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Trump maintains bank account in China, says NY Times

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  • US election 2020
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionDonald Trump, pictured here with President Xi Jinping, has portrayed China as a threat to the US

US President Donald Trump has a Chinese bank account and spent years pursuing business projects in the country, the New York Times has reported.

The account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management and paid local taxes between 2013 and 2015.

It was set up "to explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia", according to a Trump spokesman.

Mr Trump has been critical of US firms doing business in China and sparked a trade war between the two countries.

The NY Times revealed the account after obtaining Mr Trump's tax records, which included both personal and company financial details.

The newspaper's previous reports show he paid $750 (£580) in US federal taxes in 2016 and 2017, when he became president.

The Chinese bank account has paid out $188,561 in local taxes.

Mr Trump has been critical of presidential candidate rival Joe Biden and his policies towards China in the lead-up to the US election, taking place on 3 November.

The Trump administration has singled out Mr Biden's son Hunter and made unsubstantiated claims about his dealings with China. Joe Biden's income tax returns and public financial disclosures show no business dealings connected to China.

'Inactive' office

Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organisation, described the NY Times story as "pure speculation" and said that it made "incorrect assumptions".

He told the paper that Trump International Hotels Management had "opened an account with a Chinese bank having offices in the United States in order to pay the local taxes".

"No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialised and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive," Mr Garten said.

"Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose," he told the NY Times.

The US president has multiple business interests both in the US and overseas. These include golf courses in Scotland and Ireland and a chain of five-star luxury hotels.

The NY Times reported that Mr Trump maintains foreign bank accounts in China, Britain and Ireland.

'End our reliance on China'

In August, Mr Trump said he wanted to offer tax credits to entice US firms to move factories out of China.

He also threatened to strip government contracts from firms that continue to outsource work to China.

In a speech, Mr Trump vowed to create 10 million jobs in 10 months, saying "we will end our reliance on China".

media captionHow the US-China trade war has changed the world

In stark contrast, the NY Times report details how Mr Trump has been looking to land business in China. His efforts accelerated in 2012 with the opening of a Shanghai office.

The tax records it obtained show that he has invested at least $192,000 in five small companies created specifically to pursue projects in China over a number of years.

Those companies claimed at least $97,400 in business expenses since 2010, including some minor payments for taxes and accounting fees as recently as 2018.

But the US president's plans in China have been largely driven by Trump International Hotels Management, through direct ownership of THC China Development, according to the NY Times.

China jokes about 'Comrade Trump'

Analysis by Kerry Allen, BBC China media analyst

image copyrightSINA WEIBO

Donald Trump's tax payments to China have delighted and bemused social media users there, who have been closely following reports scrutinising his tax affairs.

Memes and comments referring to "Comrade Trump" are lighting up the popular Sina Weibo social network. Users are joking that he has been "paying his [Communist] party membership" and "the motherland will never forget" his contributions.

But many are incredulous he apparently paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax to China, yet very little in the US.

"He has paid China more than 250 times the tax he has paid his own ugly country," says one user, noting the New York Times' recent report alleging Mr Trump paid just $750 (£580) in US taxes in 2016 and 2017.

Others are incredulous that the US president embarked on a trade war while seemingly pursuing his own personal Chinese interests. No further details, however, have emerged in Chinese media reports on the bank account unearthed by the New York Times.

What is the latest on the US election?

With two weeks to go until the election, Mr Biden again remained off the trail on Tuesday as he prepared for the final presidential debate on Thursday. The Democrat is maintaining a steady lead in national opinion polls.

Mr Trump, making his own pitch to the American people, again insisted the US was weathering the pandemic well - despite figures showing rising cases and hospitalisations in almost all states.

First Lady Melania Trump pulled out of a planned campaign appearance - a rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, with the president - because of lingering symptoms of her Covid-19 infection.

On Wednesday, former President Barack Obama will make his first campaign appearance for Mr Biden, holding a drive-in rally in Philadelphia, and President Trump will hold yet another rally himself, this time in Gastonia, North Carolina.

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