 7 (China Pacific Construction Group; archive).

Paul Manafort in Beijing, March 7 (China Pacific Construction Group; archive).

In Beijing, as in Shanghai, Manafort was described as a “special envoy of President Trump” (He was also curiously described as the “godfather of Ivanka Trump.”). Manafort is praised in these reports for his work on behalf of such figures as former dictators Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mohamed Siad Barre of Somalia, and Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine. Manafort’s history with these and other autocrats around the world appears to have been taken as a prime qualification for work on behalf of China’s interests.

Yan has a reputation as something of a maverick and claims to keep a distance from the Chinese Communist Party. He is a former local government official, however, and frequently appears alongside current party officials on Chinese government and state-run media websites. No one does business in China as successfully as Yan without having a cozy relationship with the Communist Party.

Yan Jiehe with Paul Manafort, Beijing, March 6 (Jingsun Group; archive).

Yan Jiehe with Paul Manafort, Beijing, March 6 (Jingsun Group; archive).

Present also with Yan and Manafort at the March event in Beijing were Jiang Zedong (姜泽栋), chairman and Communist Party secretary of the Northern Design and Research Institute (北方设计研究院), a part of China’s state-owned defense industry; Chen Shiping (陈诗平), general manager of state-owned China Railway International Group (中铁国际集团有限公司), a major player in China’s “going out” strategy with operations throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America; a Moldovan entrepreneur named Ruslan Birladeanu (Руслан Бырлэдяну); and other “Chinese and foreign political and business circles.”

In comments to Fortune, Yan said that a total of three meetings with Manafort in China have taken place.



Mark C. Eades

Mark C. Eades is an Asia-based writer, educator, and independent researcher. Located in Shanghai, China from 2009 to 2015, he now splits his time between the United States and various locations in Asia. He has spent a total of seven years in China since his first visit in 1991, and has taught at Fudan University, Shanghai International Studies University, and in the private sector in Shanghai. He is also widely traveled throughout East and Southeast Asia. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science and a Master of Arts in Humanities from San Francisco State University with extensive coursework in Asia-Pacific studies. His previous publications include articles on China and Sino-US relations in U.S. News & World Report, Asia Times, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and Atlantic Community. Twitter: @MC_Eades