Organization Trends

China and the Penn Biden Center: China Money

China and the Penn Biden Center (full series)
Penn Biden Center | Hunter’s Role
China Money | Paying Professor Biden

China Money

After the University of Pennsylvania first publicized the Penn Biden Center in February 2017, donations originating from China more than tripled, according to the oversight committee.

Between Biden’s time as vice president and president, Chinese individuals and entities donated $61 million to the University of Pennsylvania from 2017 to 2020, the Washington Free Beacon reported. About $22 million of the $61 million is from anonymous donors.

The donations were perhaps made as speculation that Biden would be mounting a presidential campaign, but also came as Biden family members and associates engaged in lucrative business projects in China.

After Biden became president, the University of Pennsylvania took $14 million from anonymous donors unnamed contributors in China and Hong Kong and another $2.4 million from unnamed contributors in Saudi Arabia.

“The committee is concerned about who had access to these documents given the Biden family’s financial connections to foreign actors and companies,” says the oversight letter. “The committee requests documents and information related to foreign influence at UPenn and the Penn Biden Center. The committee has learned UPenn received tens of millions of dollars from anonymous Chinese sources, with a marked uptick in donations when then-former Vice President Biden was announced as leading the Penn Biden Center initiative.”

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee asked the university for a list of all Chinese donors to the university and to disclose the names of the anonymous Chinese donors to UPenn and the Penn Biden Center.

University of Pennsylvania spokesman Ron Ozio told the Wall Street Journal that the Penn Biden Center is directly funded by the university budget and said the center “never solicited or received any gifts from any Chinese or other foreign entity.”

A university spokesperson also told Fox News the China donations were not for the Penn Biden Center but to the university, adding the center itself only received $1,100 in solicited donations. The spokesperson added:

One hundred percent of the budget for the Penn Biden Center comes from university funds. Any foreign gifts received by the university are all properly reported to the U.S. Department of Education as required by Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. Penn is fully compliant with federal law regarding the reporting of foreign gifts and contracts.

The National Legal and Policy Center, a watchdog group, filed a complaint in 2020 with the Justice Department against the Penn Biden Center for not disclosing the anonymous China donations and against Hunter Biden and the Penn Biden Center for what the group said was failing to properly register as foreign lobbyist.

“The University of Pennsylvania has been playing coy with us and the media by denying that the Biden Center receives any China money. Their standard line that they’ve been spewing for the last couple years is, ‘We do not solicit money to the Biden Center from China. Period,’” National Legal and Policy Center counsel Paul Kamenar told told the Daily Signal.

“That very well may be true, that you don’t solicit money directly to the Biden Center, but China has not given the University of Pennsylvania all these millions of dollars for their music department,” Kamenar continued. “No. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out that they’re giving the money to the University of Pennsylvania to run their China programs, and they have several of them. And the Biden Center is part of that program that they have that’s called Penn Global.”

Think Tank Activity

The Penn Biden Center says it is:

founded on the principle that a democratic, open, secure, tolerant, and interconnected world benefits all Americans. Based in our nation’s capital, the Penn Biden Center engages more of our fellow citizens in shaping this world, while ensuring the gains of global engagement are widely shared.

“The postwar order that America built together with our allies is under attack,” the Penn Biden Center asserts on its website.

The siege comes from multiple directions—from authoritarians who strangle liberty in the name of security to terrorists who radicalize across borders and nationalist leaders who fuel fear and division at home. The United States cannot win this fight alone. We must lead through our unrivaled network of alliances and partnerships, and through our unparalleled influence in international institutions—institutions that must be more efficient, effective, fair, and reflective of emerging new powers and partners.

Then-University of Pennsylvania President Amy Guttman praised the former vice president upon announcing his professorship at the university and the establishment of the Penn Biden Center.

Gutmann, who was a prolific fundraiser for the university that became Philadelphia’s largest employer on her watch, was paid $3.6 million in 2017, the highest earning Ivy League university president. Credit: Stuart Watson. License:

Gutmann, who was a prolific fundraiser for the university that became Philadelphia’s largest employer on her watch, was paid $3.6 million in 2017, the highest earning Ivy League university president. Gutmann said in February 2017:

Joe Biden is one of the greatest statesmen of our times. . . . In his distinguished career of service to our nation, he has demonstrated a unique capacity to bring people together across divides and to craft constructive responses to some of the toughest and most important policy challenges of our day,” Gutmann continued. “His unsurpassed understanding of diplomacy and far-ranging grasp of world issues make him an ideal fit to further Penn’s global engagement.

Biden has deep ties with the University of Pennsylvania. Biden’s late son Beau Biden and granddaughter Naomi earned undergraduate degrees there. Biden’s daughter Ashley earned her master’s degree at UPenn, and the president’s granddaughter Natalie is an undergraduate at the university. In 2016, the Obama-Biden administration launched the “cancer moonshot” programs at the university.

“At Penn, I look forward to building on the work that has been a central pillar of my career in public office: promoting and protecting the post-WWII international order that keeps the United States safe and strong,” Biden said. “The Penn Biden Center and I will be engaging with Penn’s wonderful students while partnering with its eminent faculty and global centers to convene world leaders, develop and advance smart policy, and impact the national debate about how America can continue to lead in the 21st Century.”

University of Pennsylvania students could apply for internships at the Penn Biden Center in Washington.

The Penn Biden Center teamed with the George W. Bush Institute and Freedom House to issue a 17-page report in 2018 on the state of American democracy.

The 2018 joint survey found 60 percent of respondents believe democracy is “absolutely important,” rating it at a 10 on a scale of 1-10. A large majority–84 percent—rated democracy between 6 and 10 on the survey. The survey also found 55 percent saw American democracy as “weak,” and 68 percent thought it was “getting weaker.” A narrow majority of 50 percent to 43 percent agreed with the statement that America is in “real danger of becoming a nondemocratic, authoritarian country.” The survey was taken from 10 focus groups in Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania between March 12 and April 18, 2018, and from a nationwide telephone survey of 1,400 adults conducted between April 28 and May 8, 2018.

Biden used the office space in Washington from 2018 through spring 2019 and sometimes brought his German Shepherd to the office with him, according to the Wall Street Journal. After Biden was elected president in 2020, the Penn Biden Center announced it would operate “completely independent of the Biden administration.”

In the next installment, Professor Biden teaches no classes and make about a dozen public appearances.

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the author of Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump (Bombardier Books, 2020). He is a journalist who reports for the Daily Signal,…
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