Former Missouri governor collects $60K annually for part-time work with Chinese communist influence operation

A former governor of Missouri, Robert Holden Jr., collected a $60,000 salary for part-time work with a nonprofit attempting to influence local governments in favor of the Chinese communist…

A former governor of Missouri, Robert Holden Jr., collected a $60,000 salary for part-time work with a nonprofit attempting to influence local governments in favor of the Chinese communist regime.

Holden works part-time as Chairman and chief executive officer of the United States Heartland China Association (USHCA), headquartered in Jefferson City, Missouri.

USHCA claims to be a “bipartisan organization committed to building bridges and promoting opportunities between the peoples of the Heartland Region [in the U.S.] … and the People’s Republic of China.”

But at least one of USHCA’s committee members is also a member of a Chinese state security organization accused of illegally monitoring and intimidating people of Chinese descent in countries outside of China, including the U.S., in attempts to lure them back to China for prosecution.

Tax filings reviewed by The Lion show Holden and other employees were paid $234,875 for salaries, benefits and other compensation by USHCA, which had total donations or contributions of $385,092 in 2022. Holden’s compensation was listed at $60,000, working an average of 20 hours per week.

The nonprofit spent just $42,963 on programs.

Earlier this month, the city of Carmel, Indiana, abruptly withdrew its membership from the organization after U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, sent a letter to Carmel’s mayor, Sue Finkam, warning about the nonprofit’s ties to influence operations directed by China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).

“The USHCA has collaborated with CCP United Front Work Department cut-outs and other Chinese state-sponsored organizations,” Banks wrote to Finkam. “The United Front Work Department is a CCP operation that aims to infiltrate and influence the United States and other foreign governments.”

Banks’ letter was in response to a Washington Post investigation in January that exposed USHCA’s ties to Chinese MSS influence operations.

One member of a USHCA committee is Yan Xiaozhe, head of Ten Square International, Inc., with headquarters in Nanjing, China and Des Moines, Iowa.

In 2010, Yan was appointed by Beijing to the China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, a CCP front organization, which has been accused of cooperating in the operations of at least 54 secret CCP police stations in dozens of countries around the world.

In April 2023, the FBI charged two defendants in connection with opening and operating an illegal overseas police station in lower Manhattan on behalf of the CCP.

Information about Yan and other Chinese committee members of USHCA has been deleted from the nonprofit’s website, according to archives of the site supplied by the Daily Caller.

“We have a hostile foreign state that’s deliberately trying to target your political elite to engage in political warfare,” Anne-Marie Brady, a professor studying Chinese influence operations at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, told the Post about China’s efforts with USHCA.

Brady said the CCP has long deployed a strategy to use “the local to surround the center” to neutralize opposition to China from Washington, D.C.

“It’s an ongoing challenge, [and] we can expect now in the lead-up to the election that there will be more examples of foreign interference,” she added.  

Holden’s ties to the Chinese communist regime date back to his first term in office in 2001-2005, when he opened Missouri’s first trade office in Shanghai, China.

He also brought another notorious Chinese communist influence operation to Missouri, when he helped the MSS open the first Confucius Institute in the state at Webster University in St. Louis.

All but five of the over 100 Confucius Institutes, which posed as Chinese language centers, have been closed in the U.S., according to the Government Accountability Office, after they were exposed as being fronts for China’s MSS.

A report from the National Association of Scholars “found that Confucius Institutes undermine academic integrity and import censorship” on those who dissent from Chinese communist interests.

In 2019, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, warned Webster University about the threat of its Confucius Institute, which it refused to close as late as 2021, even as other Missouri institutions heeded Hawley’s warnings.

A webpage for Webster’s Confucius Institute was available until at least Feb. 26, 2023, according to archive data of the website.

In January, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a House Select Committee that the work of USHCA’s “sister city” program, of which Carmel, Indiana was a part, is about expanding Chinese influence to the detriment of American security, according to Rep. Banks. 

“This is an effort at every level for the Chinese Communist Party to have the capacity to influence our government,” Pompeo told the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party. “The Chinese Communist Party is truly evil.”

Banks said the current influence operations are aimed at the communist takeover of Taiwan, and seek to influence local politicians to support China.

To add insult to injury, USHCA actually makes U.S. cities pay to support the operations. 

In her city’s cancellation announcement, Carmel’s mayor cited the $25,000 annual membership fee as one reason for the city’s withdrawal from the program.

In November 2023, a number of U.S. mayors visited China under the auspices of USHCA to address climate change with President Joe Biden’s U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry. The delegation included then-Mayor Jim Brainard of Carmel, Indiana; Mayor Barbara Buffaloe of Columbia, Missouri; Mayor Lee Harris of Shelby County, Tennessee; Mayor Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, Mississippi; Mayor Kim Norton of Rochester, Minnesota; and Mayor Robyn Tannehill of Oxford, Mississippi.

Critics have charged that the climate policy advocates look the other way at Chinese pollution, while saddling U.S. taxpayers and consumers with the bill for alternatives to so-called fossil fuels.

The Lion’s email to USHCA seeking comment went unanswered as of publication.