The pro-China business group advised by two of President Joe Biden’s key picks has showered praise on and touted its connections with Communist officials including Xi Jinping — and the Chinese Communist Party has repaid the favor with compliments of its own.

The U.S. Heartland China Association regularly partners with organizations tied to the CCP's United Front Work Department — China's foreign influence arm described by Xi as a “magic weapon.” Reta Jo Lewis, Biden’s nominee to run the Export-Import Bank, and Mitch Landrieu, the infrastructure czar, were listed as "strategic advisers" for the group.

USHCA shared an opinion piece on its website last week that praised Xi and suggested he has a “Mandate from Heaven” — a principle related to the alleged divine right to rule. The article, written by businessman Tom Watkins, stated: “It seems Xi Jinping has the divine source of authority or the Mandate from Heaven to weather the challenges that lie ahead.”

He added: “Chaos in China will not be good for the CCP, the Chinese people, nor for people around the world. A continuous Mandate from Heaven may be in everyone’s best interest.”

The USHCA piece contended: “I find the ‘alarm’ that China is striving to outpace us, be it economically, technologically, militarily in space, or any other sphere to be perplexing. Of course they do.”

Watkins added that “some in the U.S. believe the Military Industrial Complex is pushing the fear China narrative as a way to justify their continual bloated military budgets.”

He also referred to the CCP as brutal, offensive, and oppressive as well as uplifting, inspiring, and impressive and argued the Chinese government deserves a Nobel Prize.


This is not the first time the USHCA has helped push a pro-China line.

Kenneth Quinn, a former State Department diplomat and another strategic adviser for USHCA, wrote a piece in July about the departure of Cui Tiankai, China’s now-former ambassador to the United States, in which Quinn said Cui “wrote a very thoughtful letter to me about our mutual efforts” and bragged that Cui referred to him as “an old friend of China and President Xi Jinping." He said Cui thanked him for his USHCA adviser role “in promoting communication and cooperation between the U.S. heartland states and China.” Quinn also said the former Chinese ambassador told him “the Chinese Embassy will continue to support the USHCA.”

The USHCA strategic adviser argued the comments from the former Chinese ambassador “are directly related to the highly successful U.S.-China Agricultural Roundtable,” which Quinn said he played a key role in making happen due to his connections with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The roundtable was organized this spring by USHCA and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. The State Department said in 2020 that CPAFFC “sought to directly and malignly influence state and local leaders to promote the PRC’s global agenda.” CPAFFC plays "a role in China’s overseas influence activities," according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, a well-known China hawk, said both Landrieu and Lewis should be disqualified over their USHCA ties.

"It’s not surprising to see that the CCP has praised the USHCA. Through its United Front organizations, they have funded the USHCA, and those modest investments have paid massive dividends," Gallagher said. "What is surprising is the fact that people still take the obviously compromised USHCA seriously and that the Biden administration continues to move forward with nominating two of the group’s advisers for high-ranking positions. The Biden administration must withdraw these nominations and find people who haven’t advised CCP-funded groups."

USHCA's Agriculture Roundtable in March and April was co-hosted by the organization's CEO, former Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, and by CPAFFC leader Lin Songtian, who previously served as China’s ambassador to South Africa, where he pushed the baseless conspiracy theory that COVID-19 originated at a U.S. military lab. Holden praised Lin as “a fellow bridge builder from China” and said USHCA looked forward to continuing to work with CPAFFC.

Sarah Lande, former executive director for Iowa Sister States, was a participant in the roundtable opening ceremony. Her USHCA biography said she was awarded the title of “honorary Friendship Ambassador” by CPAFFC in 2013 and was that group’s guest for its 60th anniversary in 2014 in Beijing “to share the Xi Jinping-Iowa story at ‘The Gathering of 60 Years’ celebration on China Central Television.” What can only be described as a pro-Xi propaganda video was aired during USHCA's event.

China’s U.S. Embassy minister Xu Xueyuan also spoke at the roundtable and complimented the USHCA.

“The CPAFFC and the USHCA have always been committed to subnational and people-to-people exchanges between our two countries and made indispensable contribution to the two peoples’ understanding, friendship, and cooperation,” Xu said.

A host of other Chinese officials also spoke at the roundtable, and Chinese state-run outlets and the Chinese government highlighted the event.

USHCA put out a September report, “Finding Firmer Ground: The Role of Agricultural Cooperation in U.S.-China Relations,” that it said was “inspired by” the roundtable.

Quinn wrote the report's preface, in which he hailed the "significant role" Heartland of America and the USHCA played.


The Chinese Embassy released a statement in August saying Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang “conveyed the cordial greetings and best wishes from President Xi Jinping and his wife Professor Peng Liyuan to Mrs. Lande and Ambassador Quinn and to other old friends of Iowa.”

Quinn also said “President Xi’s return to Muscatine and the home of Sarah Lande" in 2012 after visiting her in 1985 "was a particularly poignant reminder of the power of people-to-people diplomacy.”

Holden wrote a preface to the report, also pointing to Xi’s visit to Iowa, writing: “The American Heartland shares a deeply rooted and unique history with China, as chronicled by Ambassador Quinn’s personal reflections and illustrated by the image of then Vice President Xi Jinping seated in a John Deere tractor with a local farmer in the small town of Maxwell, Iowa in 2012.”

USHCA has also partnered with the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation and the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, both of which have CCP connections.