Last week’s revelations that a Chinese spy served on the staff of California Senator Dianne Feinstein for nearly 20 years, should shock no one.
The un-named agent, who was in place up to five years ago, was Senator Feinstein’s driver. He also served as a “gofer” in her Bay Area office and was a “liaison to the Asian-American community.” He also sometimes attended Chinese consulate functions, as a stand-in for the Senator.
At the time the spy was discovered by the FBI, Sen. Feinstein was chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Feinstein says she forced the agent into retirement, but no other staff were informed of the real circumstances behind his leaving, and no charges were filed.
Sen. Feinstein had been warned two decades ago that she might be targeted by Chinese intelligence. On March 10, 1997 the senator issued a statement that the FBI had warned her, and five other senators, that the Chinese government might try to “funnel illegal contributions to her campaign and other Congressional campaigns, but she said the information had not influenced her position or her vote on any issue,” according to KeyWiki, a bipartisan database that “focuses on corruption and the covert side of politics.”
Sen. Feinstein added that while “the information was vague and nonspecific,” she had concluded that she should “be very cautious” in dealing with Asian-American contributors, according to KeyWiki.
Sen. Feinstein would obviously be of interest to Chinese intelligence for the classified information she might possess through her position on the Intelligence Committee.
She might also be the target of “influence operations”—a subtler approach, by which Chinese operatives would try to steer Feinstein into promoting policies that might benefit the Chinese Government.
According to a New York Times article of the time:
“For many years, Ms. Feinstein has tried to promote friendship and trade with China, and she has countered critics of the Chinese human rights record by emphasizing what she described in a Senate speech last year as ‘major improvements in human rights’ there.”
Conciliatory to Communists
Feinstein’s conciliatory approach to communist governments is a life-time pattern. It began in the mid-1950s when she served in the Stanford University student government.
Before her senior year, Dianne Goldman, as she was then known, traveled to Europe on a student trip led by Stanford political science professor, James T. Watkins. The agenda included a possible meeting with Yugoslav communist revolutionary Marshal Josip Broz Tito.
In January 1955, a vigorous debate erupted on the Stanford University student executive, over whether to support a proposed visit of seven Soviet journalists to the United States.
According to Stanford Daily reports of the time, executive member Sam Palmer asserted that “nothing can be lost in allowing them to come over.”
He was supported by both Goldman and Don Peck, who claimed that it was important to show “Russia that the United States is not an Iron Curtain country—that we are willing to let Communists enter.”
The ayes won, and Goldman went on to personally host the delegation from the Soviet Writers Union when they toured the Stanford campus later that year.
Thirty years later, while serving as Mayor of San Francisco, Feinstein issued an official city proclamation in support of that year’s World Festival of Youth and Students, held in Moscow.
This international propaganda event was organized by the Soviet-controlled World Federation of Democratic Youth and was supported in the United States by the Communist Party USA and similar groups.
Mayor Dianne Feinstein traveled to Moscow herself, in December that year as part of a trade delegation of 450 U.S. businessmen and public officials.
A little over a year later, Jan. 27, 1987, Soviet Consul General Valentin Kamenev presented Mayor Feinstein with a Soviet streetcar, “a streetcar named desire.” Also present at the ceremony was Viktor Zhelezny, deputy chief of public transport for the Russian Republic.
Bridges to Communist China
However, building bridges to the People’s Republic of China seems to have been an even higher priority for Feinstein.
One of Feinstein’s first acts on becoming Mayor of San Francisco in January 1979, was to visit Shanghai to establish sister-city relations with San Francisco
Next priority was re-establishing passenger airline service between China and the United States. Service was restored Jan. 8, 1981, after a “32-year hiatus when a Boeing 747 with 139 Chinese passengers arrived exactly on time at San Francisco International Airport,” according to the New York Times, quoted by KeyWiki.
Mayor Feinstein and Chinese Consul General Hu Ding-yi held a ribbon cutting ceremony, “which included a cake, decorated with ‘CAAC [Civil Aviation Administration of China] Welcome to San Francisco,’ and two bottles of champagne.” Mayor Feinstein described the landing as “an historic and exciting occasion.”
Mayor Feinstein went on to visit Shanghai several times in her official capacity and built up a close personal relationship with the city’s then-Mayor Jiang Zemin.
According to the San Jose Mercury:
“He [Jiang] once invited her and her husband to see Mao Tse-tung’s bedroom in his old residence, the first foreigners to do so. Feinstein had entertained Jiang in San Francisco, dancing with him as he sang ‘When We Were Young.'”
This relationship proved very fruitful in 1999, when President Clinton was pushing to bring China into the World Trade Organization.
A visit to Washington, by Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji that many hoped would seal the deal, produced nothing. Relations got even worse after U.S. bombers accidentally destroyed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, that May.
Sen. Feinstein stepped in to offer her services to the Administration. She volunteered to use her personal relationship with now Chinese regime leader Jiang, to get negotiations back on track.
In August 1999, the White House dispatched Feinstein to China, with a personal hand-written note to Jiang from President Clinton, urging him to resume talks.
“Senator Feinstein played a critical role in paving the way for this critical trade agreement,” said White House press officer Elizabeth Newman.
Aug. 16, Feinstein and Jiang met in the Chinese coastal city Dalian, where the senator handed over President Clinton’s letter.
Feinstein said in an interview November 1999, that she felt the only way China would enter into WTO negotiations again was with the backing of Jiang.
Feinstein said, offering her services as an intermediary to Clinton and national security adviser Sandy Berger. “I said I’d be prepared to do it if they felt it would be helpful, and they said they did think it would be helpful and please do it.”
Feinstein said she found Jiang “receptive and particularly pleased that Clinton had taken the time to personally write a note to him.
“I think he listened, and we had substantial discussions on the subject…I was successful in getting the Chinese interested in beginning to resume negotiations on the subject,” said Feinstein in a November 1999 interview quoted by KeyWiki.
Significantly, Feinstein said she expected approval of the new trade status, which would remove the “annual congressional review that many believe continues to put pressure on China to reform its economy and human rights record,” reported KeyWiki.
In other words, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would get the trade status it coveted, without having to anything significant to improve its abysmal human rights record.
China was admitted to the World Trade Organization and has used that trade access to build the world’s second-strongest economy, and a world-class military.
If anything, the CCP’s human rights record is even worse today. Certainly, their repressive technologies are far more powerful.
At the time, Feinstein’s Democratic colleague Nancy Pelosi expressed grave concerns about the deal.
“Once they get permanent (normal trade relations status), all leverage from the US on behalf of business is over because they have what they want permanently,” said Pelosi, as quoted by KeyWiki. “They have violated their agreements in terms of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, they have violated their agreements in terms of trade, they have violated their agreements on international covenants on human rights. Why is that we think they are then going to honor their commitments they make for WTO?”
All in all, it was an incredible victory for the Chinese Government.
Sen. Feinstein has done more for the CCP than other any serving US politician.
We should be concerned that a Chinese spy could get so close to the Senator for so long. But should we also wonder why he was even necessary?
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the name of who led Dianne Feinsteinstudent trip. The trip was led by Stanford political science professor James T. Watkins. NTD regrets the error.